If you haven’t heard of the magical little herb called maca, consider this: among many other benefits, it’s been known to help reduce stress, minimize menopause symptoms and boost brain function. On top of all that, it’s also considered a natural aphrodisiac. Intrigued? Or thinking, “Gotta get me some of that!” Thought so!
There’s SO much more to maca than meets the eye. A root vegetable that is native to the Andes Mountain region, it has been a staple in Peruvian cuisine for thousands of years, where it’s often mixed into quinoa as well as sweet treats.
Still, it’s only in recent years that Americans have caught on to the many perks that come with adding maca to their diets, due in part to the increasing research on what it has to offer.
So, just what can maca do for you and how can you reap its rewards? Read on to find out.
Maca is a plant that is part of the cruciferous family (which includes veggies like broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage) and a relative of the radish. That’s a pretty good family to be part of! The root is the main edible part of the plant, and it can range in color. Each color varies slightly in taste, with the order of sweetness (from most to least) as follows: red, yellow and then black.
The maca root is typically dried out and turned into a nutrient-dense powder. The Peruvians and Incas have been cooking with maca for centuries. It has been called everything from “the Peruvian ginseng” to “the food of the Gods.” Gee, that is a lot for this little root to live up to! Thankfully, it is pretty powerful.
Did you know that maca is also an adaptogen? Adaptogens are herbs or plants that can actually improve the health of your adrenal system, which is responsible for managing your hormonal response to stress. As such, they can boost your body’s ability to avoid damage from physical, chemical and biological symptoms such as fatigue and anxiety.
True adaptogens are all considered non-toxic and offer a normalizing and balancing effect that helps to bring your body back to a normal, healthy state after being exposed to stress. Many of the herbs now known as adaptogens were used in Ayurvedic medicine in India as well as traditional Chinese medicine.
There’s no denying that maca is a nutritional powerhouse — the list of absorbable plant-based nutrients that maca boasts are nothing short of eye-opening and impressive.
Not only is it a stellar source of protein and fiber, it is also low in fat and is packed with essential vitamins and minerals. To boot, maca root powder has 20 amino acids, including 8 essential amino acids.
So, what does one ounce (28 grams) of maca root powder contain? Here it is:
In both ancient and modern Peruvian medicine, maca has been used to treat everything from menstrual disorders and anemia to fertility issues and migraine headaches. Here are just a handful of the possible perks of incorporating maca into your diet.
Did you know that certain fatty acids that are naturally found in foods (such as maca root) can have a positive impact on your mood? That’s because they contain a nutrient called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
In fact, British scientists led a study published in the Archives of General Psychiatry in which they gave patients with depression a daily dose of EPA, and over two-thirds of them reported a whopping 50 percent reduction in symptoms such as sleeplessness, feelings of sadness and pessimism and inability to work .
What’s remarkable is that all of these patients had previously tried antidepressant medications to no avail! Maca offers precisely the omega-3 fatty acids that could provide these benefits.
Since we know that as an adaptogen, maca root acts as a hormone balancer, it’s no surprise that it can help to relieve many common menopause symptoms, such as disrupted sleep, hot flashes, depression and night sweats.
One study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science found that women who consumed 2 grams of maca root powder twice daily saw a substantial decrease in menopausal discomfort .
Sexual dysfunction is a complicated matter that can be affected by lifestyle, prescription medications, age, diet and other factors. For women especially, though, there are limited treatments available for these issues.
The good news is that maca root has been shown in a growing body of research to help with sexual dysfunction specifically in women who are postmenopausal .
One study found that maca is effective for enhancing the libido in women with antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction — participants who consumed 3 grams a day reported having increased sexual activity and more enjoyable sexual experiences. I would say that is a great benefit !
But the plant’s sexy superpowers don’t end there — men can benefit from them, too. Studies have revealed that maca can increase sperm count and sperm motility .
Speaking of sex, maca may be able to help you get in the mood. It’s no wonder it’s a natural aphrodisiac since it’s loaded with essential fatty acids and minerals that aid in balancing your sex hormones. Say what?
In a double-blind study, researchers split men into three groups and gave them either 1.5 grams of maca, 3 grams of maca or a placebo. The men who took maca reported heightened sexual desire after eight weeks .
So if you want your significant other to be more, um, active, you might want to start adding some maca to their Power Protein Smoothie!
Maca root acts as an antioxidant, raising the levels of glutathione and superoxide dismutase, which aid in the body in disease resistance as well as immune system support.
According to research published in Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, maca can actually ward off the development of chronic diseases — specifically those that are characterized by high levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) and impaired glucose tolerance .
Maca can improve glucose tolerance by lowering glucose levels in the blood — which is crucial for people who have concerns about diabetes or heart health.
As women age, the risk for decreased bone density continues to rise — particularly during and after menopause. Maca has been shown to help protect bone health, which is especially crucial for anyone who has a family history of osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis can develop as a result of a hormone imbalance, or either a calcium deficiency or poor absorption of calcium. Luckily, maca is capable of balancing hormone levels, and also contains a high calcium content to boot. One study determined that red and black maca specifically have a protective effect in regards to bone mass .
This is a big one that we could ALL benefit from! Looking for a boost before a workout or a stressful day at the office? It is believed that Incan and Spanish warriors consumed large amounts of Maca root prior to a battle, as it increased their energy and stamina while also aiding in muscle recovery.
Recent research supports the notion that maca has the power, too! According to a report published in Alternative Therapies, studies suggest that maca can increase energy.
On top of that, it has a major advantage over other energizers on the market, because it contains no processed sugar, caffeine or other chemical additives. So it offers you sustained energy without putting any stress on your adrenal glands (we call that a win-win).
Fortunately, maca is super easy to integrate into your diet. You can find it at your local health food store or simply order it straight to your doorstep on Amazon! Try incorporating it into smoothies, oatmeal or homemade vegan energy bars. Here are some of my favorite smoothie and shake recipes to get you started.
Hope this inspires you to try maca for yourself and reap all these amazing benefits!
Let me know how it goes for you!
Have a beautiful and inspiring day, and see you back here soon ☺. Remember you are amazing as you are.
Lots of love,
Kimberly Omega-3s For Boosting Mood