In a recent post we talked about Moringa as a top-quality source of raw, vegan protein. Gram for gram, it’s comparable to steak and vegan superfoods like hemp seeds.
But if you’re well-versed in plant-based living, you know that Moringa’s amino acid profile is what really matters.
Amino acids are the sub-components of protein, and proteins are the building blocks of life. Proteins are needed for growth, healing, immune-function, fuel, fluid balance and countless functions at the molecular level.
The protein in our diets is comprised of various combinations of amino acids. When digested, protein is broken down into its constituent amino acids, each of which play a unique role. Our bodies absorb and recombine amino acids during metabolism.
There are three classes of amino acids: essential, non-essential and conditional amino acids.
Essential amino acids must be derived from our diets. We cannot synthesize them at a cellular level, but we absolutely rely on these amino acids for life and flourishing. Our bodies can manufacture nonessential amino acids, and conditional amino acids are not routinely required, but can become necessary during times of illness and stress.
The 9 essential amino acids are isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, and sometimes histidine. Histidine is an amino acid under debate, which means that sometimes you will find it included in the essential list, and other times, not. You may have noticed that some sources list 8 essentials, and others 9; histidine is why.
While our bodies are capable of producing the non-essential amino acids, in some cases we’re hard-pressed to generate a sufficient quantity. For example, did you know that production of glycine (one of the non-essentials) falters when we’re exposed to excessive toxins and pollutants? It's true! And when are we not exposed to excess pollution?
The upshot: it’s advisable to include a wide range of amino acids in our diets every day.
Once apon a time, vegetarians believed they needed to combine all essential aminos at every meal. This myth spawned a whole culture of “protein combining” - a very structured, un-fun way of eating. Rice and beans, rice and beans - you get the picture.
The truth is, if you eat a varied diet with attention to certain food groups, even vegans can easily get the full suite of amino acids without engineering each meal. The liver stores essential aminos, making them available to string into full chains of protein as required.
Animal proteins are often revered for their completeness. But meat, dairy and eggs are actually tough to metabolize. Our bodies need to break down animal proteins into discrete amino acids, whereas the amino acids in plants are more readily available.
Does that mean plant-based diets are fail-proof? Well, not quite. It is possible to fall short on key amino acids on a plant-based diet. Lysine, for example, is abundant in legumes, soy-based foods, quinoa, pistachios and pumpkin seeds. If you’re a vegan who doesn’t eat these foods regularly, you could become deficient in lysine. Fatigue, anemia, hair loss and other undesirables may result. The moral: eat your beans!
Did you know that Moringa is a source of all essential amino acids? That's right, all 9 essentials, plus 9 of the non-essentials.
When evaluated against soybeans - the plant-protein heavy-hitters - Moringa leaves perform very nicely.
According to Dr. Monica Marcu, “Food scientists once believed that soy proteins were the only plant-based proteins with a quality equal to that of meat, milk and eggs, but now they have added Moringa to this very short list” (33).
Soy sensitivities are on the rise, possibly due to the pervasiveness of genetically-modified soy products across food groups. Marcu explains, “GM plants contain foreign proteins, sometimes derived from insects, that may induce allergies and other health problems in some people. GM plants also pose a serious threat for the environment and common plants or agricultural heritage. Their long-term effects on human health have not been studied yet” (34).
Moringa, in comparison, is not genetically-modified. As we know from David Kennedy’s article (here), it’s also an environmentally-friendly, sustainable crop.
And next to soy, Moringa is also far superior as a source of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The final blow!
Any way you look at it, Moringa boasts a massively unfair advantage. Get that advantage on your side by adding a SuperLeaf Moringa drink to your daily routine. Or try one of our delicious recipes for Moringa-boosted soup, appetizers, mains, smoothies or desserts.