According to the International Diabetes Federation’s last update (April 2020), 12.8% of adults in South Africa have diabetes; that’s more than 4.5 million cases. Of further concern is the number of people who remain undiagnosed, are unaware that they are at risk or have impaired glucose intolerance, which is a precursor to Type 2 diabetes (T2D).
People who have already been diagnosed with T2D must keep their blood glucose levels in check. This is mainly accomplished through lifestyle changes and the use of pharmaceutical drugs. If it isn’t properly controlled, T2D can damage the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves.
Fortunately, T2D takes time to develop. You can reduce your risk, and even prevent the disease, by making lifestyle changes earlier rather than later in life. Modifying your diet is one of the best ways to do that. And moringa, a powerful superfood, is showing great promise in both the prevention and management of T2D.
What is moringa?
Moringa is an edible tree native to Africa and Asia; the most widely cultivated species is Moringa Oleifera. This tree has many names; in English it is known as the drumstick tree, the horseradish tree, and the miracle tree.
The leaves, bark, roots, flowers, pods (fruit), seeds and seed oil have been used to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, kidney and liver ailments, bacterial infections and even cancer.
Moringa has many bioactive components:
- It contains plenty of vitamins A and C, which support the immune system. It’s also high in folate, a water-soluble vitamin that plays a vital role in cellular metabolism. And moringa is a good source of iron, magnesium, potassium and calcium.
- It’s also high in polyphenols (which include flavonoids such as quercetin and kaempferol) and phenolic acids such as chlorogenic acid. These are strong antioxidants.
- It also contains glucosinolates, which play an important role in the health of cells and the prevention of chronic inflammatory diseases through their conversion to isothiocyanates.
- Moringa is a rich source of omega-3, omega-6 and other polyunsaturated fatty acids.
- It’s also a complete protein with all nine essential amino acids.
How does moringa help with Type 2 diabetes?
Moringa helps to prevent and control T2D in six unique ways:
1. The polyphenols reduce blood glucose levels.
2. Chlorogenic acid improves glucose uptake and utilization.
3. The antioxidants protect and restore the integrity and function of the pancreatic beta cells. This is important, as it is the failure and depletion of the beta cells that leads to diabetes.
4. Antioxidants such as kaempferol and quercetin, along with other compounds, help neutralize free radicals.
5.The phenolic compounds and flavonoids play a role in lowering lipid levels.
6. Quercetin helps protect the liver and kidneys.
Note: Whilst there has been a great deal of research on moringa, there have been very few clinical trials in humans (especially with respect to T2D). Most of the research has been in vitro or animal studies.
What else is moringa good for?
Due to its amazing nutritional profile, moringa powder has many other benefits:
1. It has anti -cancer properties.
2. It can improve gut health.
3. It may help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, thereby improving heart health.
4. It’s anti-bacterial and anti-fungal.
5. It may protect the brain.
6. It can be used to help treat anemia.
7. It may boost the immune system.
How to Use Moringa
Moringa is extremely versatile; it can be consumed both fresh and dried. The taste is, however, quite strong; it’s a good idea to start with a small amount and slowly increase the dose.
You can add the powder to smoothies, soups or even salad dressings. You can sprinkle it on cereals, or even use it in pancakes, bread or muffins. We always recommend buying organic moringa powder where possible, with no additives or fillers.
If the fresh leaves are available, cook them as you would a vegetable; remember not to overheat and lose nutrients in the process. Steaming is always best. You can also use the raw leaves in salads. You can even make a tea from the powdered leaves. And if you’d rather avoid the strong taste, you can buy capsules.
How much to take?
The general recommendation is to use between 1 teaspoon and 1 tablespoon daily.
Possible Side Effects
In the few human studies, moringa was well tolerated with no serious side effects reported. However, people on medication for existing health conditions and pregnant women should consult their medical practitioner before adding moringa to their diets.
Given the consequences of a T2D diagnosis, prevention should be on everyone’s mind. Using a plant like moringa that’s packed with nutrients to help the body regulate, rejuvenate and maintain essential metabolic processes is a good start.
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