The Superfood Crop That May Help Change The World

Written by Jean Nick and originally published by Rodale's Organic Life.

What is moringa, and why is everyone eating it?

Every time you turn around there seems to be another superfood that claims to boost energy, protect against every disease known to man, and help you lose weight. Six months later, it’s sitting on the markdown shelf. But moringa leaf may be different.

Native to northwestern India, Moringa oleifera is a small tree that’s grown in tropical and subtropical areas around the world. The leaves have a slightly nutty taste with a hint of horseradish and can be eaten raw or cooked, though they’re most commonly powdered and used as a supplement in smoothies and drinks or made into a tea.

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It’s extraordinarily nutritious: Ounce for ounce Moringa has twice the protein of yogurt, four times as much calcium as milk, and three times as much potassium as a banana.

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Not only is it healthy and tasty, but you don’t have to feel guilty about buying it. Unlike crops that can be harvested only once a year, moringa leaves grow and mature all year round. This means farmers can subsist on the plants while growing them, which hinders the kind of problems typically associated with foods such as quinoa, where the entire crop must be sold, leaving little for the farmers or their communities. The tree also produces other crops and products growers use and sell locally: The seed pods are edible, and the seeds can be made into a useful oil. Not only do they produce abundant crops, but the trees also need little in the way of water or fertilizers and grow easily in dry places where few other crops do well. Bonus: The leaves are compact and lightweight to store and ship, giving them a much smaller ecological footprint. 

So where can you score some? Moringa leaf is getting easier to find every day. It’s sold in most health food stores and many supermarkets, and you can shop for it online.