Plants are powerful sources of nutrients. They provide your body with essential nutrients to support specific functions. One such powerful plant is Maca. It is a plant-based superfood that has been used for years in some parts of the world, especially Peru. But in recent times, it is gaining popularity worldwide.
Maca root is a caffeine-free food that is used to improve overall well-being. In traditional Ayurvedic medicine, it is believed to balance hormone levels, support a healthy libido, and maintain energy.
Maca root has been used traditionally to enhance fertility and sex drive. But it is one of the common ingredients in Peruvian cooking, which gives an earthy flavor to the dishes. Its powdered form is added to smoothies, shakes, juices, chocolates, coffee, or meals for a rich flavor.
In Peruvian cuisines, the whole maca root is consumed as a vegetable or is added to oatmeal and soups.
Besides culinary uses, the Maca root also offers various health benefits. Here, we’ll deal with the origin of Maca root, its benefits, and a few interesting recipes to add maca powder to your diet.
What is Maca Root?
Maca is an adaptogenic herb that is used both medicinally and nutritionally. The botanical name of Maca is Lepidium meyenii, which has been cultivated for at least 2,000 years. Maca is a root crop that is grown in Peru, Argentina, Bolivia, and Paraguay, but it has primarily been cultivated in the highlands of the Peruvian Andes. And so it is named Peruvian Ginseng. It mainly grows in harsh conditions at an altitude of about 13,000 feet.
Maca is a cruciferous vegetable that looks similar to turnips and radishes. The roots are the edible part of this plant. It is of various colors such as yellow, black, and purple. Maca has become popular over the past decades but has been used as an important food since the days of the Inca warriors in Peru.
This versatile Peruvian herb helps the body adapt and cope with various stressors so that you can live a balanced life. It is consumed as food to boost libido and energy. Maca root is generally consumed in powder form but it is also available as a supplement and liquid extract. Also, it is safe and easy to add to your daily routine.
Maca – an Adaptogenic Herb
We’ve said that Maca is an adaptogenic herb in the above section. But what is an adaptogenic herb? What does it mean?
The herbs that act as an agent to support the body’s ability to deal with various physical and emotional stresses are called adaptogens or adaptogenic herbs, says Jennifer Pottruff, DBM, DNM, DO.
Adaptogenic herbs have been used in Traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine to support energy levels and stress. They are still in use for such beneficial effects.
Other than Maca root, there are also some popular adaptogenic herbs, and that includes;
- Holy Basil
- American Ginseng
- Reishi mushroom
All these are popular adaptogens that grow in many areas around the world. They all deal with stress and other bodily functions.
Nutritional Value of Maca root powder
Maca root is a nutrient-rich plant containing several important vitamins and minerals.
One ounce (28 grams) of maca root powder contains:
- Calories: 91
- Fat: 1 gram
- Carbs: 20 grams
- Protein: 4 grams
- Vitamin C: 133% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)
- Vitamin B6: 15% of the RDI
- Fiber: 2 grams
- Iron: 23% of the RDI
- Copper: 85% of the RDI
- Potassium: 16% of the RDI
- Manganese: 10% of the RDI
Further, Maca root also contains various plant compounds, including polyphenols and glucosinolates. Now let’s get into the benefits of Maca root.
Health Benefits of Maca Root
The most well-known and effective benefit of maca root is increasing libido. Some scientific evidence also supports this effect. For example, an older study conducted in 2002 found that men who have taken 1.5 to 3 grams of maca root powder a day experienced surprisingly a great improvement in libido compared to those who consumed a placebo.
A study in 2010 on maca found that Maca supports sexual functioning and a healthy libido. Some clinical studies have shown that maca root supports the reproductive health of men including libido and normal prostate function throughout different stages of life.
Maca root is not only beneficial for men but also can reduce sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women. This effect is also proved by the preliminary studies at MGH (Massachusetts General Hospital). And this evidence was published by Harvard Health saying that, Maca root extract boosts libido, especially in postmenopausal women.
Overall, maca acts as an aphrodisiac and supports a healthy sexual performance both in men and women.
Support Women’s Reproductive Health
As said earlier, Maca root is not only beneficial for men but also women. It is believed to stimulate sexual desire, tonifies the female reproductive system, and may also help with fertility. There are certain libido drugs that contain maca root as the major ingredient to support a healthy drive.
Reducing Menopause Symptoms
It supports women in every stage of life. Consuming maca root solves hormonal issues, like hot flashes, night sweats, PMS, and menopause. It balances the estrogen level in the body when women reach the perimenopause stage. As the estrogen levels fluctuate at that stage and cause a variety of symptoms.
Some clinical studies also support this claim that Maca balances the hormone levels and improves sexual function and psychological health in postmenopausal women.
Decreases Erectile Dysfunction
Maca root could also benefit men with erectile dysfunction (ED). A study in 2009 has shown that men who have consumed about 2.4g of maca root daily have experienced a significant increase in sexual desire and erectile dysfunction than those who have taken a placebo.
May Reduce Prostate Size
The prostate is a gland found only in men. If this gland enlarges, then it leads to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). It is very common in aging men.
An enlargement in the prostate gland can cause various ailments while passing urine, as the prostate gland surrounds the genital tube through which urine is excreted.
Unexpectedly, a few research in rodents suggested that red maca has the ability to reduce prostate size. How is this possible? They proposed a theory that the red maca has a high amount of glucosinolates that help in reducing the size of the prostate gland. These substances can also prevent the risk of prostate cancer.
Maca root has also another widespread potential benefit regarding the male reproductive system. A study performed on rats has shown an increase in sperm count and its function or movement.
Its main function is to increase fertility, particularly in men. It is believed through experiments that maca root helps to increase the semen quality both in fertile and infertile men.
Maca is an abundant source of flavonoids that are believed to reduce anxiety and improve mood. Research in postmenopausal women found that maca is able to reduce feelings of depression and anxiety. In Chinese traditional medicine, maca has been used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety.
Boosts Energy and Stamina
Generally, bodybuilders and athletes use maca root as an ingredient in their energy drinks or maca supplements to increase energy and performance. Some existing evidence also supports this effect.
A pilot study in 2009 also proved that maca extract has improved the performance of male cyclists during the 40-kilometer time trial.
The same study has also found that maca extract is beneficial in improving libido.
Reduces Blood Pressure
Only one study in 2015 has found that maca root also helps in improving blood pressure. In that study, postmenopausal women were given 3.3 grams of maca powder per day and they consumed it continuously for up to 12 weeks. This lowered the levels of blood pressure in them.
Reduces Sun Damage
An older study in an animal model found that maca can protect the skin from the sun’s UV rays. It was also proved by another animal study in 2011. The extracts of maca leaves helped in preventing the formation of sunburns in the cells.
Fights Off Free Radicals
Maca root also improves the natural antioxidants such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione in the body. These antioxidants fight against free radicals that cause damage to the cells in the body. Earlier, people believed that these antioxidants can also help in preventing cancer and heart disease. But this is just a belief, there is no scientific evidence regarding that.
Enhances Memory and Learning
There is some evidence to support that maca improves learning and memory power. For example, a 2011 study in mice found that maca significantly helps in improving memory. Their performance has improved a lot.
A review in 2014 also supports the 2011 study report that maca has a beneficial effect on learning and memory. Researchers proposed that it can also help treat Alzheimer’s disease. This disease is the main factor that affects those processes.
However, there is no human study, only animal study is available.
How to Use Maca
Maca root is found in four different colors namely yellow, red, purple, and black. All of them boast different biological properties. And yellow maca is the most commonly available type of root.
It is very easy to add maca to your diet. It is available in capsules, liquid extract, and powder form. So you can take it as a supplement or add its powder to energy drinks, smoothies, energy bars, oatmeal, baked goods, and any dishes.
However, in various studies, the dosage recommended for maca root powder ranges from 1.5 to 5 grams per day.
How to Make Maca Root A Part of Your Diet
As said already, Maca root is loaded full of nutrients and provides various potential health benefits. To make Maca a part of your diet, you need not want to move to the Andes to get them. Maca root is available in many stores or online and so it is easy for you to incorporate maca into your life. That is in the form of supplements, smoothies, protein shakes, bars, beverages, etc. We’ll give you a few examples here;
Take one teaspoon of maca root powder and mix it with milk or juice. This is the easiest way to add maca to your diet. Or mix it with your favorite smoothie to enjoy its flavor.
Here we’ve given our favorite recipe, just try it and leave your feedback in the comment section.
Raspberry chocolate protein shake
- Fresh or frozen raspberries – 1 cup
- Chocolate almond milk – 1 cup
- Unsweetened cocoa powder – 1 tablespoon
- Banana – 1
- Maca powder – 1 serving
- Protein powder 1 serving (any variety)
Just blend all the ingredients until it becomes smooth. Thus smoothie is ready. Sip and enjoy it!
Cook with Maca Powder
Adding Maca Powder to your energy drinks isn’t the only way. You can also do creative cooking with it as well.
Here we’ll give you a delicious breakfast recipe that provides energy throughout the day.
No-Bake Chewy Maca Granola Bars
- Chopped nuts – 1/4 cup
- Nut butter – 1/4 cup
- Old-fashioned oats (rolled_ – 1/4 cups
- Dried fruit – 1/4 cup
- Honey or maple syrup – 1/2 cup
- Chia seeds – 2 tablespoons
- Salt – 1/4 teaspoon
- Ground cinnamon – 1/2 teaspoon
- Maca powder – 1 tablespoon
- Place a saucepan on medium heat. Add all ingredients, and stir well to combine.
- Stir it well until the mixture is warmed thoroughly.
- Line a loaf pan with parchment. Transfer the oatmeal mixture to the pan, and pat it with a wet spatula.
- Allow to cool completely or refrigerate for 2 hours before slicing.
Not only this recipe you can also try it out with Acai or Avacado in the same format.
Maca is considered safe and currently, there were no side effects claimed on it. But prevention is always better in anything. So use maca in moderate doses to live risk-free.
However, Peruvian natives also believed that taking fresh maca roots can affect your health, so they should be boiled well before consuming.
Also, maca should not be taken by people with thyroid problems, as it has hormonal effects, maca can impair thyroid functioning.
If you’re undergoing treatments, then it is better to avoid taking maca. Because it can interact with the medications can lead to several diseases.
And finally, pregnant women and breastfeeders should consult with their healthcare provider for consuming maca.
Maca has a variety of health benefits, especially for sexual health. Though there are only a few studies on maca, its benefits are too high. It has been used in all traditional medicines for improving libido, sexual health, and performance. So you can try out maca by consulting your medical advisor and you’ll not experience any adverse side effects.