Moringa vs. Broccoli Sprouts: Benefits, Downsides, Uses

Moringa (Moringa oleifera) is a tree that’s native to North India, but is also grown in other parts of Asia, Africa and throughout Central America.

Both moringa and broccoli sprouts (Brassica olercaea) are nutritional powerhouses.

Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, these two plants contain isothiocyanates — compounds shown to prevent or improve chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, and diabetes (1, 2).

In this article, we explain the nutritional and health benefits of moringa leaves and broccoli sprouts, review potential downsides, highlight how these two plants compare, and discuss which may be better for you.

Moringa leaves, also called drumstick leaves, are rich in vitamins A, C, E, B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin) and B3 (niacin), as well as the minerals calcium, potassium, iron, and magnesium (3, 4, 5).

They are also a good source of gut-friendly dietary fiber. Moringa seeds are a rich source of oleic acid — the main healthy fat found in olive oil — but it is unclear whether the leaves contain significant amounts of oleic acid (4, 5).

Likewise, broccoli sprouts are a source of minerals and are rich in vitamin C (6).

Per 1 cup raw — 21 grams moringa leaves and 24 grams broccoli sprouts — here is how they compare (7, 8, 9):

Moringa leaves are marginally higher in calcium and protein, but significantly higher in iron and vitamin A compared to broccoli sprouts. Broccoli sprouts offer more vitamin C.

Summary

A cup (21 grams) of raw moringa leaves provides more vitamin A, iron, and calcium than 1 cup (24 grams) of raw broccoli sprouts. The broccoli sprouts offer more vitamin C.

The key health-promoting phytochemicals in moringa leaves and broccoli sprouts are glucosinolates and isothiocyanates (1, 2).

These are phytochemical compounds in plants that have healthful effects in humans and are shown to reduce the risk of, or play a supportive role in the management of, chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes (1, 2).

Glucosinolates and isothiocyanates are inactive in the raw plant. When the plant is chewed, crushed, cut, or otherwise bruised, the active compounds — sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts and moringin in moringa leaves — develop (2, 6, 10).

Broccoli sprouts may contain up to 100 times the amount of sulforaphane in the mature broccoli plant. The highest concentration of sulforaphane is observed in three-day-old sprouts with a steady decline as the broccoli ages (11, 12).

Similarly, younger moringa leaves contain higher levels of isothiocyanates and moringin, although all parts of the plant have moringin and offer varying nutritional benefits (5).

Sulforaphane has been extensively studied for decades, particularly for its anti-cancer properties, while moringin has been gaining popularity and has a growing body of scientific evidence. It may have more potent anti-cancer effects than sulforaphane (10, 13).

Research also shows that moringin may be more stable than sulforaphane, making it a better candidate for the development of therapeutic supplements for chronic disease management (10, 13).

Summary

Sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts and moringin in moringa leaves are two types of health-promoting phytochemicals with the potential to prevent or treat chronic diseases, including cancer.

Moringa is a popular medicinal plant in many cultures and has been used among traditional healers for many years (5).

In traditional medicine, moringa leaves have been used to treat a wide array of human ailments, including skin bruises, arthritis, and high blood pressure, and to boost immune health in people with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) (5, 13).

Animal and lab studies demonstrate moringa leaves’ ability to combat cancer cells and lower elevated blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels. However, human studies show inconsistent findings (5, 13, 14, 15).

Experimental studies in humans reveal moringa leaves’ therapeutic potential to protect against nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease (15).

More human research is needed to determine safe doses and how often they should be consumed to safeguard against some chronic diseases.

Aside from their nutritional profile, broccoli sprouts may offer other health benefits.

Broccoli sprouts have been extensively studied for their anti-cancer properties demonstrated in lab and animal studies (6, 11, 16).

And like moringa leaves, the sulforaphane from broccoli sprouts is promising in the future treatment of degenerative nervous system conditions like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease (17).

Summary

Both moringa leaves and broccoli sprouts have anti-cancer properties and may treat degenerative nervous system diseases. Moringa may also lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels in humans.

Safety

Moringa is generally considered to be safe for human consumption. However, in 2019, Brazil banned the commercial use and marketing of moringa products due to a lack of safety information (18, 19).

Broccoli sprouts are also regarded as safe, as long as the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) safe food handling and preparation are practiced (20).

In rat studies, however, broccoli sprouts negatively affected liver function due to high glucosinolate content, so we need more studies in humans (21).

Thyroid health

Some healthful foods may contain “antinutrients,” which are compounds that can block your body from absorbing some of the nutrients in the food you eat.

Goitrogens — compounds found in plants that may disrupt thyroid health — are a type of glucosinolate found in both broccoli sprouts and moringa (22).

These glucosinolates are often studied for their positive health benefits, but for some people with thyroid disorders or dysfunction, may cause the opposite.

However, while some test-tube and animal research indicates this disruptive potential, other research showed that it did not have a negative effect (21, 22).

Furthermore, boiling and steaming are shown to significantly reduce the levels of goitrogens in these foods. For example, steaming broccoli for just 5 minutes reduces goitrogen levels by 51% (22).

More clinical trials in humans are needed to determine what amount of goitrogens in foods could pose a risk to thyroid health.

Summary

Moringa and broccoli sprouts are generally regarded as safe for human consumption, but their high glucosinolate levels in the form of “antinutrient” goitrogens have the potential to negatively affect thyroid health in some people.

found throughout many developing nations. The leaves are rich in nutrients commonly lacking among low-income communities and are being explored for their potential to reduce nutrient deficiencies and improve public health among these communities (4, 5).

Broccoli sprouts may be available in specialty stores and can be expensive. Some people may be interested in growing sprouts from seeds at home.

Access to, and cost of, moringa and broccoli sprouts vary greatly by geographical regions and may both be considered luxury food items in regions that they are not native to.

For instance, in the Caribbean fresh moringa leaves are quite accessible since trees are commonly grown in the yards of many households, making it an inexpensive find. In the U.S. however, it may be relatively expensive and found as dried powders and supplements.

Likewise, broccoli sprouts are less common in some regions, but are quite popular in the U.S., although it’s price tag may make it inaccessible to low-income households.

Cooking for too long at high temperatures can destroy beneficial nutritient in both both broccoli sprouts and moringa leaves. If you do not have thyroid health concerns, it’s recommended to eat them raw (5, 6).

Ways to use these plants include:

  • topping salads or open-face sandwiches
  • garnishing soups
  • adding dried powder to smoothies or teas
  • tossing into omelets

Summary

Moringa leaves and broccoli sprouts should be enjoyed raw to preserve nutrients. They can be used to garnish soups, top salads, sandwiches, and omelets, or blend into smoothies and teas.

Sulforaphane in broccoli sprouts and moringin in moringa leaves have anti-inflammatory properties, may combat cancer and degenerative nervous system diseases like Parkinson’s disease, and lower blood sugar.

Sulforaphane has been researched more extensively, but there is a growing body of scientific evidence focused on moringin and the potential use of moringa leaves to reduce nutrient deficiencies in developing countries.

Access to, and cost of, moringa and broccoli sprouts vary by geographical region and they may both be considered luxury food items in regions they are not native to.

They can both be enjoyed raw as salad toppers and soup garnishes or dried and added to smoothies and teas.

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