10 Jan 2013

Malunggay: Breast Milk Super Vegetable

For those of us whose jeans are noticeably tighter as a result of endless holiday feasts, this is a post about an Asian super vegetable, called malunggay, that happens to be great for breast milk production. Ian and I need this more than most right now because we just returned from a trip visiting (and eating heartily with) Jacob's grandparents, after celebrating Christmas at numerous indulgent gatherings with our friends here in Winnipeg. It has all added up to way more meat, baked goods, and candy than we care to admit. We came home vowing to exercise more, eat healthier, and to avoid buying anything other than fresh produce since our pantry is overflowing with slimming foods like lentils and beans (nice that these foods have already been purchased – flying across the country was wonderful, but pricey).

Cooking malunggay into a curry
I first heard about malunggay when my dear friend and the very fancy author Diana West came to Winnipeg to speak at the Baby Friendly Conference in the fall. As a lactation consultant, she says that malunggay is her number one go-to food for increasing milk production. It is native to the foothills of the Himalaya and is sometimes called moringa, horseradish tree, benzolive tree, kelor, marango, mlonge, moonga, nébéday, saijhan, sajna or Ben oil tree. India is the largest producer of Malunggay, although it is also grown in the Philippines, Thailand, Taiwan, Malaysia, Africa, and Central and South America. Cultivation is in early stages in Hawaii for the US market.

Malunggay grows as a slender tree, with all its parts, including bark, stems, roots and leaves, being edible. The most nutritious part of the plant is the leaves, which contain, gram per gram, "SEVEN times the vitamin C in oranges, FOUR times the Calcium in milk, FOUR times the vitamin A in carrots, TWO times the protein in milk and THREE times the Potassium in bananas." A double blind study suggested that consuming malunggay leaves has a considerable positive impact on breast milk production.

Malunggay helps increase milk production
A number of companies include malunggay in capsules meant to increase one's milk supply, but I prefer to buy it fresh. I have found the leaves at several local Asian markets. I simply asked, "malunggay?" and got pointed in the right direction by someone who knew. The leaves are very versatile ingredients – they are wonderful in soup, but also delicate enough to be added fresh as a garnish to salads. One of the most traditional dishes that includes malunggay leaves is sour Thai curry.

Wish us luck with our New Year's resolution and let me know if you come up with your own great malunggay recipes. I'd love to hear them!


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