Moringa Oleifera - Health Benefits & Nutritional Facts

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Moringa oleifera, known popularly as drumstick tree, is an herbaceous plant grown for its nutritious leafy-greens, flower buds, and mineral-rich green pods.

It is a well-recognized member in the Moringaceae family of trees, and thought to be originated in the sub-Himalayan ranges of Indian subcontinent.

The plant possesses horseradish-like root and, hence, known to the western world as horseradish tree.

Moringa is a drought tolerant, medium-sized, evergreen tree that prefers warm, frost-free climates to flourish.
Its tender leaves and twigs can be harvested any time from a well-established, 1.5 to 2 meters tall plant.

Taller plants bear cream-white, small size flowers in clusters throughout the season, which subsequently develop into long slender dark-green, three-sided, edible seedpods with tapering ends.

Each pod measures about 6-18 inches in length, with constrictions at the seed nodes giving them a typical drumstick appearance. Inside, each pod features fleshy pulp and round pea-sized seed encased inide a wing-shaped coat (hull).

Health benefits of moringa

  • Moringa plant possesses unique nutritional qualities that hold promise to millions of impoverished communities around the world who lack in many nutritional supplements such as protein, minerals, and vitamins.
  • Moringa greens (leaves) are an excellent source of protein that can be rare feature for any herbs and green leafy vegetables in the plant kingdom. 100 g of fresh raw leaves provide 9.8 g of protein or about 17.5% of daily-required levels. Dry, powdered leaves indeed are a much-concentrated source of many quality amino acids.
  • Fresh pods and seeds are a good source of oleic acid, a health-benefiting monounsaturated fat. Moringa, as high-quality oilseed crop, can be grown alternatively to improve nutrition levels of populations in many drought-prone regions of Africa and Asia.
  • Fresh leaves and growing tips of moringa are the richest source of vitamin A. 100 g of fresh leaves 7564 IU or 252% of daily-required levels! Vitamin A is one of the fat-soluble anti-oxidant offering several benefits, including mucus membrane repair, maintenance of skin integrity, vision, and immunity.
  • Fresh moringa pods and leaves are an excellent sources of vitamin-C. 100 g of pods contain 145 µg or 235% of daily-required levels of vitamin C. 100 g of greens provide 51.7 µg or 86% of daily-recommended intake values of this vitamin. Research studies have shown that consumption of fruits/vegetables rich in vitamin C helps the body develop immunity against infectious agents, and scavenge harmful oxygen-free radicals from the body.
  • The greens as well as pods also contain good amounts of many vital B-complex vitamins such as folates, vitamin-B6 (pyridoxine), thiamin (vitamin B-1), riboflavin, pantothenic acid, and niacin. Much of these vitamin functions as co-enzymes in carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism.
  • Furthermore, its greens (leaves) are one of the fine sources of minerals like calcium, iron, copper, manganese, zinc, selenium, and magnesium. Iron alleviates anemia. Calcium is required for bone strengthening. Zinc plays a vital role in hair-growth, spermatogenesis, and skin health.

 Safety profile

Although moringa plant parts confer many health-benefiting qualities, it is advised to use them as a vegetable and not as medicine.

Some traditional medicines and pharmaceuticals broadcast various healing properties of Moringa oleifera, which are yet to be approved by scientific and research medical fraternity around the world.

Moringa root contains alkaloid spirochin, which is a potential neuro-paralytic toxin. Its leaves when eaten in large quantities may cause stomach upset, gaseous distension and loose-stools due to their laxative properties.


See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:

Moringa (drumstick) pods and leaves, raw,
Nutritive value per 100 g.
Percentages of daily-recommended values are marked in brackets.
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Principle Nutrient value-Pods Nutrient value-Leaves
Energy 37 Kcal (2%) 64 Kcal (3%)
Carbohydrates 8.53 g (6.5%) 8.28% (6%)
Protein 2.10 g (4%) 9.40 g (17%)
Total Fat 0.20 g (1%) 1.40% (7%)
Cholesterol 0 mg (0%) 0 mg (0%)
Dietary Fiber 3.2 g (8%) 2.0 g (5%)
Vitamins

Folates 44 µg (11%) 40 µg (10%)
Niacin 0.680 mg (4%) 2.220 mg (14%)
Pyridoxine 0.120 mg (9%) 1.200 mg (92%)
Riboflavin 0.074 mg (6%) 0.660 mg (51%)
Thiamin 0.053 mg (4.5%) 0.257 mg (21.5%)
Vitamin A 74 IU (2.5%) 7564 IU (252%)
Vitamin C 141mg (235%) 51.7 mg (86%)
Electrolytes

Sodium 42 mg (3%) 9 mg (0.5%)
Potassium 461 mg (10%) 337 mg (7%)
Minerals

Calcium 30 mg (3%) 185 mg (18.5%)
Iron 0.36 mg (4.5%) 4.00 mg (50%)
Magnesium 45 mg (11%) 147 mg (37%)
Phosphorus 50 mg (9%) 112 mg (20%)
Selenium 8.2 µg (15%) 0.9 µg (1.5%)
Zinc 0.45 mg (4%) 0.60 mg (5%)


Further Reading & References
1. M. oliefera- Tree of life.
2. USDA - Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Drumstick pods.
3. USDA - Nutrient Database for Standard Reference: Drumstick leaves.
4. Gopalan, C., B.V. Rama Sastri, and S.C. Balasubramanian. Nutritive value of Indian foods. Hyderabad, India: (National Institute of Nutrition), 1971 (revised and updated by B.S. Narasinga Rao, Y.G. Deosthale, and K.C. Pant, 1989).
5. Nutrition and You - Moringa Nutritional Facts
6. Image Source: http://moringa-drumstick.com/images/Malunggay-green-leaves-drumstick-green-leaves-moringa-leaf-drumstick-leaf.jpg

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