The maca plant, also called Peruvian ginseng, is native to the Andes of central Peru. In Peru, maca has been cultivated for thousands of years, but since the 90s of the 20th century, the rest of the world has developed an interest in this exotic ingredient.
Maca is part of the cruciferous family like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, and kale. Maca’s appearance is similar to that of radishes or turnips, and it ranges in color from yellow to black. Maca is usually consumed as a powder in smoothies, but it is also available in capsules as a supplement. Maca is a great source of carbohydrates and protein, and it also contains fiber, vitamins, and minerals, such as vitamin C, copper, and iron. Maca is a veritable energy booster, and it will help you start the day!
Health Benefits of Maca
Maca is packed with antioxidants, and it promotes sexual health in women and men…just one of maca’s health benefits highlights!
Maca root is loaded with antioxidants, which can help to eliminate harmful free radicals and prevent damage to healthy cells. A study on the polysaccharides contained in maca revealed that these compounds have antioxidant properties. Another study conducted on rats on the effect of maca found that administering maca to rats as a part of a high-sucrose diet for two weeks promoted the antioxidant status, lowered the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides in the liver, and reduced blood sugar. Additional research showed that maca’s antioxidant extracts could also lower oxidative stress and support neurobiological activity.
Maca can have a positive impact on brain function. A team of researchers analyzed the effect on maca on postmenopausal women. The patients received 3.3 grams a day of maca or a placebo, and the results indicate that decreases in diastolic blood pressure and depression were apparent in the women who were given maca.
Other studies on postmenopausal women demonstrated that maca may improve mood and reduce anxiety. A team of scientists analyzed the effect of a black variety of maca on mice, and they concluded that maca may improve memory. Another team gave maca to middle-aged mice for five weeks and found that maca enhanced cognitive function and motor coordination.
Women’s Sexuality and Menopause
Several studies suggest that maca root may be able to improve sexual dysfunction and increase libido in women. One study analyzed the effects of maca on women suffering from depression induced by antidepressants. Patients were given maca root or a placebo for 12 weeks, and the researchers concluded that maca root may alleviate antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction.
In another study, researchers gave different doses of maca to depressed women with SSRI (selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor) induced sexual dysfunction and discovered that maca root may alleviate SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction and benefit libido.
Menopause is a natural decline in reproductive hormones and the ceasing of menstruation. This can sometimes be a difficult transition for women because it may involve psychological symptoms such as irritability and anxiety, as well as changes in sex drive. A team of researchers analyzed the effects of maca on postmenopausal women. The patients received 3.5 grams a day of maca for six weeks, then a placebo for another six weeks. Scientists concluded that maca may reduce psychological symptoms and sexual dysfunction.
Additional studies conducted on rats suggest that maca root may help to protect bone health, which is at risk after menopause. Findings based on the analysis of bone mineral density revealed that maca may help in the prevention of estrogen-deficient bone loss. Estrogen is one of the most important female hormones because it is responsible for regulating the reproductive system. Maca root can help balance hormone levels and control the amount of estrogen in the body.
Men’s Sexuality and Fertility
Maca also promotes male sexual health and fertility. A team of researchers in Peru analyzed the effects of maca on sexual desire in men. They gave maca or placebo to a group of men aged 21-56 years. The results showed an improvement in sexual desire with maca after eight weeks of treatment.
Another study indicated that maca may increase seminal volume and sperm motility. The effects of maca were also analyzed in relation to semen quality. Looking at all clinical trials on the improvement of semen quality parameters in infertile and healthy men, scientists concluded that maca may also promote semen quality.
Maca root may help you gain muscle and enhance strength. In a study, maca was administered to rats for 30 days, then the animals were subjected to 30 minutes of swimming a day. Results indicated that maca increased the maximum swimming time and recovered blood parameters of energy as well as muscular injuries caused by repeated exercise. Another study in male cyclists found that maca improved the time it took them to complete a nearly 25-mile bike ride.
Maca also contains minerals such as calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper, and phosphorus, which are needed for bone mineral density. Thanks to its high mineral content, maca can help promote bone health, and it may even help prevent osteoporosis.
How to Use Maca
Maca can be found in grocery stores, pharmacies, and online. It is usually sold as a powder, such as our VeggieShake blends, a liquid, or capsules. Reading labels is always a good habit. It is essential to buy a product that is 100% natural, without additional artificial flavors to get all the benefits.
Types of Maca
Maca can be yellow, black, or red. All colors offer similar benefits, but a specific type might be better for certain health-related issues. Yellow maca is an excellent choice, especially for women, because it boosts energy, fertility, and balances hormones. Black maca and red maca are great options, especially for men. Black maca supports sperm production, memory, and focus. Red maca is the rarest type; it may reduce prostate size and help to increase bone density.
Maca has an earthy, nutty taste, which varies slightly depending on the variety. The easiest way to use maca powder is by adding it to smoothies (check out our Creamy Maca Smoothie below!) or to oatmeal—take it in the morning or before you exercise because maca increases energy levels. There are no official guidelines regarding maca doses, so start with about 1 tablespoon daily and slowly increase the dose.
Creamy Maca Smoothie
This smoothie is an excellent way to start the day—drink it first thing in the morning because maca boosts energy levels. Cashews and almonds are both rich in unsaturated fatty acids and offer great health benefits. Many of the ingredients are also packed with antioxidants, and Medjool dates are one of the best natural sweeteners thanks to their unique flavor and health benefits. The cashew cream makes this smoothie extra creamy and delicious.
Ready In: 5 Minutes
- 2 tablespoons maca powder
- 4 tablespoons cashew cream
- 3 cups almond milk
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 Medjool dates pitted
- Add all the ingredients to the blender and mix until it becomes smooth and creamy.
- Taste and adjust flavors. Some people might like it sweeter, others less sweet.
- Maca: loaded with antioxidants, boosts energy and regulates hormones.
- Cashews: rich in unsaturated fatty acids, may help prevent cancer and diabetes.
- Almonds: rich in unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants to promote heart health.
- Cinnamon: high in antioxidants and a powerful anti-inflammatory.
- Vanilla: has antioxidant and antibacterial properties.
- Dates: may lower bad cholesterol and provide constipation relief.