Diet: Top 5 Health Benefits of Moringa – BBC News Africa

By Kerry Torrens – Nutritionist

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Moringa powder is widely used in the diet

Nutritionist Kerry Torrens shares information about Moringa, an herb known for its various health benefits, including its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

Moringa has been hailed for centuries and appears to offer impressive health benefits, but is the science reliable?

Nutritionist Kerry Torrens examines what we know about this interesting plant.

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What is Moringa Oleifera?

Moringa oleifera is a tree native to southern Asia and Africa and has a number of slang names, including “miracle tree” due to its purported healing abilities and “horseradish tree” due to its botanical family Brassicaceae.

Almost every part of the tree can be eaten, including the leaves, bark, roots, sap, and flowers, although it’s the leaf extracts that appear 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 instead sold as a dietary supplement in powder or capsule form.

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Employees of the Moringa Technology Industry (MTI) separate Moringa leaves from the branches after harvesting.

A 10 g portion of Moringa powder provides: 31 kcal/128 KJ 2.5 g protein 0.6 g fat 2.6 g carbohydrates 2.4 g dietary fiber 198 mg calcium 49.5 mg magnesium 4.5 mg iron 2 .3g 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 from molecules called free radicals, produced by the body when exposed to environmental toxins like pesticides and smoke.

Moringa, and its leaves in particular, are 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

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Most of the evidence supporting the use of moringa to balance blood sugar is based on animal studies — this suggests that compounds in the leaves can stimulate cells in the pancreas responsible for secreting the blood sugar-balancing hormone, insulin.

An interesting study looking at the effects of moringa leaf powder on postmenopausal women showed that taking 1½ teaspoons of moringa leaf powder daily for three months reduced fasting blood sugar levels by an average of 13.5%.

This suggests that moringa may be helpful in dealing with some of the physiological changes that women experience in midlife.

3. May have anti-inflammatory effects

Inflammation plays a central role in the development of many chronic diseases, from obesity to arthritis to diabetes.

Moringa root, fruit and leaves 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. Can protect the liver

The liver is essential for maintaining our health and for processing nutrients from our diet.

In animal studies, moringa’s high levels of protective compounds called polyphenols helped protect the liver and promote repair of damaged tissue.

Recent human studies suggest a possible role for moringa as an anticancer drug for liver cancer.

5. Can support cognitive function

Moringa’s rich antioxidant properties may support cognitive function and may be helpful in combating cognitive decline and conditions such as dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Additionally, the herb may be helpful in supporting mood, memory, and neurotransmitter balance, with animal studies suggesting the leaf extract may be useful for depression.

Studies so far in all of these areas look promising, but we still have a lot to learn about this herb and its many purported 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 because the bark contains chemicals that can promote uterine contractions and increase the risk of miscarriage.

People taking prescription medications, including blood pressure pills, diabetes medications, and levothyroxine, should check with their doctor or pharmacist to determine if moringa is right for them.

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This article was published on September 29, 2021.

Kerry Torrens is a Registered Nutritionist (MBANT) and holds a Postgraduate Diploma in Personalized Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy. She is a Fellow of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a Fellow of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has contributed to a number of food and cooking publications including BBC Good Food.

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