Moringa is one of the latest foods gaining “superfood” status in America. Since one could consider most foods pretty super, it might be helpful to review the actual definition of a superfood. It turns out, a superfood is a term developed by marketers to describe foods high in favored nutrients, which is a bit vague and not always supported by science.

The moringa tree is definitely a “superplant”! The tree is a go-getter in harsh climates and grows like a weed in hot, tropical environments around the world where few other crops thrive. The leaves are most commonly eaten either fresh or dried and contain many vitamins, minerals and a very digestible form of protein.

The plant has been used effectively as part of nutrition programs in developing countries. With the addition of moringa, children can receive 50 percent to 100 percent of the recommended daily allowance for many critical nutrients necessary for growth.

Internet resources commonly report that moringa provides as much protein as an egg, the iron equivalent of a steak and as much vitamin C as an orange, which sounds great. However, it is a little misleading because here in the United States, where moringa is consumed in the form of an expensive powder, a person would have to consume between ¼ -1 cup of the moringa powder to reach the nutrient content found in these foods. That is a lot of powder!

If moringa becomes available locally in the form of fresh leaves, it would be a wonderful addition to any diet. The plant is loaded with antioxidants, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and a highly digestible protein. However, because most moringa powder is shipped to the U.S. from 7,000 miles away, it seems difficult to justify the necessity of the plant to our diet. Instead, one might be encouraged to eat the egg, the orange or the occasional steak. 

— By Jen Plumb, Bastyr dietetic intern, and Amy Frasieur, MS, RD, core faculty in the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.