Marketers are promoting moringa as the most nutritious food on earth. But do the facts support the claims? Nutrition Diva takes a closer look.
Another year, another superfood. So far, this year appears to be the “Year of Moringa.”
At least, that’s the rumor that moringa marketers are trying to start! What makes moringa so special? According to promoters, it’s “jam-packed with more nutrients than any other food in the world.” That’s a pretty big claim.
You know me, I can’t resist taking a closer look.
What Is Moringa?
Moringa oleifera is a tree native to Africa and cultivated in other tropical locales. Its name means “drumstick.” Virtually all of the parts of the plant are edible, including the roots, seeds, and flowers, but (as with many plants) the leaves are the most nutritious part.>
Moringa could be a valuable source of nutrition for both people and livestock in hunger-prone areas of the world. Its natural antiseptic qualities may help reduce the risk of water-borne diseases in areas without modern sanitation. As a traditional medicinal herb, it’s also used to treat a wide variety of diseases.
But, as with many traditional herbal cures, there hasn’t isn’t much research on its effectiveness, or whether it is more effective than other available treatments for these conditions.
See also: Do Herbal Supplements Work?
But moringa's true value to developing countries may be as an export. Ironically, farmers in poor countries are scaling up production in order to meet the growing demand, as moringa is pitched to well-nourished Westeners as a nutritional supplement.
Is Moringa the Most Nutritious Plant on the Planet?
People selling moringa often compare its nutritional profile to other foods—and these comparisons can be pretty impressive: it appears to provide way more calcium than milk, lots more potassium than bananas, many times the amount of vitamin A found in carrots, and so on.
But these comparisons are not quite what they seem, because they are almost always comparing dried moringa powder to equal weights of whole foods, where up to 80% of the weight is actually water. Drying and powdering a food always concentrates the nutrients. So what happens when we compare apples to apples? (Or in this case, dried apples to dried apples?)