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By Kerry Torrens – Nutritionist
Nutritionist Kerry Torrens provides information on moringa, an herb known for its various health benefits, including its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Praised for centuries, moringa appears to offer impressive health benefits, but is the science reliable?
Nutritionist Kerry Torrens explores what we know about this interesting plant.
What is moringa oleifera?
A tree native to South Asia and Africa, Moringa oleifera has several colloquial names, including “miracle tree” due to its purported healing abilities and “horseradish tree” due to its botanical family, Brassicaceae.
Almost any part of the tree can be eaten, including the leaves, bark, roots, sap and flowers, although it is the leaf extracts that seem to offer the best protective and antioxidant properties.
The tree is an important food source in developing countries, where poor nutrition is a major concern.
In the Western world, the dried leaves are sold as a dietary supplement in powder or capsule form.
A 10g serving of moringa powder provides: 31 kcal/128KJ 2.5 g of protein 0.6 g of fat 2.6 g of carbohydrates 2.4 g of fiber 198 mg of calcium 49.5 mg of magnesium 4.5 mg of iron 2.3 g of vitamin C
Top 5 Health Benefits of Moringa
1. Rich source of protective antioxidants
Antioxidant compounds, including nutrients and phytochemicals, help protect cells from damage caused by molecules called free radicals, which are produced by the body when exposed to environmental toxins like pesticides and cigarette smoke.
Moringa, and more specifically its leaves, is rich in a number of beneficial compounds that provide antioxidant protection.
These include vitamin C and beta-carotene, as well as polyphenols, such as quercetin, rutin, and chlorogenic acid.
2. May Support Blood Sugar Control
Most of the evidence supporting the use of moringa to balance blood sugar is based on animal studies; these suggest that the compounds in the leaves may stimulate the cells of the pancreas, which are responsible for secreting the blood sugar-balancing hormone, insulin.
An interesting study bearing on the effects of the poudre de feuilles sur des femmes ménopausées a montré that the prize of 1½ cuillère à café de poudre de feuilles de moringa chaque jour pendant trois mois a permis de réduire la glycémie à jeun de 13.5% on average
This suggests that moringa might be helpful in dealing with some of the physiological changes that middle-aged women experience.
3. May Have Anti-Inflammatory Effects
Inflammation plays a central role in the development of many chronic diseases, from obesity to arthritis to diabetes.
The root, fruit and leaves of moringa contain substances that inhibit this inflammatory process.
Animal and test-tube studies support the use of moringa, but there are still relatively few studies confirming these effects in humans.
4. It can protect the liver
The liver is essential for maintaining our health and processing the nutrients in our diet.
In animal studies, moringa’s high levels of protective compounds, called polyphenols, helped protect the liver and promote the recovery of damaged tissue.
Very recent human trials suggest a possible role for moringa as a drug against liver cancer.
5. May Support Cognitive Function
The rich antioxidant properties of moringa may support cognitive function and be helpful in combating cognitive decline, as well as conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition, the herb may be helpful in supporting mood, memory, and neurotransmitter balance, and animal studies suggest that the leaf extract may be helpful for depression.
Studies to date in all of these areas look promising, but we still have a lot to learn about this herb and its many reputed benefits.
Is moringa safe for everyone?
Eating the leaves and seed pods is generally considered safe, but care should be taken with the rind and pulp.
This is especially important during pregnancy as the bark contains chemicals that can promote uterine contractions and increase the risk of miscarriage.
People taking prescription medications, including blood pressure tablets, diabetes medications, and levothyroxine, should check with their doctor or pharmacist to make sure moringa is right for them.
This article was published on September 29, 2021.
Kerry Torrens is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (MBANT) with a Post Graduate Diploma in Personalized Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Food Writers Guild. Over the last 15 years, she has contributed to various nutrition and cooking publications, including BBC Good Food.