PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Move over quinoa and kale, there is a new superfood hitting the market that packs a powerful nutritious punch. It comes from a tree native to India that has been used as food and medicine overseas for centuries. Now, moringa is becoming a big hit in the United States.
If you haven't heard of a tea made with moringa, you probably will soon.
"This is going to grow into a big tree," said chef Alder Divya.
Experts say moringa is a true superfood and one of the world's most nutritious plants.
"People who don't know and ask, when I explain it to them," said Divya, "they're like, 'Yes, I need this.'"
Moringa is a proven anti-inflammatory and has high levels of protein. It also contains a variety of vitamins and minerals.
"My research has also been on some of the medicinal aspects, particularly related for treating diseases related to chronic inflammation," said Carrie Waterman, a research scientist.
Waterman is working with researchers on a moringa project in East Africa. The hardy plant thrives in challenging environments and may be a tool to combat global hunger.
The team is helping residents in Kenya grow their own plots.
"To, number one, have it as a food security crop in their compounds and then potential to local markets, regional markets and then export markets," said Waterman.
Kuli Kuli Foods sells moringa powder, nutritional bars and smoothies.
Company founder Lisa Curtis first encountered moringa as a Peace Corps volunteer in Niger.
"I did a little research and thought this plant is incredible," said Curtis. "Why aren't more people eating it?"
Economic empowerment is a key ingredient in her company's mission. It partners with small farmers in 11 countries, including a widowed mother who was fighting for survival in West Africa.
"She ended up starting a moringa business," said Curtis. "She now employs 122 women."
Moringa's nutrition levels depend on the part of the plant used and whether it's fresh or dried.
The entire plant is edible.
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