Ask your grandmother and she’d probably be able to tell you how moringa [drumstick], which is now being sold as a pricey superfood, was once used extensively to heal and prevent disease or simply as a tasty dish.
The once easily available leaves of Moringa Oleifera or simply moringa are now hard to find with the local vegetable vendor because there is not enough demand for it. Moringa is rightly called a superfood because only a small amount of it is needed to produce results. Just three grams of good quality moringa has more vitamins and minerals than most fruits and veggies.
Moringa — nature’s multivitamin
Moringa contains as many as 90 bioactive compounds, and almost every vitamin and mineral known to man, making it nothing less than a powerful natural multivitamin. It is abundant in protein, calcium, potassium, iron, chromium, magnesium, selenium, zinc and contains high levels of antioxidants. Moringa is also a good source of vitamins B1, B2 and B3. It helps boost cellular energy and thus works as a great energy booster. Cellular energy is produced when the cells get the right kind of nutrients and moringa provides exactly that.
Let’s look at the health benefits of Moringa
1. Reduces inflammation
Most diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular conditions, all types of arthritis, autoimmunity, gut issues, infections and cancer are cases of chronic inflammation. The high levels of antioxidants present in moringa helps reduce inflammation. Apart from high levels of beta-carotene and vitamin C, moringa is also a potent source of antioxidants like quercetin and chlorogenic acid. Quercetin is also considered an anti-histamine, so it helps reduce the symptoms of allergy. Chlorogenic acid is known to manage blood sugar levels by allowing cells to take up or release glucose as needed. Moringa is also useful in managing high blood pressure and the blood viscosity.
2. Is a good source of calcium
Moringa can actually be the answer to fix calcium deficiency in most women, especially in rural India. This is also why moringa is often used in supplements for nursing mothers — it increases lactation and the quality of breast milk, transferring more calcium to the infant. In fact, in Philippines, moringa is revered as a new mother’s best friend because it is a must for the woman during lactation.
3. Has anti-aging properties
Moringa leaves are high in several anti-aging compounds that lower the effects of oxidative stress and inflammation.
4. Improves skin and hair health
Moringa has antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral properties and helps boost skin and hair health. It helps reduce acne breakouts, prevents skin and scalp infections, boosts hair growth and protects the scalp from dandruff. Moringa oil aka Ben oil that’s extracted from moringa seed has a high omega-3 and oleic acid content and is widely used as a healing face oil to retain the skin’s moisture, speed up wound healing, and soothe dry and/or burnt skin.
5. A natural mood enhancer
Moringa is a rich source of the amino acid tryptophan, hence it improves neurotransmitter functions including those that produce the “feel good” hormone serotonin.
6. Prevents malnutrition
Moringa is capable of meeting the multivitamin needs of most malnourished communities around the world. It also proves to be a natural solution to address undernourishment in places where food is scarce. Since the moringa tree is quite sturdy, it has robust survival ability and can manage to withstand conditions where food is generally scarce due to climatic condition.
Moringa is also helpful in combating “modern malnutrition” in developed cities where food is not lacking, yet people are deficient in vital nutrients, because they follow poor diet (junk and processed food) and lifestyle.
7. Helps reverse anaemia
Given its high iron content, moringa is also beneficial for those suffering from anaemia. Moringa powder is often used as a substitute for iron tablets. The high content of vitamin C further boosts the bio-availability of iron.
8. Boosts immunity
Moringa is a powerful immunity booster and thus has both preventative and curative properties. It’s found that the leaves of moringa contain all the essential amino acids, vitamin C, zinc and other antioxidants that can help boost the immune system. As a cold remedy, villagers in Haiti drink a tea made from boiling moringa flowers in water.
9. Assists in cancer healing and recovery
Moringa, rightly named the “Miracle Tree”, has earned a reputation in the field of cancer therapy too. Will consuming moringa cure cancer? No. But it can assist in healing and recovery of patients by boosting their immunity, providing antioxidant support and keeping their bodies well nourished. For those undergoing chemotherapy, it helps reduce the side effects. The leaves of the moringa tree are known to contain a bio-active compound called niazimicin B which can inhibit tumour growth. It works by halting the division of cancer cells and inducing cell death.
Vegetable juice with a dash of moringa
- Half a beetroot
- 1 small carrot
- 1 small cucumber
- Half doodhi [bottlegourd]
- 1tsp roasted cumin powder
- A dash of cinnamon and black pepper
- 1 tbsp virgin cold pressed coconut oil
- 1 tsp moringa powder
- ½ tsp ginger
- 1 raw garlic
- ½ tsp garden cress seeds.
Blend all these together and have it with the fibre if you can. Those with guts sensitive to high fibre can strain the juice before having it. You can also use the same ingredients to make soup.
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Moringa leaves and fresh coconut stir-fry
How to consume moringa?
It is one food where all parts of the plant [drumstick, flowers and leaves] are edible, the leaf being the most nutritive part of all; the dried powder is more potent than fresh leaves though. Here are a few ways you can consume moringa for maximum benefit:
- Keep the leaves for shade-drying and then powder it. The shade drying method ensures that none of the nutrients in the plant are lost. Drying under direct sunlight would oxidise the natural nutrients in the plant. Hence its always best to prepare your own powder rather than buying ready-made powder.
- One can practically add it to any dish and it only ends up boosting the nutritive value of that meal.
- You can also have moringa tea. This is available as readymade tea sachets or you can brew moringa tea using the crushed dried leaves or powder.
- You can consume it in various forms like juice, moringa shots, powder, soup, curries, chutneys etc.
- Those who find the powder taste a bit funky have an option of consuming supplements.
- Those who do not have access to fresh leaves can use a pure supplement too, provided it’s devoid of any fillers or additives.
- It is extensively used in a lot of South Indian cuisines and is a part of their culture. It’s generally cooked it into a vegetable, sambhar, or rasam. Some people cook the flowers with the leaves into a tasty vegetable.
- Some also preserve the stalks so they can add them to curries / rasam.
The leaves, when used in moderation, are suitable for people of all ages and those ailing from any disease. It is even great for animals. However, it is wise to consult your doctor if you have any health concerns or are on any kind of medication. Remember, while moringa is a legitimate superfood, it is not a magical cure for anything. To make the most of it, adopt the right lifestyle habits.
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