Known as the Miracle Tree in India, Moringa oleifera or drumstick tree is native to the Himalayan and North African mountains. Because it grows fast and the leaves retain lots of nutrients when dried into powder, moringa has been used in India and Africa to fight malnutrition. In addition to the leaves, which can be eaten raw or cooked or consumed in the form of dried moringa leaf powder, the fruit flowers and immature pods of the tree are also edible and nutritious. Thanks to its high nutritional value, moringa has been touted as a superfood, and numerous articles have been written about the potential health benefits of moringa. In fact, some authors have even written entire books on the healing properties of this nutritious plant (see, for example, Monica Marcu’ Miracle Tree).
In this article, we focus on the nutrient content and calorie count of moringa leaves, and investigate how well moringa leaves fare against other famous dietary sources of nutrients, such as oranges (source of vitamin C), milk (source of calcium), carrots (source of carotenoids) and spinach (source of iron). At the bottom of this page, you will also find nutrition facts charts which give an overview of amounts of different nutrients found in moringa leaves. The charts provide the actual amounts per 100 grams, as well as the percentages of daily values (%DV) per 100 grams.
Moringa Leaves Rival Oranges as a Source of Vitamin C
Providing 53 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams (3.5 ounces), oranges are considered a very good source of vitamin C. But raw moringa leaves appear to be at least an equally good source of this vital nutrient. According to the USDA data, 100 grams of fresh moringa leaves contain 52 milligrams of vitamin C – and some sources report even higher values. A paper published in the July/September 1980 issue of the journal Economic Botany, for example, suggests that fresh moringa leaves contain 220 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams. Dried moringa leaves, on the other hand, contain approximately 18.7 to 140 milligrams of vitamin C per 100 grams on a dry weight basis, according to an Italian meta-analysis published in the June 2015 issue of the International Journal of Molecular Sciences. According to the authors, the fact that the values reported vary dramatically between sources may be explained by differences in environmental conditions in different countries, genetic basis of the plant, drying method, and different extraction and analysis methods used in the studies. As far as different drying methods are concerned, freeze-drying appeared to be the best method for preserving the vitamin C content of moringa leaves.
Moringa Contains More Iron Than Spinach
The nutrition information available on moringa leaves in the USDA database reveals that moringa is also a rich source of iron, with a 100-gram serving of raw moringa leaves providing 4 milligrams of iron which corresponds to about 22% of the Daily Value for this important mineral. That is also significantly more than the amount of iron found in spinach (a 100-gram serving of raw spinach provides about 2.7 milligrams of iron). When moringa leaves are turned into moringa powder and the water is removed from the leaves through drying, this green superfood becomes an even more concentrated source of iron—expect to get about 0.5 milligrams of iron from a teaspoon of moringa powder made from dried moringa leaves. However, as is the case with other plant-based sources of this essential mineral, the iron in moringa powder and fresh moringa leaves is so-called non-heme iron which is not as readily absorbed by the human body as heme iron which is found in meat and poultry. The good news is that vitamin C – which is abundant in moringa leaves – is known to boost the absorption of iron in the intestines.
A Good Plant-Based Source of Calcium
Did you know that moringa leaves and moringa powder also contain plenty of calcium? According to the USDA data, fresh moringa leaves contain about 185 milligrams of calcium per 100 grams, which is nearly 70% of the amount of calcium you get from a cup of whole milk. The Karger publication Plants in Human Health and Nutrition Policy (2003) provides an even higher value: 466 milligrams per 100 grams of fresh moringa leaves, or 2240 milligrams per 100 grams of dried moringa leaves.
Still not convinced about the nutritional value of moringa leaves? Then, consider this: moringa is also packed with beta-carotene. According to the Italian study published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences in 2015, raw moringa leaves contain about 6.6 to 6.8 milligrams of beta-carotene per 100 grams, but some sources report even higher values. The Karger publication, for example, reports that fresh moringa leaves contain a whopping 19 milligrams of beta-carotene per 100 grams. By way of comparison, a 100-gram serving of raw carrots contains about 8.3 milligrams of beta-carotene, according to USDA’s nutrition facts data. When fresh moringa leaves are dried and turned into moringa powder, this Himalayan superfood becomes an even more concentrated source of beta-carotene. According to the Italian mentioned earlier, the amount of beta-carotene in dried moringa leaves has been shown to range from 17.6 to 39.6 milligrams per 100 grams (on a dry weight basis), and freeze-dried leaves have been shown to contain even more beta-carotene: 66 milligrams per 100 grams.
Raw Moringa Leaves – Nutrition Facts at a Glance
Different sources may report different values for the key nutrients found in moringa leaves (drumstick leaves). The absolute amounts in the following nutrition facts tables are based on data from the USDA Nutrient Database for Standard Reference (Release 27). The percent Daily Values (%DV) have been calculated by HealWithFood.org and are based on recommendations for a 2,000 calorie reference diet. Your daily values may be different depending on your individual needs.
Can’t Wait to Stock Your Superfood Pantry with Moringa?
If you are looking to improve the nutritional value of your meals by introducing moringa into your diet, moringa powders may be your best bet since fresh moringa leaves are still not widely available in North America and Europe.