Commonly seen as a supplement, moringa (botanical name: moringa oleifera) is now being added to foods. Find out where you can find these foods, and whether they’re worth the money.
Moringa is a plant native to the sub-Himalayan areas of Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. The plant can withstand both terrible drought and also mild frost, which means it can grow in a wide variety of areas throughout the world. You could consider it a “super plant” because it can withstand such harsh weather conditions.
The entire plant, including the leaves, bark, flowers, fruit, seeds and root, contains a plethora of nutrients, which is why moringa has become such a popular supplement. The leaves, which can be eaten fresh or dried, contain minerals like calcium, zinc, potassium, magnesium, iron and copper. The plant also contains vitamin A, numerous B vitamins, and vitamins C, D and E, along with protein and healthy fat. The plant also provides numerous plant chemicals that help fight and prevent disease, such as flavonoids and saponins.
Although advocates claim that moringa can help conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, a 2012 review paper published in Frontiers in Pharmacology determined that there isn’t enough scientific research and data to show how much moringa is safe to take and what the side effects of consuming it are.
Moringa isn’t available commercially in its fresh form, but companies like Kuli Kuli Foods sell it in capsule, liquid and powder form. The company also created moringa bars, which contain 2,500 milligrams of moringa; by comparison, most moringa capsules contain about 100 milligrams. Asked where they source their moringa, a representative from Kuli Kuli Foods said, “We work with farmers in Nicaragua, Haiti and Ghana. All suppliers must adhere to strict food safety guidelines, and all lots are microbiologically tested before they leave the country of origin, once it arrives in the U.S.A., and after any additional processing. We also test for heavy metals.”
You can also find moringa tea online sold by numerous companies. Some sell it as part of a green tea blend, while others sell it claiming detox, weight-loss or energy-boosting effects. Be wary of these claims, as there isn’t sound scientific evidence to back them up.
The Bottom Line
There’s not enough science to back up the safety of moringa and establish an adequate dose, but if you would like to enjoy it in a bar or tea once in a while, make sure it’s coming from a reputable source. Moringa may interact with medications even when consumed in the form of food or beverages (like bars and tea), so check with your doctor first to make sure there are no potential interactions. If there’s any cause for concern, you may be better off eating a well-balanced diet that provides you with many of the same nutrients you would get from a moringa supplement.
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. She is the author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen: More Than 130 Delicious, Healthy Recipes for Every Meal of the Day.