Busy, hectic life? Feel like you’re always on-the-go? Then let us introduce you to maca. This root has gained a reputation as an energy-boosting superfood and for good reason.
With health benefits including improved hormone balance, a stronger immune system and higher energy levels, maca can leave you feeling refreshed, revitalized and ready to take on the world.
Considered one of the ‘lost crops of the Andes’, maca root grows in Peru and Bolivia at high altitudes. For a hint at the historic importance of maca as both food and medicine, we have to go back more than 2,000 years. Used by the ancient Peruvians as currency for trade, maca was recognized as a treatment for a huge range of illnesses, including stomach cancers, tuberculosis, menstrual problems and symptoms associated with the menopause.
Fast forward two millennia, and it’s clear that this superfood still plays an important role as a medicine and supplement in South America and beyond. While maca was traditionally harvested and cooked, nowadays it is more common to find it as either a powder or a capsule. This makes it super easy to add this pleasant tasting superfood to your everyday diet.
As a member of the cruciferous family, maca has a lot in common with veggies like broccoli and cauliflower, including high amounts of plant-based nutrients such as protein, fiber, calcium and magnesium. Yet while maca boasts many of the same vitamins and nutrients as its cruciferous cousins, there is something else that gives this Peruvian-grown root superfood status: its adaptogenic properties.
So why do these properties matter? Well, as an adaptogen maca is part of a group of plants, herbs and natural substances that help the body naturally adapt to all kinds of stressors, whether they’re environmental, physiological or psychological. This means maca can potentially help balance hormones when they’re out-of-whack; boost energy levels when you’re feeling sluggish, and help calm you down when you’re feeling stressed.
Ashwagandhga is another famous superfood with adaptogenic properties.
Thanks to its adaptogenic properties, as well as its impressive offering of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, and protein, maca has been shown to support energy levels and aid in recovery from injury.
A number of studies have evaluated the effect of maca root on energy levels, with one of the most promising being conducted in 2009. In this placebo-controlled study, researchers asked male participants to perform a 40km cycling time trial. The men then took maca supplements for 14 days before repeating the cycling challenge. The results were positive; all the men supplemented with maca performed better than before, and reported higher energy levels.
Even if you’re not an athlete, incorporating maca into your daily routine could be an excellent way to bring a spring back into your step.
Maca doesn’t just act as an energy-booster. Consumed regularly, this superfood can support overall health, as well as targeting some common problems. Here’s just a handful of ways it might be able to help you:
If you’re trying to conceive, it might be worth adding maca to your diet. Containing 31 different minerals and 60 different phytonutrients, maca has been shown to support the endocrine system, aiding the pituitary, adrenal, and thyroid glands in balancing hormones. This makes it useful for both men and women trying to boost fertility.
If you’re struggling with acne breakouts, mood swings and tiredness caused by out-of-whack hormones, maca may be able to help. According to Nigma Talib, ND, a naturopathic practitioner who works in London and Los Angeles, “maca contains both iron and iodine, which are essential for your thyroid. When your thyroid is working properly, it helps with your sex hormones and skin.”
Peruvians have long used maca to boost concentration and performance in school children. But while you may want to hold off adding maca to your children’s smoothie until there’s a little more evidence available, this superfood has been shown to help brain function and memory in adults.
One study supplemented mice with maca for five weeks. After this period the mice showed improved cognitive function, including better memory, coordination and spatial learning.
While further studies need to be carried out on humans, the researchers believe maca might help maintain healthy cognitive function, especially in old age.