First, it was spirulina, then it was matcha. Now, the latest green superfood powder predicted by some food industry insiders to be added to coffee shop menus and packaged foods is moringa. A tree native to India, but also grown in tropical environments around the world, moringa has been used medicinally for centuries, which is why it’s often called the “miracle tree.” All of its parts—the leaves, seeds, roots, bark, and flowers—are edible. The leaves are most often dried and ground into green powder that you can buy.
Although each species of moringa has slightly different nutritional properties, all leaves are nutrient-dense, providing calcium, potassium, iron, vitamin A, protein, phytochemicals, and a balance of amino acids. The research is preliminary and most trials have been done on animals, but evidence is slowly mounting that moringa powder may have anti-diabetes properties, protect the brain, and much more.
In a three-month animal study published in Molecular Nutrition & Food Research in 2015, mice fed a high-fat diet supplemented with moringa concentrate made from leaves showed increased insulin signaling and sensitivity. The study authors say moringa may help prevent and treat obesity and type 2 diabetes. Other research published in Frontiers in Pharmacology suggests moringa may be useful in treating chronic hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia, two risk factors for diabetes. More studies on mice report that moringa may improve cognitive function and protect against Alzheimer’s disease, too. The antioxidants in the leaves appear to decrease oxidative stress in the brain and alter levels of neurotransmitters.
And that’s not all: Moringa leaves also have antioxidant activity that may protect the liver, kidneys, heart, and lungs tissues from damage, according to a 2015 review in Phytotherapy Research. Phytochemicals called isothiocyanates may be behind some of moringa’s benefits. Studies have found isothiocyanates to be anti-inflammatory—a welcome benefit since chronic inflammation has been associated with many diseases.
Start with small amounts of moringa—a teaspoon or less—to see if you like the flavor, which some describe as grassy and somewhat bitter. You can take more, but there’s no need to consume more than 1 ounce, or 28 grams, daily. One ounce provides a good amount of antioxidants, polyphenols, and micro nutrition to slowly make a health benefit. Make a latte like you would with matcha, or you can add it to everything, including smoothies, muffins, oatmeal, soups and pesto. Here are some delicious, healthy recipes from our resident chef, Amie Valpone, to introduce you to cooking with moringa.
Very Berry Moringa Smoothie
This smoothie is super easy to make and can be pre-made the night before. Simply store it in a sealed ball jar in your fridge and then drink it the next morning for a quick, on-the-go breakfast.
1 cup frozen raspberries
1 tablespoon moringa
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or other dairy-free milk)
Unsweetened shredded coconut flakes, for topping
Puree all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until very smooth. Garnish with coconut flakes and serve immediately.
Almond Milk Moringa Latte
This creamy latte takes less than five minutes to make and you don’t even need a stovetop. It’s frothy and delicious, perfect for warm weather.
2 cups warm water
3 tablespoons creamy almond butter
1 tablespoon moringa
In a blender, blend water and almond butter for 2-3 minutes or until it creates a cloudy consistency. Add moringa and blend again. Serve warm.
Roasted Red Bell Pepper with Moringa Spread
This is a delicious spread that can be used as a dip for raw vegetables as well as a spread on whole-grain toast. Feel free to sprinkle this with your favorite fresh herbs, sesame seeds, and pine nuts.
2 large red bell peppers
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup almond meal
1 tablespoon moringa
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. Place bell peppers on prepared baking sheet and roast for 25-30 minutes or until very tender. Remove and discard stems. Slice roasted peppers into strips.
3. Combine pepper strips and remaining ingredients in a food processor and puree for 4-5 minutes or until it reaches your desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.
4. Store in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Photography by Amie Valpone