It’s about time that I finally got around to trying moringa in my green smoothies.
If you have never heard of it, moringa (moringa oleifera) is a species of deciduous tree that is native to India. The leaves are edible and have exploded in popularity as a highly nutritious “superfood”.
The moringa tree is often nicknamed the “Miracle Tree” because it has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, is said to treat 300 ailments, boost nutrition, and even be used for purifying water.
Outside of its native range, moringa is typically sold as a powdered supplement, and can be found in health food stores or ordered online.
Moringa leaves are a rich source of vitamin A (as beta-carotene) and B-vitamins (except B5 and B12), as well as vitamins C and K.
As with most leafy greens, moringa is a good source of calcium, iron, and magnesium. Five cups of fresh, raw moringa leaves (3.5 ounces/100 grams) provides about 185 milligrams of calcium (19% RDA), 4mg iron, and 41% RDA of magnesium.
Since moringa is pretty much only sold as a powdered nutritional supplement outside of its native range, the actual nutrition that you will get from a powdered product will be different than it is from fresh leaves. While processing inevitably reduces some levels of vitamins, minerals are concentrated because there is more plant material occupying the same volume when the water is extracted.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to find accurate nutrition information about powdered moringa. Some packaged moringa products display contradictory nutrition facts.
Serving sizes may range from 1 gram to 10 grams. The brand I tried (Kuli Kuli) listed 35 calories, 3 grams of protein, 20% RDA vitamin A, 15% RDA calcium, and 50% RDA iron (likely 4 milligrams) in a 10 gram serving.
Other brands list higher or lower levels of these key nutrients in the same size serving, or even in much smaller servings. One brand (Organic India) dangerously lists 106% RDA of vitamin B12 in a 1 gram serving! There are no known plant sources of vitamin B12, and it is unlikely that moringa leaves contain bio-available vitamin B12.
The nutritional composition of moringa powder is waaaaay over-hyped on the internet. One serving does not have 17x more calcium than milk, or 4x more protein than eggs, etc….
While technically true, these statements are ridiculous in the context of a normal serving size (ie: it’s impossible to eat enough moringa powder to get 5100mg of calcium, or 24 grams of protein.
Health Benefits Of Moringa
While moringa has been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years, there is very limited clinical research on its potential effect on human diseases.
Moringa is rich in antioxidants, which may support human health and protect against disease. It has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties in animal studies, and it may support liver and kidney health and healing, though again, none of these studies were conducted on humans.
Only one study has been conducted on potential anti-cancer effects of moringa, which was not conducted on humans.
Two of the most promising and demonstrated health benefits of moringa may include lowering blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Moringa & Diabetes
One study in a small group of type-2 diabetes patients found that both postprandial and fasting glucose levels fell up to 28% after 40 days of supplementation with 8mg of dried moringa leaves per day.
Another study found that supplementation with dried moringa leaves lowered blood sugar levels in type-2 diabetes patients by 9% after one month, 17% after two, and up to 29% after 3 months.
Moringa & Cholesterol
As for moringa’s potential for lowering cholesterol, one study on humans observed a decrease in total cholesterol by 14% and LDL by 29% in subjects treated with 8 grams of moringa leaves after 40 days.
Other Health Benefits Of Moringa
For an in-depth review of the health benefits of moringa in scientific literature, read this article published in the International Journal of Molecular Science in June 2015.
The human studies on moringa’s health benefits are very few, and the studies that do exist used tiny samples, so it is premature to say with any certainty that moringa is effective in lowering cholesterol or blood sugar levels in all humans.
While many natural health proponents tout other vague benefits of moringa, such as “anti-aging” and “detoxification”, these supposed health benefits are not limited solely to moringa.
Moringa is said to treat up to 300 health conditions ranging from anxiety and asthma to HIV/AIDS, cancer and obesity. Of course, none of these have been demonstrated scientifically.
Moringa is also said to boost milk production in nursing women, though again, that hasn’t been demonstrated scientifically. A WebMD article suggests that pregnant/nursing women avoid moringa since it has not been studied indepth so the potential effects it may have on a fetus or newborn are unknown.
Many of the health benefits attributed to moringa are also provided by most other fruits and vegetables – including less exotic leafy greens like kale, dandelion, and spinach.
Always work with your doctor before attempting to treat a medical condition through diet, lifestyle, and/or supplements.
Moringa Precautions – Who Should Avoid It
Moringa is essentially a dark, leafy green, so some of the same precautions for kale or spinach in persons with certain health conditions also apply to moringa.
Specifically, moringa contains high levels of vitamin K, which can be problematic for people who are on blood thinning medications such as Warfarin.
Moringa contains oxalates, which are completely harmless in the amounts found in food, but may be of concern to people who are prone to calcium-oxalate kidney stones.
Moringa contains glucosinolates in amounts that are at or greater than the levels found in cruciferous vegetables (kale, broccoli, cabbage). While glucosinolates are widely believed to have potent health-promoting benefits (including potential anti-cancer properties), they may interfere with thyroid function in hypo/hyperthyroid patients.
How To Use Moringa In A Green Smoothie
Moringa is typically sold as a green powder, and so it can be easily added to green smoothies. To me, the flavor is a combination of spinach and green tea. You can definitely taste it when you add it to a green smoothie. While I wouldn’t call it bitter, it definitely gives your smoothie a “green” taste with hints of strong-brewed green tea.
For best flavor, use moringa with sweet, flavorful fruits like bananas, citrus, pineapples, kiwifruit, grapes and berries. If you add fresh leafy greens in addition to moringa, I’d stick to mild flavored ones like baby spinach or leaf lettuce. Leave the kale, dandelion, and other bitter greens for a different smoothie that doesn’t have moringa.
As I mentioned before, use moringa as a calcium and/or iron boost if needed in your green smoothies.
It’s also a convenient way to pack the mineral nutrition of leafy greens while traveling. Stash some moringa packets in your carry-on luggage or in your brief case for some nutrition on the go (without having to lug around fresh leafy greens).
My Favorite Moringa Green Smoothie Recipe
Berry and Moringa Green Smoothie Recipe
- 1/2 cup black berries
- 1/2 fresh or frozen blueberries (I used frozen)
- 1 banana, peeled
- 1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I use NutriBiotic vegan rice protein)
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 10 grams of moringa powder (you can also make this recipe with 2 cups fresh leafy greens of your choice)
- 8 ounces unsweetened almond milk
Calories: 305 | Protein: 18g | Carbs: 50g | Fiber: 13g | Calcium: 16% | Iron: 12.2mg