- It has been likened to matcha but with a better health profile
- It’s known as the drumstick tree due to its shape and has been used to tackle malnutrition in Africa
- The bark, sap, roots, leaves, seeds, and flowers can all be used
- Its leaves are the main ingredient, which are turned into a powder, retaining minerals and vitamins
Moringa – that’s a sexy new salsa dance right?
Step away from the dancefloor. It’s actually making moves in the wellness world because it rivals milk and eggs for protein and has a whole host of other health benefits.
Its pods, bark and even twigs have been cooked and eaten for centuries. But like most things in the wellness world, it also has a powder, which is made by grinding its leaves.
The tree is native to the sub-Himalayan areas of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. It’s also known as the horseradish tree because of the taste of its roots.
So what’s the jazz on the health side?
Apparently, it trumps a lot of other foods, with more vitamin A than the humble carrot, more iron than spinach and more potassium than bananas. It’s also high in antioxidants, contains five essential vitamins and minerals, and packs a bigger protein punch than most other plants, including kale.
It’s a big call, but its anti-inflammatory properties may be even greater than turmeric. It contains good levels of thiamin, which helps with the release of energy, and riboflavin, which keeps skin healthy.
There are also claims moringa has positive effects on liver function, skin and hair, bone health, immunity, cardiovascular health and kidney function. The journal Phytotherapy Research said the tree has been traditionally used to treat ailments from swelling and stomach disorders to bacterial, fungal, viral and parasitic infections.
How has it fox-trotted its way into food?
It has a spinach-like flavour, but compared to other green foods such as spirulina and chlorella, moringa isn’t an algae, so it doesn’t have a strong, overpowering taste.
This year in the US, Kuli Kuli Foods, which advertises itself as “the moringa superfood company,” attracted more than $4m worth of investment. This was led by Kellogg, which has touted moringa as a new wonder ingredient that has the potential for ongoing growth.
Kuli was started over four years ago and now generates more than $2m in sales, with everything from smoothie mixes, bars, juice drinks and powder. Its products are stocked in 2,000 stores in the US, but the business has plans to expand to other continents.
In the UK, Aduna – an Africa-inspired health-food brand and social enterprise – sells moringa powders and raw energy bars that are stocked in Whole Foods and Holland and Barrett.
So it’s twirled into the UK as well?
Moringa pods, also known as ‘drumsticks,’ are readily available in the UK and are popular among the country’s Asian population. The drumsticks are eaten cooked, and the flesh and seeds (if they are soft) are scooped out and eaten, while the casing is discarded.
Aduna has a range of suggestions on how to make moringa groove in food, including sprinkling it on salads, eggs, roasted vegetables and baking it into savoury bread, brownies, muffins and cookies. It can also be added into soups, dips, sauces, casseroles and stews. Recipes on Aduna’s website include moringa and mango energy balls, moringa aioli and moringa banana ice cream.
Organic brand Birt & Tang also have a moringa leaf tea at Holland and Barrett.
But can manufacturer’s quickstep on this?
Registered nutritionist Dr. Laura Wyness warns there are question marks over moringa and whether it is novel or not.
“If marketed as an extract then it probably would fall under the novel foods regulation. If manufacturers are using the seeds, juice, bark or gum, then manufacturers would need to check with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency,” she says.
There’s also no EU-approved health claims for moringa, Dr Wyness notes.
It’s going to cause a rumba then?
Well, Kellogg has certainly put its money where its mouth is, and Instagram seems abuzz with 200,000 or so posts. Plus it packs a protein punch, there is plentiful supply and people are eager to jump on the next healthy ingredient.