In order to live our lives to the fullest, a lot of us are turning to a healthy lifestyle that will allow us to experience all the good things that come along the way. From introducing a comprehensive exercise routine through developing a balanced diet all the way to staying hydrated and getting enough sleep, there are many aspects to think about. However, every single one of these items has its own checklist. For example, in terms of exercise, you need to cover various muscle groups and think about cardio as well. Then, when it comes to nutrition, some people go for vegan and vegetarian diets, others at least make sure they are including all the important food groups into their meals. Reducing the sugar and salt intake as well as cutting out processed foods are all steps people take towards improving their health.
Something else, however, that cannot be overlooked is the various supplements we often take in order to ensure we are not lacking any important nutrients. From vitamins B, C, and D to calcium, zinc, and iron, there are many supplements we are advised to take on a regular basis. On the other hand, there are some that a lot of us are not that familiar with, like moringa.
What is moringa? What are its benefits? Keep on reading to learn all about this superfood supplement.
What is moringa?
In case you haven’t heard of moringa yet, don’t worry. Plenty of people haven’t but that is only because this superfood is just now emerging. So, what is it exactly and why is the world going crazy over it?
Moringa is also known by other names – Moringa oleifera, drumstick tree, miracle tree, ben oil tree, and horseradish tree. As you can see from its name, we are talking about a tree. Moringa is native to India and Nepal but can also be found in other parts of Asia, Africa, and South America. While the rest of the world is only now being introduced to moringa, traditional Indian medicine has been using it for thousands of years.
This fact should come as no surprise, seeing as how every part of the miracle tree has a purpose. Moringa roots, leaves, fruits, flowers, and seeds are all edible and packed with proteins, minerals, and phytonutrients. However, the leaves are the most potent part of the plant. They have many healing properties and are rich in nutritional content. The leaves can be eaten raw and cooked but it’s much more likely that you will find them dried and ground up as they are usually sold as capsules and powders in other parts of the world.
Benefits of the miracle tree
Due to its many benefits, moringa is a popular alternative to various prescription drugs. So, what exactly can this supplement help with? Moringa has antiviral, antifungal, antidepressant, and anti-inflammatory properties and is high in antioxidants. Something else you should know is that moringa has more vitamin A than carrots, more vitamin C than oranges, more iron than spinach, and more potassium than bananas. From being used in cancer treatments to having multiple benefits for your skin, heart, and brain all the way to preventing various diseases and lowering blood sugar, moringa has many uses.
However, one thing you must know when we talk about the benefits is the fact that, while some studies have been done on humans, most of the evidence here is based on studies of animals. With that in mind, let’s get into it in a bit more detail.
It fights inflammation
While inflammation is a part of the body’s natural healing system that helps with injuries and infections, it can also be your enemy. In certain cases, inflammation can occur even when there is no injury or infection the body needs to fight. Seeing as how there is nothing wrong with you, to begin with, it can start destroying your healthy organs, joints, and arteries. Well, luckily, there are many anti-inflammatory foods you can incorporate into your diet to help fight this process. Turmeric has long been used for this purpose but moringa is now also emerging as a big player in the field. It suppresses inflammatory enzymes and boosts the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines, which soothes chronic inflammation.
It reduces oxidative stress
Seeing as how moringa is full of antioxidants, it can also help fight free radicals and reduce oxidative stress. Free radicals easily react with other molecules and cause chain reactions in your body which can be both beneficial and harmful. Antioxidants help stabilize free radicals and make them less reactive. All of this protects you from DNA damage and inflammation as well.
It lowers blood sugar
Moringa can also help in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. This superfood reduces lipid and glucose levels and prevents spikes in sugar levels after meals. Having healthy blood sugar levels means that your mood is boosted, inflammation is reduced and heart disease and diabetes are potentially prevented.
It helps with diabetes and various complications
In studies with rats, moringa leaves have been useful in treating and preventing diabetes. What is more, they might even reverse type 1 and 2 diabetes. Various complications such as diabetes-related damage to kidneys and retinas are also prevented thanks to the antioxidant phytochemicals that moringa leaves possess. Plus, studies also showed that using moringa supplements helped restore kidney and pancreas functions in rats that have diabetes.
It prevents weight gain
When you don’t have to struggle with inflammation, worry about your blood sugar and your oxidative stress is reduced, it will be much easier to prevent weight gain. What a great extra perk!
It is full of nutrients
We are advised to eat a wide variety of foods in order to get all the necessary nutrients. From citrus fruits and vitamin C to milk and calcium, there are a lot of different ingredients we have to think about incorporating into our diet. However, moringa leaves are a superfood exactly because they are a great source of iron, calcium, vitamins A, B6, C, E, riboflavin, potassium, and magnesium. All of this can be found in a single cup of chopped or ground leaves. These nutrients mean that moringa contributes to everything from immunity and bone health to better vision.
It’s a great source of protein
In addition to nutrients, moringa is also a great source of plant-based protein. This means that everyone from vegans to those trying to cut down on meat can use this plant. Finding plant-based protein can be hard and while there are lentils and tempeh, you might want something you don’t have to cook and can simply add to your soups or smoothies. Moringa powders contain essential amino acids that are necessary for mood regulation, energy production, and muscle repair.
It improves digestion
This amazing superfood is also a natural antibiotic and antibacterial which can help inhibit the growth of pathogens that might affect your digestion. Studies have concluded that its anti-inflammatory properties help with digestive disorders such as colitis and that it can improve gut bacteria. Plus, the leaf powder is a great source of fiber, most of which is insoluble. This helps promote bowel health and regularity and can lead to a reduced risk of diabetes.
It protects the liver and kidneys
These organs are vital for your body’s proper functioning. The liver filters your blood, metabolizes fat, and detoxifies chemicals while the kidneys remove waste and extra fluid, among many other jobs that they perform. Well, moringa can help them operate even better because it contains certain compounds that protect your liver and kidneys from toxins and drug exposure. It can reverse oxidation in the liver and reduce liver fibrosis. You might be worried about the high calcium levels of moringa but you’ll be glad to hear that moringa calcium oxalates are non-soluble, meaning you don’t have to worry about kidney stones.
It will protect you from various infections
We mentioned that moringa also has antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial properties. All of this means that it can help with food preservation as well as water purification. This protects you from food poisoning due to fungi or salmonella. Other than fungi in food, moringa oil can also fight fungal skin infections and acne when applied topically. If you choose to incorporate moringa into your diet, it can boost your body’s resilience against various UTIs and stomach bugs. Finally, you should also know that moringa is so strong that it’s being used as a treatment for HIV and herpes.
It helps balance hormones
A Journal of Food and Science Technology study found that postmenopausal women had decreased markers of oxidative stress, increased hemoglobin levels, and better fasting blood glucose after they were taking a mix of amaranth leaf powder and moringa leaf powder for three months. These results suggest more balanced hormones. Plus, moringa is also linked to better health of the thyroid which controls energy-, sleep-, and digestion-related hormones.
It fights cancer
The antioxidants released by moringa neutralize free-radicals that can affect DNA and damage cells, as we said before. Seeing as to how these issues can lead to tumor development, moringa has found its place in cancer treatments. Plus, research shows that specific leaf extracts of moringa such as glucosinolates and quercetin help inhibit the growth of tumors and even trigger cell death. Another study concluded that, in human pancreatic cells, moringa increased the effect of chemotherapy.
It defends against cognitive decline
Moringa also has the ability to protect brain tissue from damage and neurodegeneration, thanks to its high antioxidant content. The leaf extract also has value when it comes to treating dementia and Alzheimer’s. In a rat study, moringa helped regulate and restore neurotransmitters after brain damage similar to Alzheimer’s.
It strengthens skin and hair
Besides all the health benefits we already listed, moringa can also help you improve your skin and hair. For example, seeds and leaves of this plant make for a great oil that has many purposes, from cleansing and moisturizing your skin to making your hair healthier. It can also help fight wrinkles, sagging, and sun damage by boosting natural collagen production with its high vitamin C levels. The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties keep the skin clear from acne and blackheads.
Is anyone prevented from taking moringa?
Even though moringa is safe, you should still consult your doctor if you plan to use it in treating any specific disease. For instance, moringa root and bark extracts have some fertility-reducing properties so if you’re trying to conceive, you might want to skip it. Moreover, while it is traditionally used for enhancing breast milk production after giving birth, lactating mothers might also want to avoid moringa powder. Plus, while it’s been deemed safe in human studies, there is no evidence that it is safe for kids so keep it from your young ones, for just in case.
Then, be careful if you’re taking any other medications that might have the same effects, like blood pressure reducers or drugs that treat diabetes. Check with your physician before trying moringa.
Make sure you don’t overdose on iron as moringa is very rich in it. Steer clear of seeds and seed extracts as they show some toxicity in immune cells. Finally, just like any other supplement, moringa can have a laxative effect or lead to an upset stomach, so don’t go overboard and stick to ½ to 1 teaspoon per day.
How to use moringa
Moringa has a mild, earthy flavor that works well with many recipes. It’s easy to find online and in local stores that offer healthy superfoods, and it comes in several forms. You can buy it as powder or pills if you plan on using it as a supplement. It can be added to all sorts of meals, from soups, smoothies, and salads to avocado toasts and zucchini bread. You can also find it as premade tea if you’d rather drink it without having to make it on your own. For cosmetic purposes, there are oils and creams containing moringa.
As you can see, moringa has many purposes and it’s no wonder that it’s considered a superfood. Add it to your diet if you need some health boosts but be wary of where you buy it and how you use it.