David Kennedy is one of the incredible people we've encountered through our work with Organics 4 Orphans. He's a writer, an educator and an advocate of nutrient-dense leaf crops. When we approached him to contribute to our Moringa book, he came back to us with something we think you'll love.
Here's David Kennedy's chapter, in advance of our book publication:
"One of my earliest and most memorable experiences working in international nutrition took place in the town of Masaya, Nicaragua in 1984.
A desperate young woman was holding a very sickly three year old and begging for help. The child had patchy skin, a sallow complexion, and a runny nose. Both he and his mother were suffering from malnutrition. This wasn't unusual in the midst of a civil war in a tropical country.
What did strike me as unusual was that they were standing directly under a Moringa oleifera tree. The leaves of the Moringa tree are one of the most nutrient-packed of all foods on Earth. However, this woman was completely unaware that the leaves over her head held most of the nutrients needed to restore her and her child to health.
For the past thirty years I have worked with Moringa and seen the health benefits it can bring to people in the tropics.
Malnutrition is prevalent where income is low and people eat mainly the cheapest source of calories. These are usually refined rice, corn, flour, cassava, and sugar.
Rich in iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamins A, B, C, E, and K, and protective antioxidants, Moringa leaves supply most of what these simple diets lack. Moringa can prevent or reverse iron deficiency anemia and vitamin A deficiency, two of the most common and debilitating nutritional diseases in developing countries. Where Moringa is used, the frequency and severity of infections declines sharply and physical and mental energy increases.
Until recently, Moringa was little known in much of the tropics and unheard of in North America and Europe. That is changing quickly. Word of this plant, known in parts of Africa as 'the Miracle Tree' because of its high nutritional value, is now spreading throughout the world.
Over half of North American adults are overweight and the rates of several chronic diet-related diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and many forms of cancer are far too high. Many of these problems are tied to a diet that is high in calories from refined carbohydrates and oils, but too low in vegetables, fruit, and fiber.
Most people are aware of the importance of eating green leafy vegetables, and there are some encouraging signs that we are gradually beginning to eat more greens. However, head lettuce is still by far our most popular leafy green vegetable, making up over half of the total that we eat.
The pale sheet of lettuce that we use to keep our hamburger buns from getting too soggy can't hold a candle to the nutritional power of Moringa. For example, an equal weight of fresh moringa leaves has roughly 15 times more iron and vitamin A than head lettuce and 21 times as much magnesium. The dried and finely ground Moringa leaf powder is an even more concentrated source of good nutrition.
And because Moringa has an extremely good nutrient-to-calorie ratio, it is an ideal food for people trying to stay healthy and lose weight.
Some of the traditional export crops of the tropics, such as sugar, cotton, and bananas, are very hard on the ecology of the tropical countries that produce them. The money they bring into developing countries is often at the expense of soil erosion, pesticide contamination, and excessive demands for irrigation water.
Moringa is a perennial tree that minimizes erosion because it doesn't require the soil to be plowed up for planting every year. It has a deep tap root that can reach water even during the dry season so it rarely needs irrigation, and it is little bothered by pests so it can be grown organically.
All of these attributes make high quality Moringa leaf powder a food that is well worth shipping from the tropics, benefiting both those who grow it and those who eat it.