My Mom Cooked Moringa Before It Was A Superfood : Goats and Soda She used pods from the moringa tree to make a delicious lentil stew. And it turns out she was on to something: Researchers now say the tree, which grows in Asia and Africa, is packed with nutrition.

My Mom Cooked Moringa Before It Was A Superfood

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And now we take a look at what could be the next American super-food craze - moringa. This tropical tree produces leaves and seed pods packed with proteins and vitamins. People in Asia and Africa have been eating it for years. And this hearty plant may be not only nutritious but able to stave off disease. NPR's Maanvi Singh reports.

MAANVI SINGH, BYLINE: In India, moringa is known as the drumstick tree because it has these long, drumstick-like seed pods. It's common in Mumbai, where I grew up. My mother would use young, tender pods to make this delicious lentil stew called sambar. I called her up to reminisce.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: It used to be our favorite, especially with hot rice and a big dollop of fresh, homemade butter.

SINGH: I loved this stuff, even as a kid who generally rejected wholesome foods.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I mean, oddly, you fussed over a lot of vegetables. You never fussed over drumstick sambar, which was very surprising.

SINGH: It turns out, all that moringa I gorged on as a child might have been healthier than I ever realized. Jed Fahey at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has been studying this tree for years. He says it grows wicked fast, it's drought resistant and it makes for good firewood. But more importantly...

JED FAHEY: Its leaves are an extraordinarily good source of vitamin A and vitamin C and iron.

SINGH: The seed pods are also a great source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. All told, its nutritional value rivals that of milk, yogurt and eggs. That's why Fahey says its real value lies in its ability to feed poor communities across Asia and Africa, which is where it grows best. But lately, moringa supplements and energy bars are becoming fashionable in the U.S. Fahey encourages everyone to try it. It does taste great, like a green bean but better.

FAHEY: I just think that we should remember that this is essentially a novelty at the moment.

SINGH: He and other scientists are still looking into its medicinal value. There's good evidence that moringa has some anti-diabetic and cancer prevention properties, but the research is still in its early stages. Meanwhile, my mom says, in southern India, some folks have other thoughts.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (Laughter) They thought it was an aphrodisiac.

SINGH: Yeah, at this point, there's no scientific proof to back that one up. I'm Maanvi Singh, NPR News.

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