It’s possible that you might have seen Maca root while shopping and mistaken it for a small and sad radish. As a root vegetable that varies in colour, it has green leaves that grow out of the soil from the root which that are small and wrinkly. It would have been easy to mistake this as an unimpressive veggie rather than the wondrous food it truly is.
Most of us have only seen or tried Maca root in powdered form, possibly adding it to a smoothie or salad like any other powdered supplement. Like chlorella and spirulina, you should never heat it up as it will lose the bulk of its nutritional content. Maca root is also available in capsule form.
So, should you give Maca a try? This superfood plant has also been called the ‘Peruvian Ginseng’ so how is it different and why has it been consumed for medicinal purposes for thousands of years?
You read that right, unlike almost any other superfood in the world, there are almost no downsides to consuming Maca root. The exceptions are pregnant or breastfeeding women or people who are suffering from diseases that affect hormone levels, like certain types of cancer.
Extensive research has been done on the nutritional content of the Maca root and its effect on the human body and the results are impressive. The humble-looking veggie has been shown to degrade free radicals in our body and protect our DNA against damaging oxidants. Maca has also shown to have the same antioxidant content as some of your favourite fruits and nearly all of the essential amino acids your body needs!
One of the most amazing properties of the Maca root is its ability to support healthy blood in our body and balance hormone levels. Which means it works as an adaptogen, working differently in every person’s body to help reduce mental and physical stress. These benefits can radically improve mental clarity and physical well-being. Evidence has also shown it to boost physical performance and reduce anxiety and depression. Black Maca, in particular, has been proven to improve memory and sperm count in men.
Maca trails on mice and rats have also shown a general improvement in memory and learning as well, revealing positive long-term health benefits for human supplementation.
Maca is most frequently advertised as an aphrodisiac and fertility booster. Studies on rats have found that the root extract produced increased sexual activity, likely due to macaenes and macamides compounds. The same study found that those rats had increased sperm count and sperm motility.
Female mice and rats in the same study that were given Maca had improved embryo quality and thus produced more offspring. Whereas studies on humans have shown an improvement in sexual function for menopausal women and adult men.
Maca root contains a higher calcium content than milk (plus you don’t have to worry about any added hormones or antibiotics being added) which means it’s great for strengthening your bones. Doctors have even recommended Maca root to treat osteoporosis.
The antioxidants in Maca root not only keeps our cells healthy from harmful oxidants but they also scavenge destructive-free reactive radicals in our bloodstream. This results in lower blood sugar levels, lower cholesterol, and lower lipid levels. A 2007 study found that Maca significantly improved glucose tolerance and lowered levels of glucose in the blood with patients who had high blood pressure.
Acne can sometimes be attributed to a hormonal imbalance, which is something that Maca is known to correct. Maca root on its own likely won’t clear up acne but taken in addition to a clean diet, exercise and stress-relieving activities, it can contribute to clearer and more youthful skin. While personal reviews on its effectiveness on acne are mixed, the nutrient content of Maca is beneficial for inner and outer health.
Women going through menopause need to be cautious of shrinking bone density, be wary of hot flashes, and deal with imbalanced hormones. Not the most fun experience, but Maca root has been shown to be a great dietary support for these symptoms. Its high calcium content is great for bones and it’s also been shown to balance hormones (which might be the cause of hot flashes and night sweats as well).
Since Maca root has been shown to be safe for relatively anyone, many doctors recommend that menopausal women give it a try.
Research has shown promise for cancer patients looking for natural ways to help fight cancer, particularly prostate or colon cancer. Maca’s anti-carcinogenic properties are especially important for those dealing with cancer or have a high risk of developing cancer-related illnesses.
Some cancers seem to be linked to a hormone imbalance which might be why Maca is often seen as potent cancer-fighting food.
Maca root extract and capsules are found in health food stores around the world but it you have a chance to try it as a raw vegetable then go for it! The different colours of Maca root vary in sweetness and flavour so if the taste and flavour can vary for every prefereance. Next time you’ll know better than to ignore that wrinkly ugly veggie next to the radishes.