The health benefits of maca include relief from problems related to menstruation and menopause, while also balancing hormones and boosting fertility in women. It helps in increasing energy levels, improving sexual health, and boosting bone health. It helps in building stamina, maintaining a healthy immune system, and improving healthy skin. It has antidepressant properties and under stressful conditions, it also promotes homeostasis (balance within the body).
Maca is native to the high mountainous areas of the Peruvian Andes, particularly the area close to Lake Junin, but it is also cultivated in Bolivia and some parts of Brazil. It is grown organically, with very little use of pesticides or unnatural fertilizers, since the plant is not typically attacked by predators, insects, or disease. It is not clear whether the health benefits of maca are the same when grown or cultivated outside of its’ natural habitat, so the majority of the world’s supply comes from South America.
The root of maca is formed from the hypocotyl and the taproot, giving it its unique inverted pear-shape. Maca also comes in a number of varieties, separated by the color of the root; cream, gold, red, black, purple, blue, or green. These variations are chosen based on the medicinal need of the user.
Nutritional Value of Maca
Maca is an unassuming plant, and the most beneficial part of the plant is actually the fleshy hypocotyl, classifying it as a “root vegetable”. The organic composition of maca is what makes it such a valuable and beneficial plant that continues to grow in popularity around the world.
By adding maca to your diet, you can balance your vitamin and mineral intake, because it is a great source of B12 vitamins, along with B1, B2, C, and E. The plant is also a rich source of protein, a beneficial attribute for vegetarians and vegans, and it contains the ever-important trace elements of iron, calcium, zinc, and magnesium. Maca is itself composed of approximately 60-75% carbohydrates, and 10-14% proteins, along with fiber and a small amount of fat. The high content of proteins and important nutrients may explain its’ connection to higher energy, clearer thinking, an increase in sexual libido, and many other interconnected benefits of this small South American plant.
Health Benefits of Maca
Although the exact effects of maca have not been fully discovered, there are some health benefits that are agreed upon for the inclusion of maca in a person’s diet.
Sexual Libido: Maca is perhaps best known for its’ benefits to a person’s sexual libido. By consuming some forms of maca root, sexual stamina and drive are increased in both men and women leading some people to begin calling maca “Nature’s Viagra”. Sexual libido is partially controlled by serotonin levels in the body, and by working against the chemical factors that inhibit sexual dysfunction, it can improve the energy levels and natural excitement for sexual activity.
Sperm Count: The consumption of maca has also been linked to an increase in sperm count for men, leading to more successful reproduction efforts, because an increase in sperm count is typically reflected in higher rates of impregnation in the partner. A higher sperm count often raises sexual confidence in men, improving conditions in their personal life.
Sperm Motility: Maca does more than improve your sperm count, it also increases sperm motility! Motility is the freedom of movement and the ratio of activity versus energy consumption. By adding it to your diet, you can increase you sperm motility, which thereby increases your chances of being successful in trying to get pregnant with a partner.
Fertility: For women who consume maca, studies have shown that their ability to reproduce is also boosted. Not only is maca a good way to promote male sperm count and fertility; it is also good for both partners to actively eat maca in order to give a better chance at potential pregnancy.
Bone Health: Adding maca to your diet can also increase bone density and strength, while preventing osteoporosis. It, along with many cruciferous vegetables, are rich sources of calcium, which is an integral vitamin for promoting healthy and durable bones.
Antidepressant Properties: Maca serves another function as an inhibitor to the anti-depressant induced sexual dysfunction. It is shown to improve mood and energy levels, and counteracts the common symptoms that come from taking antidepressants, namely a decrease in sexual function and libido.
Homeostasis: Maca is a source of many unique alkaloids and a bevy of vitamin nutrients in higher quantities than are found in many foods. This combination of organic attributes gives it “adaptogenic qualities”, meaning that it can positively respond to stress in an organism and promote homeostasis, or balance, within the body, without adding any toxic or artificial chemicals.
Energy and Endurance: Maca has long been used by Peruvian natives as a way to increase energy and endurance during any task. This comes from its’ high levels of proteins, vitamins, and minerals. Now that it is an internationally available product, these same energy and endurance giving qualities can be enjoyed by anyone willing to add maca to their daily regimen.
Immune System: Adding maca into a daily diet, even as little as a tablespoon a day, can greatly increase the strength of your immune system. One of the most significant aspects of maca is its high level of protein. It has nearly five times more protein per serving than potatoes, and protein is an essential part of a balanced diet. It can boost your immune system, tissue repair, and your energy levels. Improving your immune system is one of the fundamental parts of overall health, so it is a wise choice for those who want to avoid the common cold!
Menopause: Maca is a good choice for women who want to balance out their moods and energy levels when going through menopause. Studies have shown that by adding maca to their diet, women were able to reduce their anxiety and mood swings during menopausal periods. Many people are hesitant to try antidepressants to improve mood and balance, so maca provides an organic option to alleviate those issues.
How to Prepare Maca?
Maca can be prepared in a number of ways, including boiling the mashed up root to form a thick, sweet liquid, which can be mixed into oatmeal or porridge. You can also grind the root into a powder or flour, which is the most common exported form of maca for consumption in the rest of the world. Less frequently used techniques involve roasting the freshly picked maca, or brewing it into alcohol. The leaves are also an edible source of nutrients to be placed in salads, or they can be used as a healthy food for livestock.
Powdered maca root can also be purchased, and this makes for a good addition to shakes, juices, and any other health beverages.
Risks of Using Maca
The benefits of maca are clear to many of its’ frequent users, but there are some people who should NOT use maca to treat their symptoms or ailments.
Pregnancy: While maca is a widely used to to increase fertility, once pregnant, the use of maca should not be continued. Its effects on hormonal balances only functions when the overwhelming hormonal shifts of pregnancy are not occurring. Most plants and herbs of this nature are not recommended during pregnancy, but always consult your doctor before beginning or discontinuing use of a regular part of your healthy diet.
Cardiac Toxicity: Although maca has not been shown as a direct cause of cardiac disease or death, plants with a similar genetic makeup to maca have been associated with cardiac toxicity, so for those potential users with heart issues, be sure to investigate the situation further and speak with a physician.
Iodine Content: Certain types of maca have an unusually high level of iodine, which is naturally occurring and not dangerous, unless it is added to a condition like a goiter, which can be inflamed by increased levels of iodine. If you suffer from this condition, avoid the use of maca or definitely consult with your doctor before adding it to your diet.
Maca has certainly shown itself to be a super food, but with all natural products that can have strong effects on our body, it is important to take them with discretion, because too much of any good thing can be dangerous. Always make sure to inform your medical advisers on any change you make to your diet.