One of the most powerful, research-backed superfoods may be one you’ve never even heard of: maca.
A lot of superfoods out there are very healthy for you, but not many can claim quite so many proven benefits as maca. Read on to find out how maca can help you, and how to incorporate it into your diet for the best results.
What Is Maca?
Maca is a root that grows only in the Andes mountains at around 14,000 feet (4,267 meters) elevation. Maca root is a member of the Brassicaceae family, along with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and turnips2. Maca is sometimes also called “Peruvian ginseng.”1 Maca superfood has been used for thousands of years by native Andean populations as a staple food. It has high nutritional value, and also many medicinal uses2. It’s a great sources of vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids, and sterols.1
There are different types of maca, including white, black, red, and yellow, all with different properties and benefits9. The taste of maca root has been compared to chicory root or coffee, although it doesn’t have any caffeine.3
Maca root has so many wide-ranging benefits, it’s been credited with the success of the Incan Empire. According to legend, Incan warriors used it to gain energy and vitality for battle.1
According to traditional Peruvian medicine lore, maca root can be beneficial for a wide range of disorders, injuries, and diseases, including:
- menstrual disorders
- menopausal symptoms
- stomach cancer
- migraine headaches
- erectile dysfunction
It has also been used as a laxative, an aphrodisiac, a natural hormone replacement, or to enhance mental clarity, memory, energy, stamina, endurance, fertility, and immune function.
In recent decades, scientists have become very interested in studying maca root to see whether or not these traditional benefits hold up to testing, and find out how and why maca root works. A wide range of studies have been conducted on maca root, and many more are still in the works.1
While the exact mechanism of maca’s effectiveness is still up for debate9, it’s become clear that the root is effective for a wide range of uses:
Energy & Mood
Studies have shown that maca can effectively improve overall mood and energy when supplements are taken regularly.9
Men’s Sexual Health
Maca root has been shown to be effective for men’s sperm production,1 9 as well as boosting energy, stamina, and sexual activity.1
One study found that taking maca root orally significantly increased semen volume, total sperm count per ejaculum, motile sperm count, and sperm motility in men aged 22-44.1
Studies also suggested that men with low testosterone or erectile dysfunction may also benefit as well, since maca has been shown to increase energy, stamina, and increased sexual activity in several studies.1
A higher dose of maca extract was shown in one study to help prevent estrogen deficient bone loss.8
Memory & Learning
Some studies showed that maca root can help memory and learning by increasing mental alertness.10
How to Use Maca Root
Maca root only grows in very specific conditions in the Andes, so you won’t find it at your local grocery store. However, it’s easy to find maca supplement or maca powder at health food or drugstores.
So far, no research has found any evidence that maca root has any negative side effects1. But it’s smart to be careful when adding any new supplement to your diet. Make sure to start with small doses at first. The most common dosage is 450 milligrams of maca root taken three times daily with food.2
Pregnant women should also take care to avoid maca root, because the effects on unborn children haven’t been studied yet.2
Tohi W. The unique superfood power of maca - Latest research. NaturalNews. 2013. Available at: http://www.naturalnews.com/042635macarootsuperfoodsustained_energy.html. Accessed January 13, 2016.
Parker K. Maca Root Benefits | LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONGCOM. 2015. Available at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/96526-maca-root-benefits/. Accessed January 13, 2016.
Adams M. Maca is the ancient superfood of the Incas. NaturalNews. 2010. Available at: http://www.naturalnews.com/028782macaIncas.html. Accessed January 13, 2016.
Hanuise P. 8 Best Superfoods To Boost Your Mood & Energy Levels. mindbodygreen. 2013. Available at: http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-7264/8-best-superfoods-to-boost-your-mood-energy-levels.html. Accessed January 13, 2016.
George H. Top 5 Superfoods You Should Be Eating. Breaking Muscle. 2016. Available at: http://breakingmuscle.com/nutrition/top-5-superfoods-you-should-be-eating. Accessed January 13, 2016.
Gianni K. Is Maca Really a Superfood? : Exclusive Renegade Health Article. Renegade Health. 2011. Available at: http://renegadehealth.com/blog/2011/06/07/is-maca-really-a-superfood. Accessed January 13, 2016.
Y Z. Effect of ethanol extract of Lepidium meyenii Walp. on osteoporosis in ovariectomized rat. - PubMed - NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2006. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16466876. Accessed January 13, 2016.
Gonzales G. Lepidium meyenii (Maca): a plant from the highlands of Peru--from tradition to science. - PubMed - NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2009. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20090350. Accessed January 13, 2016.