The Benefits of Moringa: Is It the Most Nutritious Food?

The Benefits of Moringa: Is It the Most Nutritious Food?
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Does the so-called miracle tree live up to the hype?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Intro: Moringa has been called “the miracle tree,” but does it live up to all of the hype? Is it really more nutritious than other, more readily available fruits and vegetables? I’ll answer those questions in this video, and in the next video I will look at its effects specifically on blood sugar. Check out the research.

Moringa (Moringa oleifera) is a plant commonly known as the “miracle tree” due to its purported healing powers across a spectrum of diseases. If “miracle” isn’t hyperbolic enough for you, on the internet it’s also known as “God’s Gift to Man.” Is moringa a miracle or just a mirage? “The enthusiasm for the health benefits of [moringa] is in dire contrast with the scarcity of strong experimental and clinical evidence supporting [the claims]. Fortunately, the chasm is slowly being filled.” There has been a surge in scientific publications on moringa, and in the last ten years the number of articles is closer to a thousand.

What got my attention was the presence of glucosinolates, compounds that boost our liver’s detoxifying enzymes. I thought they were only found in cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, and cauliflower. But no, it turns out they’re also found in the moringa family, with potency comparable to broccoli. That’s exciting, but why not just eat broccoli, rather than mail-ordering some exotic moringa powder? Is there anything special about moringa?

It’s “been described as the most nutritious tree yet discovered.” How much is that saying, though? Who eats trees? Supposedly moringa “contains higher amounts of … nutrients than most conventional … sources”––10 times the vitamin A of carrots, 12 times the vitamin C of oranges, 17 times more calcium than milk, 15 times more potassium than bananas, 25 times more iron than spinach, and 9 times more protein than yogurt. First of all, even if all this were true, this is for 100 grams of dry moringa leaf. That’s like 14 tablespoons—almost a whole cup of leaf powder. Researchers have had trouble getting people to even eat 20 grams, and so anything more would likely “result in excessively unpleasant taste, due to the bitterness of the leaves.”

And secondly, the nutritional claims in these papers are “adapted from Fuglie,” which evidently is just some lay publication. If you go to the USDA nutrient database, and enter a more doable dose, like the amount you might get in a smoothie (about one tablespoon for instance), a serving of moringa powder has as much vitamin A as a quarter of one baby carrot, and as much vitamin C as one one-hundredth of an orange. So, an orange has as much vitamin C as a hundred tablespoons of moringa. A serving of moringa powder only has the calcium of half a cup of milk, the potassium of not fifteen bananas, but a quarter of one banana, the iron of a quarter cup of spinach, and the protein of a third of a container of yogurt. So yeah, maybe nutritious, but not off the charts, and certainly not what’s commonly touted. So again, why not eat broccoli? It’s got the A-C-Calcium-potassium-iron-and-protein of broccoli!

Moringa does seem to have anticancer activity—in a petri dish—against cell lines of breast cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, and fibrosarcoma, while tending to leave normal cells relatively alone, But there haven’t been any clinical studies. What’s the point in finding out that “[Moringa] … enhances [the] sexual performance [of] stressed rats.” What are you supposed to do with that?

Studies like this one, though, started to make things a little interesting. Researchers were testing the effects of a tablespoon of moringa leaf powder once a day for three months on antioxidant status, and saw a drop in oxidative stress, as one might expect from eating any healthy plant food. But they also saw a drop in fasting blood sugars, from prediabetic levels over 100 to more normal levels. Now, that’s interesting. Should we start recommending a daily tablespoon of moringa powder to diabetics? Was it just a fluke? Moringa and blood sugar control: A review of the current evidence next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Intro: Moringa has been called “the miracle tree,” but does it live up to all of the hype? Is it really more nutritious than other, more readily available fruits and vegetables? I’ll answer those questions in this video, and in the next video I will look at its effects specifically on blood sugar. Check out the research.

Moringa (Moringa oleifera) is a plant commonly known as the “miracle tree” due to its purported healing powers across a spectrum of diseases. If “miracle” isn’t hyperbolic enough for you, on the internet it’s also known as “God’s Gift to Man.” Is moringa a miracle or just a mirage? “The enthusiasm for the health benefits of [moringa] is in dire contrast with the scarcity of strong experimental and clinical evidence supporting [the claims]. Fortunately, the chasm is slowly being filled.” There has been a surge in scientific publications on moringa, and in the last ten years the number of articles is closer to a thousand.

What got my attention was the presence of glucosinolates, compounds that boost our liver’s detoxifying enzymes. I thought they were only found in cruciferous vegetables like cabbage, broccoli, kale, collards, and cauliflower. But no, it turns out they’re also found in the moringa family, with potency comparable to broccoli. That’s exciting, but why not just eat broccoli, rather than mail-ordering some exotic moringa powder? Is there anything special about moringa?

It’s “been described as the most nutritious tree yet discovered.” How much is that saying, though? Who eats trees? Supposedly moringa “contains higher amounts of … nutrients than most conventional … sources”––10 times the vitamin A of carrots, 12 times the vitamin C of oranges, 17 times more calcium than milk, 15 times more potassium than bananas, 25 times more iron than spinach, and 9 times more protein than yogurt. First of all, even if all this were true, this is for 100 grams of dry moringa leaf. That’s like 14 tablespoons—almost a whole cup of leaf powder. Researchers have had trouble getting people to even eat 20 grams, and so anything more would likely “result in excessively unpleasant taste, due to the bitterness of the leaves.”

And secondly, the nutritional claims in these papers are “adapted from Fuglie,” which evidently is just some lay publication. If you go to the USDA nutrient database, and enter a more doable dose, like the amount you might get in a smoothie (about one tablespoon for instance), a serving of moringa powder has as much vitamin A as a quarter of one baby carrot, and as much vitamin C as one one-hundredth of an orange. So, an orange has as much vitamin C as a hundred tablespoons of moringa. A serving of moringa powder only has the calcium of half a cup of milk, the potassium of not fifteen bananas, but a quarter of one banana, the iron of a quarter cup of spinach, and the protein of a third of a container of yogurt. So yeah, maybe nutritious, but not off the charts, and certainly not what’s commonly touted. So again, why not eat broccoli? It’s got the A-C-Calcium-potassium-iron-and-protein of broccoli!

Moringa does seem to have anticancer activity—in a petri dish—against cell lines of breast cancer, lung cancer, skin cancer, and fibrosarcoma, while tending to leave normal cells relatively alone, But there haven’t been any clinical studies. What’s the point in finding out that “[Moringa] … enhances [the] sexual performance [of] stressed rats.” What are you supposed to do with that?

Studies like this one, though, started to make things a little interesting. Researchers were testing the effects of a tablespoon of moringa leaf powder once a day for three months on antioxidant status, and saw a drop in oxidative stress, as one might expect from eating any healthy plant food. But they also saw a drop in fasting blood sugars, from prediabetic levels over 100 to more normal levels. Now, that’s interesting. Should we start recommending a daily tablespoon of moringa powder to diabetics? Was it just a fluke? Moringa and blood sugar control: A review of the current evidence next.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Video production by Glass Entertainment

Motion graphics by Avo Media

Doctor's Note

Stay tuned for The Efficacy and Side Effects of Moringa Leaf Powder.

I previously mentioned moringa in Best Foods for Lead Poisoning: Chlorella, Cilantro, Tomatoes, Moringa?—one of the videos in my series on lead.

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