Some of us might have chalked up the hype around antioxidants as just another fad. What are "oxidants", anyway, and what can they really do to your body that you need a way to get rid of them? Despite the press and scientific attention happening mostly recently, antioxidants are and have always been a crucial part of staying healthy, and they shouldn’t be ignored! If you’re having trouble incorporating them into your diet, moringa leaf can make it really easy.
The leaves of Moringa oleifera, also known as the “drumstick” or “horseradish” tree, are a traditional source of nutrition in India, Indonesia, and parts of the West Africa,[i] as it brings minerals, proteins, and antioxidants in places where these nutrients might be lacking.[ii] While the science is still focusing on their role as a cheap source for combatting malnutrition, it's clear that they are absolutely packed full of phytonutrients that can help your body fight the damaging effects of free radicals.
A lot of the damage that causes aging and inflammatory disease can be traced back to a certain kind of molecule: free radicals. A free radical is a molecule that has an unpaired electron, formed when certain molecules interact with oxygen. They are formed through oxidation, and this oxidization makes the atom extremely reactive with other chemicals. An imbalance of free radical molecules and the antioxidant defenses designed to protect your cells causes damage, known as oxidative stress.[iii]
The damage of oxidative stress is caused after the free radicals come into contact with your cells and the little components that makes them run – chiefly the cell membrane, mitochondria, and DNA.[iv] As mentioned above, they are extremely reactive, and they cause a chain reaction that damages the cells, causing them to malfunction or die.[v]
Oxidative stress is a natural process in your body; it’s the process that causes aging, and on a whole it’s unavoidable. But it can be accelerated by personal stress, smoking, fried foods, environmental pollutants, etc.[vi] This damage can lead to problems like diabetes, degenerative diseases, cancer, and cardiovascular ailments.[vii] To slow down oxidative stress, you have to make sure your body has enough antioxidants available to defend your cells.
The buzz around antioxidants is that they’re healthy, but they actually do a very important bit of prevention and maintenance for your body. As mentioned, oxidative stress is something that’s unavoidable, but the lifestyle choices we make (drinking water instead of soda, staying smoke free, taking time to relax) and the food we eat can prevent a lot of this damage. Getting enough antioxidant-rich foods in one’s diet is one of these tactics.
Antioxidants are important for hunting for free radicals and offsetting them, and this protects us against infections and degenerative diseases.[viii] They neutralize harmful molecules either by providing the necessary electron to the free radical or by breaking it down.[ix] Antioxidants are particularly high in foods like berries, dark chocolate, red, pinto, and kidney beans, artichokes, and prunes. One rising star, a rich source of antioxidants getting more and more attention, is the moringa leaf. How moringa is supplied to us in North America also makes it an easy addition your diet (far easier than prunes!).
Moringa is an incredible source of vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E [x] (among others!), but its antioxidant content is attracting a lot of medical attention. The research has shown that moringa leaf acts as an antioxidant to protect cells from free radicals and pollutants.[xi], making it an effective anti-inflammatory; the bioactive compounds in the leaf inhibits the secretion of inflammatory markers and could help fight diseases associated with inflammation.[xiii] Phenolic acids, a phytochemical found in plant compounds, are also a powerful antioxidant, and they are what give moringa leaf its inflammatory-fighting power.[xii]
There’s more, though: potassium, digestible protein, iron, and calcium are all plentiful in Moringa oleifera,making it the best candidate for the title of, according to SuperLeaf, the "world's most nutritious leaf." There’s also evidence that it is plentiful in lactogogues, which are nutrients that can stimulate milk production in pregnant women.[xiv] Here, it comes in a powdered form, making it the perfect booster for your morning smoothie.
Moringa leaf has a lot going for it!
This recipe is courtesy of SuperLeaf. It serves 2.
Add water and leaves to blender first. Blend until completely smooth. Add fresh or frozen fruits and SuperLeaf powder and blend until fully pureed.
*The avocado and banana make this a very filling smoothie, with a rich, creamy consistency. For a lighter treat, omit these ingredients and cut the water to 1 cup.