Malunggay (Moringa oleifera) is one vegetable with superior nutritional and health benefits. It is a drought resistant tree which accordingly can thrive in all types of soils. Though some claim having tried but failed to grow in the highlands of the Cordilleras, its treepod and leaves abound in the market. Both are useful in many dishes but many are not inclined to eat on a regular basis.
Malunggay leaves are actually more nutritious than many other common leafy vegetables. Compared with pechay, it has higher protein, total fat, carbohydrates, fiber, beta-carotene, riboflavin, niacin but lower in calcium and iron content. Compared to green cabbage, it has twice to thrice as much of many nutrients. Compared with uncooked lettuce, malunggay leaves has 2x or more higher in energy, protein, total fat, carbohydrates, beta-carotene and vitamin C and lower in sodium, phosphorus and iron. Compared with the fern (pako), it is higher in energy, protein, total fat, carbs, calcium, iron, beta-carotene, vitamin B. It has higher calcium, vitamin B and C, has comparable iron and lower beta-carotene, sodium and fiber content compared with another nutritionally superior boiled carrot. Note that fiber is not a nutrient but very beneficial to health.
Let us compare boiled malunggay treepod (bunga) with boiled bamboo shoots, amplaya fruit, Baguio beans and unripe and uncooked green papaya. It is comparable in energy content with bamboo shoots and papaya and higher than ampalaya and beans. Protein content is comparable with all other vegetables mentioned except amplaya fruit which has a lower content. It has the same carbohydrate content with bamboo shoots but higher than ampalaya and beans tho lower compared with green papaya. The downside is that it has 4-5 times more sodium content than the rest. It has the highest phosphorus, comparable iron, and highest vitamin C content. The non-nutrient but healthy fiber content is more or less the same but higher than beans and green papaya.
One popularized claim is that malunggay is a miracle tree and most nutritious, containing four times the vitamin A of carrots, 7 times the vitamin C of oranges , four times the calcium of milk, 4x the potassium of bananas and ¾ the iron of spinach. This is not all true based on the latest Food Composition Table (FNRI-DOST, 2019). Carrot has higher vitamin A (Retinol Activity Equivalent) by about 3x only. The dalandan (ladu) orange contains 24mg and the dalandan Szinkom oranges which are the only oranges found in the FCT contains 24mg and 31 mg vitamin C, respectively. Malunggay leaves contain only twice as much vitamin C and malunggay pods contain only thrice as much vitamin C compared to oranges. Cow’s milk has much higher calcium (136mg) compared to either malunggay leaves (96mg) and pods (26mg). The FCT does not include potassium nor spinach thus subject for further research.
Next time you cook, consider using malunggay leaves and pods. Nutritious but not superior in all nutrients reminding us to include as many kinds of food as possible in our diet – the principle of variety.