What is Maca?
Although technically an herb, this root veggie is a relative to the potato and radish family and grows high in the Andes at elevations well above 12,000 feet. The harsh growing environment demonstrates maca’s own test of stamina and endurance as it perseveres through some of the most severe conditions—bipolar temperatures, scorching sunlight, violent winds, rocky soil, below-freezing temperatures at night—and this perennial plant still manages to kick strong as one of the oldest, most nutritionally dense foods around.
Nutritional Profile of Maca
The maca root is a rich source of energy-dense complex carbohydrates and packs in more than 10% protein consisting of 19 amino acids. It’s also high in B Vitamins (particularly B1 and B2 which help to boost energy and manage stress, respectively), vitamins C and E and a plethora of minerals with significant amounts of iron, potassium, magnesium, zinc, iodine AND calcium. Maca is also a significant source of dietary fiber and essential fatty acids including linoleic acid. There are many benefits of maca for women AND men, and these are some of my favorites!
My Top Benefits of Maca:
1. Body Balance
Maca shows great potential as an adaptogen, meaning it helps to restore balance within the entire body system. It naturally aids the body in correcting any imbalances bringing it back to homeostasis. The body becomes more efficient and the results are demonstrated through increased energy and a feeling of overall wellbeing.
2. Endocrine Support
One of the most significant attributes of maca is its ability to support the body’s endocrine system. Maca on its own doesn’t contain hormones, nor does it actually change blood hormone levels when ingested. Rather, it balances the endocrine system through the hypothalamus-pituitary axis by improving communication between the brain and the pituitary gland, as well as the adrenals. For women, new research especially notes it helps promote mood balancing during menopause.1
The high concentration of amino acids, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals boost and restore both physical and mental energy levels providing a natural lift. Ancient Peruvians used maca for thousands of years to help build stamina, endurance and overall strength.
4. Sexual health
Traditionally used by Peruvians to support a healthy libido (and a natural aphrodisiac), researchers have found maca to be useful in supporting the emotional aspects of sexual health.1
5. Antioxidant Support
Our body is made up of trillions of cells. The reason we age is that our cells accumulate free radical damage over time. This damage is caused by many factors, including metabolism, poor diet, environment, pollution, UV rays, stress, allergies, pesticides, radiation, and overexertion. All of these things can cause the atoms or molecules that make up a cell to become unstable, which leads to premature aging and many diseases. The phytochemicals, flavanols, glucosinates and isothiocyanates in maca all contain antioxidant properties, which help quench and scavenge various free radicals.
Whether you are looking for a ‘pick-me-up (and keep me there)’ or just want to improve overall wellbeing, the positive results of this superfood may pleasantly surprise you. So go ahead and get your maca on!
- Health Canada. (2012). Natural Health Products Database: Maca. Accessed 5/3/13 from http://webprod.hc-sc.gc.ca/nhpid-bdipsn/monoReq.do?id=1903&lang=eng
- Sandoval, M. Et al., (2002). Antioxidant activity of the cruciferous vegetable Maca (Lepdidium meyenii). Food Chemistry 79;207–213.