Sambar and Avial are two of the most quintessential dishes that South Indian cuisine has to offer the world, and an ingredient which is indispensable and common to both dishes is the Moringa oleifera or Moringa, commonly known as the drumstick.
Although the health benefits of this superfood are quite well known down South—to the extent that its leaves are used to prepare a lot of curries and dishes—the world is now catching up to the amazing powerhouse of nutrition and medicinal properties that Moringa is.
Tapping into this, are the scientists of the Maharaja Sayajirao University of Baroda (MSU) in Gujarat, who have been advocating for the inclusion of moringa leaves in one’s daily diet after discovering that these have miraculous healing properties.
As reported by The Times of India, consuming drumstick leaves on a daily basis can not only improve one’s immunity and tackle malnutrition but also fight inflammatory ailments that have been identified as potent causatives to cancer, heart ailments and even diabetes.
Based on this information, the state National Health Mission (NHM) department has now decided to widely publicise the benefits of Moringa across Gujarat and encourage the citizens to consume not just drumstick fruits but also its leaves and bark in a statewide bid to fight malnutrition.
In fact, the state NHM director, Dr Gaurav Dahiya has already sent out a circular to all the district health officials of district panchayats and health officials of municipal corporations, which directs them to work out strategies for promoting the consumption of moringa on a wider scale amidst the public.
The circular also sheds light on how Moringa can increase the immunity of the body while detoxifying it at the same time, and how it is teeming with amino acids, which otherwise are mostly found in red meat or dairy products like cheese.
Interestingly, these results were unearthed by Dr Vanisha Nambiar and her team from the Department of Foods and Nutrition following a series of clinical trials where they found that drumstick leaves have a very high content of beta-carotene, which is a precursor of vitamin A.
“The trials proved that beta-carotene extracted from drumstick leaves is equally effective as compared to synthetic doses which are otherwise recommended to those suffering from Vitamin A deficiency. So, it is much better, easier and cheaper to consume the leaves directly or in dried form instead of popping pills and tablets,” said Dr Nambiar, who has been studying the nutritional benefits of the superfood for the last two decades, to TOI.
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She also stated that since these leaves were quite abundant in antioxidants like polyphenols, flavonoids and phenolic acid, its consumption could help in the treatment inflammatory and non-communicable diseases like heart ailments, diabetes and cancer, as all of these compounds mentioned above have been clinically proven of possessing properties to tackle them.
The application of their study could play a crucial role in cutting down the state government expenses routed for public healthcare—especially that incurred under the National Prophylaxis Programme to treat nutritional blindness caused due to Vitamin A deficiency.
According to Nambiar, an intake of just 20g of fresh leaves or 5g of dried powder is enough to boost one’s immunity and reduce malnutrition. One can also experiment with local dishes like khichdi, raab or even theplas by adding 2-5g of dried powder—all this with no side effects!
With dietary intervention as the renewed focus in their fight against malnutrition, the NHM authorities plan on soon growing moringa trees across the premises of public health centres, health centres, school compounds and open grounds as these are quite acclimatised to Gujarat’s soil and weather conditions.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)
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