Moringa: Superfood (or Just Super)?
It seems that every few weeks, a little-known (often exotic) fruit or veggie is declared the next superfood. By moving so quickly from one proclaimed superfood to the next, we’re left to semi-seriously infer that the previous one failed to live up to its moniker and (innumerable) promises. This fact, however, doesn’t stop certain stripes of marketers from pushing the latest “miracle food” in a variety of pastes, concentrates, and powders.
Most superfoods, be they flax, pomegranate, or avocado, are genuinely nutritious. Many of these foods don’t disappear entirely after their luster has faded, but we start treating them once again like food rather than magical panacea.
Before going into detail about moringa, a plant that is just starting to be touted as a superfood, I should clarify a few things. As stated above, superfoods are foods. The scientific studies frequently cited to substantiate marketers’ too-good-to-be-true claims are often questionable at best. Skepticism is important.
Skepticism firmly in place, one thing that substantiates moringa’s validity to me is that, unlike most superfoods, it’s currently being used by multiple nonprofits working to fight malnutrition in developing countries. This is due partly to the fact that the plant grows well in arid climates and sandy soil. However, it’s also because the plant truly is a nutritional powerhouse.
Moringa oleifera is a tree that’s native to the Himalayas and is cultivated in tropical, sub-tropical, and semi-arid areas. Multiple parts of the tree can be eaten, including the immature seedpods, mature seeds, leaves, and roots.
The leaves are the most nutritious portion of the plant (and the part that is already appearing at farmers’ markets around the U.S.). According to the nonprofit Trees for Life, the leaves possess seven times more vitamin C than oranges, four times the vitamin A in carrots, four times the amount of calcium in milk, three times the potassium in bananas, and two times the protein in yogurt.
There are many benefits to eating moringa, but whether it is a flash in the pan or something that will gain popularity and acceptance long-term remains to be seen. Consumers will always flock to a new supplement or food that promises great things, but these fads tend to be, well, fads.
When marketing these new products, it’ s important to be discerning. With so many foods being dubbed “super” and a miracle, consumers increasingly know to (rightfully) question these claims. It’s up to the retailers and producers of moringa to capitalize on their food’s growing popularity in a way that doesn’t burn out its value and its message too quickly.
At MarketPlace, we follow food trends and food culture (and we also really like food). As a food marketing agency, we strive to keep ahead of the game. I do have a confession to make though: I have yet to try moringa. After all this reading, though, I think I’m sold.