Maca is a common ingredient in Peruvian cooking for thousands of years. Lately, it has been mainstreamed and used in everything from smoothies, lattes to supplements. This article will discuss maca powder benefits, the evidence behind these claims, maca uses, side effects, recipes and more.
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Growing high above the sea level in the cold ground of the Andes mountains of Peru, the mysterious maca root is pulling nutrients deep from the earth. The indigenous peoples of this region used Maca for thousands of years as food and medicine. It’s been used to enhance energy, increase stamina, endurance and strength. Also to promote sexual function and fertility.
Thanks to its incredible nutritional profile, Maca root is becoming more mainstream in the last twenty years. It’s called a superfood, the ‘Peruvian Ginseng’ for libido and fertility enhancement.
Researchers are constantly turning up with new health benefits associated with this powerful root. But just how super is this superfood?
What is maca?
Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a Peruvian plant grown in the Andes mountains. It is a cruciferous vegetable related to broccoli, cabbage, and kale.
The root, which is the edible part of the vegetable, has a similar appearance and size as radishes or turnips with green tops and roots that range in color from yellow to purple and black.
Maca is rich in fiber, a large number of essential amino acids, fatty acids, and other nutrients, including vitamin C, copper, iron, and calcium. Besides these essential nutrients, this root contains bioactive compounds responsible for benefits to the human body.
Maca is perhaps most famous for its adaptogenic qualities. Adaptogens are a unique group of compounds that help your body adjust to stress. Plant alkaloids regulate and balance the endocrine system – a collection of glands that produce the hormones responsible for sleep, mood, sexual health, and stress responses.
Typically added to smoothies, and shakes, the ground root powder can also be used as an ingredient in lattes and hot chocolate. In Peru, whole maca root is often added to soup and oatmeal, roasted, and consumed as a vegetable.
Types of maca
Maca comes in three colors – yellow, black, and red. One single color cannot be cultivated as they all come from the same seed crop with the only difference being the skin. While their nutritional profiles are identical, the phytonutrients that create the color differences are what differentiate their health benefits.
- Red maca is considered feminine – supports female sexual health.
- Black maca is considered masculine – supports male sexual health.
- Yellow maca is considered the best maca for daily consumption by both sexes.
Nutritional benefits of maca powder
A teaspoon (5g) of maca powder contains:
- 16 kcals / 69 kJ
- 0.5g protein
- 0.04g fat
- 3g carbohydrates
- 0.9g fibre
- 17.5mg calcium
Health benefits of maca powder
Rich in antioxidants
Maca root acts as a natural antioxidant, boosting levels of antioxidants like glutathione and superoxide dismutase in the body. Antioxidants help neutralize harmful free radicals, fighting off chronic disease and preventing damage to cells. (Source)
Enhances energy and mood
Maca may positively impact energy and stamina. Maintaining positive energy levels can also help improve mood, and some early studies have even found that maca may reduce symptoms of depression. (Source)
Additionally, older research findings suggest that maca may be helpful for reducing symptoms of anxiety and depression. (Source)
Maca root can help balance hormone levels and control the amount of estrogen in the body. One study conducted on postmenopausal women showed that not only did maca help balance hormone levels, but it also relieved symptoms of menopause, such as night sweats and hot flashes, and even increased bone density. (Source)
Maca powder benefits for women
The most well-known benefit of maca root is its potential to increase libido.
A study monitoring the effects of maca root on post-menopausal women with sexual dysfunction caused by the use of antidepressants showed that maca root was able to significantly improve sexual function. (Source)
Another study had similar findings, reporting that maca was well-tolerated and able to improve libido in women suffering from sexual dysfunction. (Source)
Maca is also able to balance female sex hormones and has even been shown to alleviate symptoms of menopause. (Source) Balancing hormone levels is crucial to many aspects of reproductive health and can help reduce symptoms like infertility, weight gain, and bloating.
Maca powder benefits for men
Traditionally maca has been referred to as a plant to improve fertility.
One study found that supplementing with maca for eight weeks increased sexual desire in men. (Source) Meanwhile, another study found that maca helped improve sperm quality and motility, two important factors when it comes to male infertility. (Source)
Maca may also benefit sexual dysfunction in men as well. A 2010 review summarized the results of four clinical trials that showed an improvement in sexual dysfunction and sexual desire in both men and women. However, further research is still needed. (Source)
Maca powder side effects
Maca powder is safe for most people, with no apparent side effects. (Source)
However, with a thyroid condition should exercise caution. This is because this family of cruciferous vegetables contains substances that may interfere with normal thyroid function.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should check with their doctor before consuming maca.
How to use maca powder
Maca is available in many forms, including capsules and powders.
You can find maca in some supermarkets, at health food stores, and through various online retailers.
You can add maca powder to smoothies, oatmeal, baked goods, energy bars, and more. Here are some ideas:
Maca powder dosage
The optimal dose for medicinal use has not been established. However, the dosage of maca root powder used in studies generally ranges from 1.5–3 grams per day (1 teaspoon).
Best time to take maca
Since maca boosts energy levels, it’s best to take it in the morning to start your day off with a little extra stamina. You can work it into your daily routine by adding it to breakfast smoothies or morning coffee.
Maca powder taste
Maca has a very unique taste that has been described as “earthy and nutty”, with “butterscotch taste” or “caramel-like flavor.” I’m a huge fan of maca taste, but many dislike the taste of maca.
Its powerful flavor can be detected in pretty much anything else you put it in.
If you don’t like the taste of maca, but still looking for ways to enjoy the benefits that offers, try masking it out.
- Combine maca powder with cinnamon.
- Blend it with fruits in fruit smoothies.
Maca powder recipes
Maca is a plant with great potential as an adaptogen and appears to be having many health benefits. Scientific evidence showed effects on libido, fertility, mood, energy, and memory. However, the active principles behind each effect are still unknown. (Source)
Although there are few health risks associated with taking maca, most people can try maca without experiencing any side effects.
Children, pregnant or nursing women, and those with hormone-sensitive conditions should be especially careful.