Have you heard about Moringa – the miracle tree?
Ever heard of the miracle tree? How about Baobab or Noni? These are a few examples of easily accessible local and natural “superfoods” in tropical countries that have great nutrition and medicine combined in one.
In the Western world we are only now starting to hear about these “miracle foods”.RELATED: RECOMMENDED PLANS FOR YOU
My African experience with the miracle tree
I have been using Moringa for few years already, but I was super excited to see this miracle tree in person on my trip to Africa and learn how the local people of Gambia use it.
Because of my love of food and belief that food makes us “who we are”, I wanted to explore the Gambian cuisine to its fullest. I found a great day excursion to “Ida’s home cooking”.
Cooking with Ida Njai
Ida Njai offers cooking courses at her home in Brufut. The day started by getting dressed up in traditional African clothes provided by Ida.
Then we drove to the local market to buy ingredients which we prepared and cooked into a traditional Gambian meal. The last step was eating the results of our own creation, in this case, the one pot meal called Benachin made with Lady fish.
It was a fabulous day of outdoor cooking, eating our food with newly made friends and chatting over tea and fruit.
It was such a great experience and we learned a lot about local medicinal plants including Moringa.
What is Moringa oleifera?
Moringa oleifera is a fast-growing tree native to South Asia and now found throughout the tropics.
Moringa leaves could practically wipe out malnutrition on our planet. The Ayurvedic system of medicine associates it with the cure or prevention of about 300 diseases .
The leaves are believed to contain approximately 46 types of anti-oxidants, 90 nutrients, 18 amino acids (out of which 8 are the essential ones).
The nutritional values of Moringa
It is on record that gram for gram, Moringa leaves contain: more vitamin C than oranges, more vitamin A than carrots, more calcium than milk, more potassium than bananas, more iron than spinach; and the protein quality can be equated with those in milk and eggs.
One hundred grams of dry Moringa leaf contains: 
• 9 times the protein of yogurt
• 10 times the vitamin A of carrots
• 15 times the potassium of bananas
• 17 times the calcium of milk
• 12 times the vitamin C of oranges
• 25 times the iron of spinach
The leaves of Moringa oleifera are rich sources of dietary fibers, starch, beta-carotene, minerals (zinc, magnesium, and selenium), iodine, lutein, zeatin, etc.
Nutritional Value of one serving of Moringa oleifera leaves contain:
• 125% daily value of Calcium
• 61% daily value of Magnesium
• 41% daily value of Potassium
• 71% daily value of Iron
• 272% daily value of Vitamin A
• 22% daily value of Vitamin C
Moringa as a superfood and its benefits
Due to its rich nutritional profile and antioxidant activity it is beneficial for:
– Anti-diabetic effects
In one study, 30 women took seven grams of moringa leaf powder every day for three months. This reduced fasting blood sugar levels by 13.5%.
Anti-diabetic effects, likely due to beneficial plant compounds contained in the leaves, including isothiocyanates.
– Reduce inflammation
The isothiocyanates, flavonoids, and phenolic acids in Moringa leaves, pods and seeds also have anti-inflammatory properties.
However, the research so far has been limited to test tube and animal studies. It remains to be seen if Moringa oleifera has similar anti-inflammatory effects in humans.
– Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels
Moringa oleifera can lower cholesterol levels in the blood, which should lead to reduced risk of heart disease.
In hypercholesterol-fed rabbits, at 12 weeks of treatment, it significantly (P<0.05) lowered the cholesterol levels and reduced the atherosclerotic plaque formation to about 50 and 86%, respectively.
These effects were at degrees comparable to those of simvastatin, noted in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology (2008 Mar 28;116(3):439-46.).
– Protect Against Arsenic Toxicity
Arsenic contamination of food (especially rice) and water is a problem in many parts of the world. Animal studies suggest that Moringa oleifera may protect against arsenic toxicity. However this has not yet been studied in humans.
No part of the plant goes to waste
When I was in Gambia, I asked a local woman how they consume Moringa. She told me that it is a very well know remedy to treat malaria.
The tree, Moringa oleifera in Africa is competing alongside malaria medicines developed by some of the world’s best scientists with the backing of global pharmaceutical giants.
Virtually all parts of the plant are used to treat inflammation, infectious disorders and various problems of the cardiovascular and digestive organs, while improving liver function and enhancing milk flow in nursing mothers.
How to add Moringa to your meals
If you have access to fresh leaves use them in your meals; they have a flavour similar to a radish.
Toss them like a salad, blend them into smoothies, or steam them like spinach. Another option is to use moringa powder, either in supplement form or added to smoothies, soups and other foods for extra nutrition.
Moringa powder – has a distinctive “green” flavour, so you may want to start out slowly when adding it to your meals.
Studies of woman taking 1.5 teaspoons of Moringa leaf powder daily for three months, found blood levels of antioxidants increased significantly.
Moringa Seeds – can be eaten as well. Just peel them and eat 1-2 seeds to start with and if you like the results you may increase to a few more.
Moringa seeds have even been found to work better for water purification than many of the conventional synthetic materials in use today. According to Uppsala University: 
“A protein in the seeds binds to impurities causing them to aggregate so that the clusters can be separated from the water. The study… published in the journal Colloids and Surfaces A, takes a step towards optimization of the water purification process.” .
You can also use organic, cold-pressed Moringa Oil (or ben oil), although it is expensive.
Take home the message of Moringa
Moringa is highly nutritious, and should be particularly beneficial for people who are lacking in essential nutrients.
Read more from Expert Vilma Brunhuber.