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  • Malunggay Benefits: 8 Reasons It Has Been Dubbed the 'Wonder Gulay'

    Malunggay is considered a superfood” and not just because of moms
    by Rachel Perez .
Malunggay Benefits: 8 Reasons It Has Been Dubbed the 'Wonder Gulay'
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Breastfeeding moms are so familiar with malunngay (moringa oleifera) as a vegetable that can help increase breast milk production, with frequent direct latching, of course. But this green leafy veggie offers more health benefits other than being a galactagogue. You should consider adding it to more dishes you and your family share.

    Malunggay has been dubbed a “miracle vegetable” and a “superfood” for the nutrients it packs and its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Malunggay leaves can easily be added to any dish without affecting its taste. It has also been turned into malunggay flakes, powder, and capsules and added as ingredient to pandesal, cookies, and shing-a-ling!

    Malunggay’s nutrient content

    Moms consider three things when grocery shopping: nutrition, taste, and price — malunggay ticks all three. It’s easily one of the low-calorie, low-fat but nutrient-dense foods. Based on the USDA Food Composition Database, one cup (21 grams) of fresh malunggay leaves contains:

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    • Protein: 2 grams
    • Vitamin B6: 19% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA)
    • Vitamin C: 12% of the RDA
    • Iron: 11% of the RDA
    • Riboflavin (B2): 11% of the RDA
    • Vitamin A (from beta-carotene): 9% of the RDA
    • Magnesium: 8% of the RDA

    Malunggay also contains folate, calcium, potassium, zinc, vitamins E, and B3, and it’s also one of the most potent sources of thiamin (vitamin B1) and phosphorus. Studies have shown it has antibacterial properties, which can help boost the immune system. 

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    According to the Department of Agriculture (DA), 100 grams of malunggay offers

    • higher protein content than cauliflower, lettuce or mustard
    • more carbohydrates that okra, papaya or watermelon
    • more calcium than gabi leaves, monggo beans, squash or camote
    • higher vitamin A content than red and green mung beans, radish of eggplant
    • more vitamin C than ampalaya leaves

    Nutritionists also say that 200 grams of malunggay leaves are equivalent to the value of four eggs and two glasses of milk. No wonder the World Health Organization (WHO) promotes it as a low-cost healthier alternative for underdeveloped countries. Since it’s easily grown and readily available in the Philippines, lawmakers have proposed malunggay to be the “national vegetable.”

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    Malunggay’s health benefits

    Malunggay is also known in Western countries as horseradish tree, ben tree, or drumstick tree. It has been a staple in Eastern medicine as a treatment or preventive measure against illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, anemia, arthritis, liver disease, and respiratory, skin, and digestive disorders. Here are science-backed benefits you and your family can get by adding malunggay in your meals.

    1. Malunggay combats malnutrition.

    The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) ’s Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) conducted a study involving kids aged 8 to 12 who are underweight, anemic, or both. The researchers found that fortifying meals with three grams of malunggay leaves powder significantly improved the kids’ nutritional status.

    2. Malunggay fights inflammation.

    Inflammation is the body’s typical immune response to an infection or injury. Chronic inflammation can lead to health problems such as diabetes, respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, obesity, rheumatism, arthritis, and joint pains. Malunggay suppresses enzymes that cause inflammation in the body and keeping headaches and joint issues at bay.

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    3. Malunggay protects the liver.

    Moringa’s high concentrations of antioxidants help reduce liver damage and reverse oxidation in the liver, the organ responsible for processing nutrients, filters blood, and helps with metabolism. It helps restore liver enzymes to normal levels, too, which helps it function properly.

    4. Malunggay supports brain and mental health

    The high levels of vitamins E and C also help fight oxidation to preserve the brain’s neurons and improving brain function. It also improves mental health by keeping chemicals produced by the brain that plays a crucial role in memory and mood changes, and the brain’s response to stress or pressure.

    5. Malunggay protects the heart.

    Prevention is better than cure, and studies have shown malunggay to have the same nutrients that help reduce cholesterol levels and prevent clogging of the arteries. Lower blood cholesterol is a critical factor lowering a person’s risk of heart diseases.

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    6. Malunggay helps with tummy problems.

    Due to its antioxidants, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, malunggay has been effective in treating strains of bacteria that may cause blood and urinary tract infections. It also helps aid in digestion and may ward odd intestinal worms.

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    7. It helps wounds heal faster.

    Boiled malunggay roots can be used to wash wounds and sores, even mouth sores and sore throats. Malunggay seeds, leaves, and bark, when grounded into a pulp and applied topically also help relieve swelling. Studies have shown it fast-track blood clotting.

    8. It promotes skin health.

    Malunggay has also been known to help skin and hair conditions, thanks to its high levels of vitamin C and several antioxidants. Eating fresh and young Malunggay leaves can reduce skin problems such as skin redness and irritation. It can also help treat some types of fungi that cause skin infections.

    Malunggay’s high nutrient and antioxidant content prevent damage and degradation that free radicals cause in the cells of different organs in the body, keeping them healthy and functioning at their best. It may very well have more health benefits, such as treating asthma, improving vision, and even preventing cancer and aging. More studies need to be done to prove its efficacy, but it wouldn’t hurt to start incorporating malunggay into your family meals.

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