If you’ve never heard of maca, you’re in for a treat. This latest superfood comes to us from the mountains of Peru, where its stimulating properties have been known for hundreds of years.
So what exactly does this super root offer? And how can you introduce it to your daily life?
Maca: The Lowdown
Also known as Peruvian Ginseng, the maca plant is commonly found in the Andes of central Peru at altitudes of above 13,000 feet. As well as being a cruciferous vegetable like cauliflower and broccoli, maca also boasts adaptogenic properties, like those of ashwagandha.
The main edible part of the plant is found underground in the root. Once harvested, the root is dried and ground for use in powdered form, although it’s also available as capsules or as a liquid extract.
Like other popular adaptogenic herbs, including ashwagandha, ginseng and rhodiola, maca root has been shown to promote hormone balance, boost energy levels and increase stamina.
Here are just a few of the incredible health benefits of maca.
1. Reduce Menopause Symptoms
Any woman who has reached the menopause will know the irritating symptoms that accompany it. From hot flashes to mood swings, the menopause can leave you in need of an extra boost of energy. Enter maca. A review of four studies into maca’s effect on menopausal women found that the root helped alleviate symptoms, including poor sleep and hot flashes.
2. Energy Booster
Maca is popular among athletes and bodybuilders, and for good reason. Research has suggested that this natural supplement can actually boost energy and improve endurance. One study in particular found that eight male cyclists clocked an improved time for a 25-mile bike ride after taking the supplement for two weeks. While more research needs to be conducted, the study suggests that maca powder may well be a useful addition to your pre-workout smoothie.
3. Give Your Brain a Boost
Maca has a long history in Peru as a brain-boosting supplement. In fact, Peruvian parents traditionally gave their children this superfood to improve their performance in school. Although there has yet to be a study on humans, in animal studies the root has been shown to improve learning and memory in rodents that suffer from memory impairment. Maca definitely shows potentially as a memory aid.
4. May Increase Fertility in Men
If you’re looking to conceive in the near future, maca might be a useful supplement to add to your diet. While the jury’s out on whether maca is an effective treatment against infertility, a recent review suggests that the root may improve semen quality in both healthy and infertile men.
5. Nutrient Dense
The secret to maca’s health benefits is in large part its high nutritional density. As one of the most nutritionally rich foods in the world, just one ounce of maca root contains:
- Vitamin C: 133 percent of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 15 percent of the RDI
- Iron: 23 percent of the RDI
- Manganese: 10 percent of the RDI
- Copper: 85 percent of the RDI
As well as containing an impressive quantity of minerals and vitamins, maca also boasts healthy plant compounds including polyphenols and glucosinolates.
6. Maintains Bone Density
Maintaining healthy bone density is a common problem for people as they age, particularly for women going through the menopause. However, studies suggest that maca might be able to help. Research into the effect of the supplement on menopausal symptoms has suggested that it increases important markers associated with bone density. This is particularly good news for women with a family history of osteoporosis, or simply for those looking to boost their bone health.
How Can You Make the Most of Maca?
Maca may offer some impressive health benefits, but how exactly can you tap into them? Available in powder or capsule form, you have a number of options when it comes to adding this superfood to your diet. For some, taking a maca root capsule daily is a great way of enjoying its benefits. Others, however, like to experiment. Maca powder can be added to smoothies, hot cacao, or even energy bars for a daily boost to your diet.