What is Maca and why is it good for you?
I love maca! But what is maca and why is it good for you?
I must admit I’m a big fan! I was first introduced to this super food more than 15 years ago and have loved it ever since. Once again, I’m so pleased when we can use food as medicine and I love to introduce my clients to this amazing food.
What is Maca?
Maca, (Botanical name : Lepidium meyenii) is a Peruvian plant of the Brassica family (which is the same family that cabbages, turnips and watercress belong to).
For more than 2000 years, it has been cultivated by the Peruvians and grown exclusively in the central Andes between 4000 and 4500m altitude. Growing in some of the harshest conditions on earth, (this is an inhospitable region of intense sunlight, violent winds and below freezing weather) but it has adapted and thrived, often being one of the only food crops that can be grown in this region.
The edible part of the plant is a small radish-like tuber which grows in the ground. After harvesting is naturally dried and can be stored for many years. The dried tuber may then be ground into a powder to be used in cooking or as a supplement.
To say this little vegetable is nutrient rich is an understatement because it really packs a punch – the macronutrient composition of dried maca is approximately 13- 16% protein, 55% carbohydrate, 2.2 % fat and 8.5 % fibre, and it is also a rich source of essential amino acids and the minerals silica, iron, potassium, iodine, magnesium and calcium.
More recently, scientific evidence has indicated that this super food has nutritional, energizing and fertility-enhancing properties, acting on sexual dysfunctions, osteoporosis, mood, memory and learning, and even protecting skin against ultraviolet radiation. Clinical trials have shown the efficiency of maca on sexual dysfunctions of women and men, as well as increasing sperm count and motility.
When consumed, maca works as an adaptogen. An adaptogen is a substance that can help increase the body’s resistance to physical, environmental, emotional or biological stressors.
Who can take Maca?
Traditionally this super food has been used by all age groups as a food supplement and also for its medicinal properties. In traditional Peruvian herbal medicine, maca is used as an immunostimulant and in the treatment of anaemia, tuberculosis, menstrual disorders, menopause symptoms, sterility and other reproductive and sexual disorders as well as to enhance memory.
Because of its amazing nutritional profile maca is a high nutrient food that anyone can consume but I have found it particularly useful for certain groups of individuals such as:
- Athletes and sportspeople – to increase energy, endurance and stamina.
- Women – to assist with fertility and menopausal symptoms such as menstrual problems, tiredness, hot flashes & lack of libido
- Men – to increase libido, fertility and assist with mild erectile dysfunction
- Individuals recovering from illness – providing nutritional support
- Vegans – due its high protein and nutrient levels, maca makes a perfect addition to a vegan diet.
What is the best way to include maca in your diet?
The Peruvians prepare maca in many ways, most traditionally, they boil and reconstitute the dried tuber then make a juice from it, and there are many commercial products produced in Peru such as maca jam, juices and even alcoholic beverages.
Here in Australia we are able to obtain the dried tuber powder that is so very easy to use. It can be added to smoothies, juices, sprinkled on breakfast foods or yoghurt or taken in encapsulated form. I personally like to use maca in my morning smoothie, but I also like to add some maca powder to my paleo baking or to raw treats.
Most people find somewhere between a teaspoon to a tablespoon a day is a good amount to take as a nutritional supplement – dosages for specific health issues vary so you may need to seek professional advice from a naturopath.
Try my Lime and Coconut Maca bars – they are my current favourite. So if you haven’t tried this super food yet why not give it a go!
Not sure if maca is right for you? Book a consultation and we can explore more.
Brooks, N., et al. (2008) “Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content.” Menopause.
Clement, C., et al.(2010) “Effect of maca supplementation on bovine sperm quantity and quality followed over two spermatogenic cycles.” Theriogenology.
Gonzales, G.,(2012) Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highland. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Hindawi Publishing Corporation
Gonzales, G. F., et al. (2001)”Lepidium meyenii (maca) improved semen parameters in adult men.” Asian J. Androl.)
Stone, M., et al.(2009) “A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen.” J Ethnopharmacol.
Taylor, L.,( 2005) The Healing Power of Rainforest Herb. Square One Publishers NY