The Moringa tree is considered a “famine food.”
This is true in many parts of the world where it grows — always in the tropics. It looks a little like a Dr. Seuss drawing of a tree, with a strangely thick trunk topped with comparatively small patches of leaves.
But those leaves are protein-rich and phytochemical-packed, and a renewable source of nutrition in many parts of the world where nutrition is not always easy to achieve. (The Moringa tree is now the official tree of the Philippines.)
Dr. Jed Fahey, director of the Cullman Chemoprotection Center at Johns Hopkins Medical School, is a longtime researcher into plant-based nutrition, as well as a vocal advocate of making the best use of underexploited food resources. Moringa oleifera fits his criteria perfectly: It is a resilient tree that can survive and produce its nutritious leaves (and fruit) in tough environmental conditions.
It is also endemic in many of the world’s poorest areas, where local food production is at a premium to avoid reliance on international food distribution systems that can’t be guaranteed.
Click here to see Dr. Fahey’s Review of the Medical Evidence for Its Nutritional, Therapeutic, and Prophylactic Properties.
Despite its wide availability and its nutritious potential, Moringa is in many places thought of as a “food of last resort.” It may be one of the few foods remaining during times of famine, and so it comes to be associated with times of scarcity and want. Unfortunately this reputation keeps it from being used to its full potential during times of plenty — when it is just as healthy as ever.
“We want to make Moringa the new Kale.”
These are the words of Lisa Curtis, founder and CEO at Kuli Kuli, a company working to bring Moringa-based foods to markets outside the tropics, where Moringa is still an exotic rarity. She describes Moringa’s flavor as a thick, botanical feel, “like Matcha tea, but with a kick – like arugula.”
Curtis discovered Moringa while working in Africa and found it to be a boost to her own energy levels. “Why doesn’t the rest of the world know about this?” she asked herself. And then she set out to try to nullify her own question. Kuli Kuli now distributes through Whole Foods Markets and other major retailers in the USA and beyond. “The smoothie mix is kind of our stock-in-trade,” smiles Curtis.
Listen to Episode #203 to learn more about Dr. Fahey’s plans to study the therapeutic benefits of Moringa on autistic children (replicating a similar study on the compound sulforaphane), as well as the overall nutritional scorecard of Moringa for eaters everywhere.
Episode introduction: Moringa with Dr. Jed Fahey.
This Week In Neuroscience: Early Arachnophobia.
5-Star review shoutouts.
SDS news and updates.
Guest introductions: Dr. Jed Fahey and Lisa Curtis.
Interview begins; What is Moringa?
How Dr. Fahey started working with Moringa.
How Lisa began working with Moringa.
Therapeutic uses of Moringa.
Why moringa has had the perception of being a low-value crop.
Historical use of Moringa.
A garden variety example of a traditional meal that makes use of Moringa.
Alternative forms of Moringa.
Using foods medicinally.
Substitution options when cooking.
Anecdotal and scientific health benefits of Moringa.
Different strains or varieties of Moringa.
Dr. Fahey's plans to study the therapeutic benefits of Moringa on autistic children.
Is Moringa becoming more popular?
Preparation process of Moringa powder.
Rise in the demand and awareness of Moringa.
Moringa versus kale.
Any negative effects associated with consuming Moringa?
The joys of eating food.
Can we expect regulations on the preparation of Moringa in the future?
Moringa is not a cure-all.
Ruthless Listener Retention Gimmick: Contagious yawns!