In a recent article that you can read here, Rachel Cernasky looks at “superfood” fads and asks whether they can have benefits, especially to the people who live where they are being produced.
People in rich countries already have an abundance of nutritious foods and access to the most scientifically supported nutraceuticals. So a lot of the “superfoods” fads might simply be superfluously bringing things that they already have in exotic packages.
But there are two possible exceptions. One is a situation in which a food brings nothing really novel to the diet but its consumption helps support needy communities. The other is one in which the food is “super” in that it really does bring something novel. Moringa, with its nutrient and nutraceutical profile, might be such a novel plant, mainly for the tropics but maybe even for the temperate world as well. And there might be situations in which it meets the first situation as well, when its sale to rich countries provides a useful cash supplement to tropical communities.
The jury is out on both accounts, but Cernasky’s article is an interesting look at the issue. She interviewed me for the article, and getting me in a rare lucid moment, she reproduces my rule of thumb for the validity of a moringa product: the closer it is to real, fresh, unadulterated, unprocessed moringa leaves, the better. From this point of view, moringa products are on a spectrum: on one end, fresh leaves, followed by frozen ones. Then come dry leaves and ground, dried leaf. At the other, bogus, end, are tinctures, extracts, pills, and all manner of other untested and unstudied and maybe even harmful preparations that are maximally far from a plate of fresh moringa leaves.
The debate continues regarding how, and even whether, to commercialize moringa, and Cernasky’s provides food for the debate.
**This article originally was republished with permission by the author. Originally published on The International Moringa Germplasm Collection website.
He is also a National Geographic Emerging Explorer (http://www.nationalgeographic.com/explorers/bios/mark-olson/)