Nourish - What’s the Scoop on: Maca
What is Maca?
Maca is a root vegetable that grows in the Peruvian Andes at very high altitudes. It belongs to the cruciferous family of plants. This family includes other such powerhouse foods including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, turnips, and radishes.
This powerful root vegetable from South America is most commonly used to help with:
- sexual function
- hormone balancing
Maca is incredibly mineral-rich, boasting high levels of calcium, magnesium, iron, phosphorous and potassium. It also contains trace minerals including zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, manganese, and silica.
And it doesn’t stop there; maca is also a rich source of sterols, high in vitamins B1, B2, C, and E, plus it contains 19 amino acids. This includes 7 of the 8 essential amino acids.
Benefits of Maca
No. 1 – Adaptogen
Maca is a powerful adaptogen meaning it helps to promote balance in the body. Adaptogens are herbs or botanical substances that help to balance the body’s physiological systems. Essentially, it helps the adrenals and nervous system to better adapt to internal and external stressors. These can include:
- environmental toxins and pollution
- poor sleeping habits
- extreme nervousness
- depression, just to name a few.
Adaptogens calm and nourish the adrenal glands and support all the processes that are controlled by the adrenals. This means anything from blood sugar and immune system regulation to hormones and blood pressure.
The beauty of adaptogens is that they know what you need. They energize without being a stimulant and they calm without being a sedative. They bring the body gently back into the state of homeostasis necessary for well-being. As a result, maca is often recommended to those with adrenal fatigue as it nourishes them and reduces stress hormones.
No. 2 – High in Antioxidants
Maca is a powerful source of antioxidants. These work to fight off free radicals in the body that can damage cells in the body and cause disease.
Maca’s great antioxidant activity also stimulates glutathione and SOD production. These provide excellent support for a healthy immune system, promoting overall health and longevity.
Thanks to its antioxidant activity, maca may be beneficial in helping to prevent oxidative stress and cell damage in the body. In turn, this may help the body to protect itself from conditions such as heart disease and neurological damage.
No. 3 – Hormone Balancing
As we know, Maca is part of the cruciferous family, and this family is renowned for its hormone-balancing qualities.
Research has shown that maca does not contain plant hormones, unlike soy and black cohosh. Instead, it is an adaptogen. It is an endocrine adaptogen to be exact. This means that it does not contain any hormones, but rather it contains the nutrients necessary to support normal hormone production and regulation.
Maca also contains unique alkaloids and hormone precursors which help to regulate hormonal processes throughout the entire body and balance sexual, thyroid and adrenal function.
Because of maca’s estrogen balancing abilities, it may help alleviate menopausal symptoms such as:
- hot flashes
- weight gain
- vaginal dryness
- mood swings
An imbalance of estrogen in the body can cause irregular menstrual periods, mood swings and bloating. Maca helps to balance estrogen and progesterone in the body. In turn, this may help to encourage a healthy menstrual cycle and reduce symptoms of a hormone imbalance and PMS symptoms.
Due to it’s balancing effects, maca may also be beneficial as part of a lifestyle and diet routine to help decrease symptoms related to polycystic ovarian syndrome. These symptoms include excess hair growth, acne and weight gain.
There’s a good reason why maca is also known as nature’s Viagra – it’s because of maca’s ability to improve libido, sexual function and fertility in both men and women.
Studies have found that maca may help to increase sexual desire, improve sperm production, quality and motility in men. Additionally, research has also shown that maca may benefit those suffering from sexual dysfunction.
Importantly, maca is known as a powerful aphrodisiac for both men and women. Often maca is linked to men’s health, but it is equally fantastic for women.
Maca may even be helpful for post-menopausal women who are suffering from low libido and/or vaginal dryness, or those experiencing sexual dysfunction caused by antidepressants. Thanks to maca’s ability to improve libido and sexual function, you lovely ladies are also taken care of.
No. 4 – Increased Stamina and Endurance
If you ever read up about Maca, one of the first things you’ll read is how in ancient times, warriors consumed the root to boost stamina and strength before going into battle. And there’s a good reason for it – many studies have also found that maca strengthens the body and helps maintain stamina and endurance.
So next time you’re hitting the gym, try adding maca to your pre-workout smoothie or shake for extra strength, stamina and endurance.
No. 5 – Increased Energy
If you’re struggling to reach your fitness goals, or you’re simply finding it hard to get through the 11 am energy dip or 3 pm crash, try adding Maca into your diet. Maca is a natural, caffeine-free and sugar-free energiser. It helps you to feel great and energised, without the negative side effects like the jitters or a crash later. These you’ll often experience after consuming coffee and other stimulants. It’s called ‘Peruvian ginseng’ for a reason!
How to Take Maca
Because of maca’s taste, it’s easy to blend into a variety of foods. It’s earthy, malty, nutty flavour is similar to butterscotch and can be slightly spicy.
As a result, the powder works well blended into:
- milky drinks from nut/seed/cow milk. Turmeric lattes, hot chocolate, matcha lattes, maca lattes etc.
- raw desserts and energy balls… the list goes on!
What Form Is It In?
Maca is available both in raw form and gelatinized.
Raw Maca is maca in its purest form. It’s maca that has been powdered from the dried, uncooked root and has never been heated above 47c. This preserves its full nutrient spectrum.
Gelatinized Maca is heated and pressurized to remove the starch content.
Some people find the starches in raw maca hard to digest; therefore the gelatinizing process makes it easier for some to digest.
Some of the enzymes are lost in this process, however, it is still a very powerful and bioavailable herb.
Feel free to try both and see which one works better for you.
What Dosage do I Take?
In most cases, it’s best to start with ¼- ½ teaspoon in the first week. After this initial week, then increase this amount to one teaspoon per day as your body becomes accustomed to the supplement. If needed, you can go up to a tablespoon a day after some time.
As with all supplements or dietary changes, it may take some time to find the right amount right for you.
The majority of people report great improvements from using maca, but then naturally, as we are all unique beings, there are some who feel worse. Some might experience fatigue, digestive issues or worse PMS.
If you notice any side effects like breast tenderness or aggression, reduce your dosage back a bit. It is always best to tune in to your body to determine if it is the right supplement or food for you. Perhaps you need less or more than another person. More is not always better. Always start with a low dose of ¼ – 1/2 teaspoon.
Any questions? Drop into your local Nourish store to chat with our expert team and explore our full range of foods, supplements and skincare. You can also find our full product range in our online store.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention.
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication
*** Those who should avoid maca or seek doctor’s consent before use include:
– Women on HRT
– Anyone suffering or at risk of breast cancer
– Anyone on thyroid medication
– During pregnancy