It wasn’t too long ago that maca root was a mystery to North Americans. Although maca root is native to the high Andes of Peru, it’s one of the top superfoods available today.
It’s even been called “Peruvian ginseng.” Maca root is an adaptogenic plant that belongs to the same family as cabbage and broccoli, and unlike other cruciferous or brassica vegetables, maca has a pleasant taste, and can also be found in powder form.
As an adaptogen, maca has the ability to help the body naturally adapt to stressors such as illnesses, demanding jobs, or busy schedules.
The benefits of maca root are numerous. As an adaptogen, maca has the ability to help the body naturally adapt to stressors such as illnesses, demanding jobs, or busy schedules.
Stimulants like caffeine will mask fatigue and mental and physical stress—you’ll run out of energy later in the day. Maca, on the other hand, will provide energy without the crash.
It’s a potent immune booster, hormone balancer, and is excellent for concentration and memory. On a fun note, it also mixes well in chocolate.
Nutritional Analysis of Maca Root
Maca is loaded with nutrition. Are you curious about healthy carbohydrate sources? Well, maca root is one of them. It can contain up to about 75% carbs with only 5% fat. It’s also a good source of phytonutrients.
Maca’s vitamin C content is quite impressive. Two tablespoons of maca powder contains 133% of your required daily intake of vitamin C. It’s also a good source of protein and essential amino acids, and free-form fatty acids such as steric acid, oleic acid, lauric acid, linolenic acid, and palmitic acid. Other important nutrients in maca powder include calcium, potassium, copper, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium, manganese, iron, sulphur, and sodium.
The following is a comprehensive maca powder nutrition chart for two tablespoons of maca root powder.
|Vitamin C||79.8 mg||133%|
|Vitamin B2||0.1 mg||6%|
|Vitamin B3||1.6 mg||8%|
|Vitamin B6||0.3 mg||16%|
8 Maca Root Benefits
What is maca good for, exactly? Here are eight maca powder benefits you should keep in mind.
1. Benefits Women’s Health: PMS, Menopause, and PCOS
What are the benefits of maca root for women? Maca root is a hormone balancer that can help improve symptoms related to menopause and premenstrual syndrome. A double-blind, randomized, placebo-corrected study in the International Journal of Biomedical Science in 2006 (1) found that maca capsules significantly reduced the severity and frequency of menopausal symptoms such as night sweating and hot flushes.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is considered the most common endocrine disorder in women. Although it affects 10% of women of reproductive age, it often goes undiagnosed. It’s a condition in which there is an imbalance of progesterone and estrogen. Estrogen levels that are too low or too high, and this can make ovulation and pregnancy difficult. Balancing these levels with maca root can help reduce PCOS-related symptoms such as excess hair growth and menstrual cycles.
2. Benefits Women’s Sexual Health, Fertility, and Hormone Function
A study published in the journal Menopause in 2008 (2) found that maca root improved mood in postmenopausal women, by improving serotonin, which led to an increase in libido. Maca restores hormonal balance by supporting the endocrine system and by regulating thyroid and adrenal production. Also, maca root benefits fertility.
3. Benefits Prostate Health
What are the benefits of maca for men? Benign prostatic hyperplasia is a condition commonly known as an enlarged prostate, and maca may help it get back down to size. There are also red maca powder benefits. In a study published in the First International Journal of Andrology: Andrologia in 2008 (3), red maca was found to have an anti-hyperplastic effect on the prostate of mice. In another study from 2005, red maca reduced prostate size in normal and testosterone enanthate-treated rats.
4. Improves Men’s Fertility and Libido
A study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology in 2001 (4) found that maca improved sperm production, sperm count per ejaculation, and sperm motility in nine adult men aged between 24 and 44. A report published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2010 also found that maca improved libido and sexual dysfunction in men.
5. Lowers Cholesterol
High cholesterol in the blood is one of the risk factors associated with heart disease and stroke. Symptoms of high cholesterol include dizziness, circulatory problems, mental confusion, and difficulty breathing. In a study published in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition in 2007, maca significantly reduced LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and total cholesterol in rats.
6. Promotes Weight Loss
What are the benefits of maca root on weight loss? A weak immune system, chronic fatigue, high cholesterol, and stress are all linked to weight gain. Maca can therefore promote weight loss when related conditions are treated. It can also stimulate the thyroid, and since this natural stimulant can increase energy in the body, it may also speed up metabolism and create weight loss over time. However, it’s not thought that maca alone will lead to weight loss, but rather that its energy-boosting properties may help establish a better exercise routine.
7. Improves Memory and Mood
People who use maca often report that they feel more energized and awake, and studies have found that maca can even put you into a better mood. People who maintain positive energy levels have been linked to lower levels of depression and anxiety. A study published in Climacteric (5): the Journal of the International Menopause Society in 2015 found that red maca reduced the symptoms of depression in 29 postmenopausal women. It’s thought that maca increases energy through the stabilization of blood sugar levels and the maintenance of the adrenals, which regulate energy and mood throughout the day. Maca also helps regulate the hypothalamus, which helps with proper pituitary gland function. This, in turn, helps improve concentration and memory.
8. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Diabetes is a chronic condition that involves high blood sugar levels. A study published in the journal Plant Foods for Human Nutrition in 2007 (6) found that maca lowered blood sugar levels. This information is especially important for diabetics or those suffering from metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is associated with diabetes and atherosclerosis risk factors such as LDL cholesterol, obesity, hypertension, high fasting blood sugar, and high triglycerides.
Maca Root Side Effects
In general, there are limited dangers to maca root, but there is still plenty to learn about maca root benefits and side effects. Due to maca’s effect on hormone levels, it’s believed that maca side effects may occur in people who take hormone-altering drugs for conditions such as prostate cancer or breast cancer. People with high blood pressure should consult with their doctors before taking maca. Research is also being done to determine whether maca is safe for pregnant or nursing women. Women may also experience spotting or a change in menstrual cycle when first using maca root. That said, this is a normal sign that the body’s hormonal system is beginning to balance.
How to Use Maca Root
Maca powder comes in two forms, including raw maca root powder or gelatinized maca, which removes the starch from maca to improve assimilation and concentration.
There is no set standard maca root dosage, but it’s best to begin with about one tablespoon and work your way up to two or three tablespoons per day, spread throughout the day. Some also suggest a dosage of 500 to 3,000 milligrams per day. Many people consume maca before exercising, since it can increase stamina and energy. In Peru, many locals consume as much as a pound of fresh or dried maca root per day.
Maca Root Recipe
Maca has a natural nutty and slightly sweet taste, similar to nutmeg or cinnamon. As a result, maca root powder can be added to juices, smoothies, and even baked goods. As mentioned, maca root blends well with chocolate. Want to know how to use maca powder in a dessert? Here is a recipe for raw cacao and maca balls:
- 8 to 10 Medjool pitted dates
- 1/2 cup raw almonds or cashews
- 1/4 cup goji berries
- 1 tbsp. hemp hearts
- 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1/4 cup raw cacao nibs
- 1 tbsp. raw cacao powder
- 1 1/2 tsp. raw maca powder
- 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
- Place all of the ingredients into a high-powered food processor and process until fully combined for about a minute.
- Roll the mixture into one-inch balls with your hands, and place onto a baking sheet and put into the refrigerator for three hours or overnight.
- The balls can stay chilled or in an airtight container in the freezer for up to three months.
Where to Get Maca Root
If you’re not heading to Peru anytime soon, maca powder can be found at most health food stores. There are also other ways to enjoy maca root benefits, including in tincture or capsule form. All maca forms are thought to be beneficial, but it’s always best to purchase maca from a quality harvester. This ensures that it’s 100% pure maca root powder. Maca also comes in various colors such as red, black, and yellow, which have similar benefits, although specific colors are thought to be more beneficial for certain health conditions. Lastly, look for raw and organic maca.