The moringa, like other superfoods, offers enormous amounts of nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that our bodies need. But what is the moringa tree? Where does it come from? How can we consume it? In this article, we will look at the variety of health benefits that this amazing tree offers.
What is the Moringa Tree?
Moringa Oleifera, also known as the moringa tree, the drumstick tree, or the horseradish tree, is a small tree that is native to the foothills of the mighty Himalayan mountains in the northern part of India. For thousands of years, this small tree has been cultivated by different cultures throughout India and Africa because of its health benefits.
One of the biggest benefits of the moringa tree is that it can be grown in extremely arid regions where rainfall is in limited supply. It also tolerates a wide range of soils and can be grown in regions ranging from old, depleted pasture land to lands bordering desertification.
The moringa tree has been planted by peasant communities around the world, from arid regions in India and Africa to dry regions throughout Central America and Mexico. As it has gained popularity as a superfood, many people in the global north have also begun to add small moringa trees to their greenhouses.
Furthermore, the moringa tree has no known major pests meaning that it can quickly be established as a perennial tree crop that can be added to different agroforestry systems. The tender leaves and drumsticks are a favorite part of many eastern cuisine and a unique “green” flavor. The root of the moringa tree can also be consumed and has a flavor resembling horseradish. The seeds themselves can also be eaten for a wide range of health benefits that we will explore below.
All of the parts of the tree mentioned above are not only edible for humans, but also can be used as a fodder or forage crop for animals. The high protein content of the leaves make it an excellent supplement to homemade chicken feed, and will help produce healthier eggs with bright orange yolks. If you have several moringa trees, you can also harvest the seed pods and feed them fresh to your cows, goats, sheep or other large animals.
In summary, then, the moringa tree is a multi-use tree that thrives in otherwise difficult growing conditions where arid conditions and nutrient depleted soils are prevalent. Almost every part of the tree (except the bark and wood) is edible and offers excellent nutrition to both humans and domestic animals.
Health Benefits of Moringa
As is the case with most superfoods, the moringa oleifera tree was a crop grown by isolated populations whose ancestral knowledge regarding the benefits of the tree was passed down from generation to generation. In the last two decades, however, different scientific and nutritional studies of the moringa tree have confirmed what these peasant populations have known for generations: that the moringa tree is loaded with incredible nutritional benefits.
If you look on the nutrition labels of most foods that you purchase at the grocery store you will notice that most of the vitamins have a 0% next to them. At best, a certain food might contain certain nutritional benefits of two to three essential vitamins or minerals. The moringa tree, however, is loaded with several types of vitamins and minerals.
If you were to use five cups (about 100 grams) of moringa leaf for a vegetable soup, according to the USDA Nutrition Database you would be consuming:
- 64 calories
- 8 grams of carbohydrates
- 2 grams of dietary fiber
- 4 grams of fat
- 4 grams of protein (making this one of the most potent “leaf” forms of protein
Regarding vitamins and minerals, you would also be getting:
- 47% of your Vitamin A
- 55% of your Vitamin B2
- 92% of your Vitamin B6
- 62% of your Vitamin C (much more than an orange)
- 41% of your magnesium
- 31% of your iron
- 19% of your calcium
Furthermore, the moringa tree is an extremely rich source of antioxidants such as quercetin and chlorogenic acid. For people who deal with diabetes and high blood sugar, regular consumption of moringa leaves, roots and seeds can also help to significantly lower your blood sugar levels.
Certain studies have also shown that moringa leaves and seedpods can help to regulate hormonal imbalances and help to slow the aging process. A cup of moringa tea each morning, then, can help you stay eternally young, or at least keep you looking younger for longer.
While the health benefits of moringa go on and on, the majority of these health benefits come from the fact that it packs an enormous amount of nutrition into one small, little leaf. The high protein content along with the high concentration of essential vitamins and minerals has made the moringa tree effective in helping to combat malnutrition of children and mothers in developing countries.
At the same time, moringa can be consumed as a natural medicine supplement for everything from reducing swelling, to boosting the immune system and to increase breast milk production in lactating mothers.
3 Best Ways To Eat Moringa
1. Add Leaves And Seeds To Your Fresh/Cooked Meals
If you are able to grow your own moringa tree or purchase it fresh from a local farmer, you can use and add the fresh leaves to soups, stews or stir-fry’s. In eastern cultures, moringa leaves are added to curry powders. The seed pods offer a fleshy “meat” that adds texture and flavor to pretty much any stew.
If you enjoy eating fresh salads, the moringa leaf and tender seed pods can also be added to any salad. The root and seeds can be ground up and added to a dressing for a horseradish type flavor that adds spice to any meal. Many people consider fresh moringa leaf to be an alternative for spinach and you can use it in place of any recipe that calls for spinach leaves.
If you are unable to get tender leaves or seedpods (which can be eaten whole), you will need to remove the stems which can be hard to chew and digest.
2. Sprinkle The Powder Over Meals
If you are not able to get fresh moringa leaves, seeds, seedpods or root, there are a number of health food providers that offer moringa powders. These powders are simply moringa leaves and seedpods that have been dried and ground into a powder to help with preservation. The powder offers the same health benefits as fresh moringa products.
One way to use moringa powder is to sprinkle a little bit over every meal, as if you were adding a green salt and pepper to your meal. If you have prepared a soup or stew, you can also add a tablespoon of moringa powder to your soup without altering the original taste but adding large amounts of nutrition.
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3. Mix In Teas And Smoothies
If you like drinking teas or smoothies, you can also use moringa. One great recipe is to add 1/2 a teaspoon of moringa powder to water, honey and lemon for a power drink. You can also boil fresh moringa leaf or moringa powder for a tea that can then be flavored with honey, cinnamon, or other ingredients.
How To Grow Moringa?
Unless you live in Florida, Arizona, southern California, or some other tropical region, you won’t have much success trying to grow moringa outdoors. While the moringa tree is extremely resilient in the face of drought and poor soil conditions, it simply doesn’t take any sort of freezing temperatures. Even a light frost will kill off an established moringa tree.
If you live in zones 9 or 10, you can easily grow moringa trees outdoors. Plant them in an area where they will receive full sun. Furthermore, the roots of the moringa tree don’t like being waterlogged, so avoid planting them in low laying areas where water will accumulate. If you live on a slope, plant them in an area with full sun on a hill side where water will not accumulate.
If you live in an area with cold winters, you will need to keep your moringa plants in a greenhouse type setting. While you may have to add a little bit of heat to keep the temperature above 45 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter, the plants will thrive in the humid heat of a greenhouse over summer.
Another option is to grow moringa trees in pots that can be carried inside during the winter. Moringa trees can be grown in pots or containers and respond well to heavy pruning. During the winter you will need to clear a space next to a south facing window in your home where you can place the moringa tree (now a bush) so that it receives plenty of sun.
If you are looking for a new superfood to add to your diet, the moringa tree is often called the “miracle” tree for good reason. Loaded with vitamins and minerals and nutrition benefits, even a few leaves or a tablespoon of moringa powder each day will be more than enough to get you the nutritional boost you need. If you have a green thumb, you can also try your hand at establishing a few moringa seeds in containers or pots that can add beauty and nutrition to every corner of your house.