Peru

The Peruvian Incans relied heavily on maca, a tuber related to the radish that grows at a higher altitude than any other food on the planet. Anything that can endure the cragged peaks of the Andes is sure to be full of magic, and it’s no wonder maca is often referred to as “Peruvian ginseng”—not for any botanical similarities to ginseng—but for its variety of benefits that support energy levels, hormone regulation connected to fertility and aphrodisiac-like qualities.

According to scientists at UC Davis, maca’s effects may come as a result of “biologically active aromatic isothiocyanates, and specifically due to p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate.” And, these compounds found in maca have been shown to also protect against cancer.

History indicates that Incans used the maca superfood particularly before battles or long treks to improve energy levels and strength. Feeling energized can also have a warming effect on the body, making maca a smart superfood option for the colder months. The Incans also used maca to enhance their fertility (and of their livestock), which can diminish at high altitudes.

Since its introduction to the West, many women have opted to use maca as an alternative to hormone therapies. Maca will help the body to adjust its hormone levels naturally, balancing the endocrine system (thyroid, pituitary, pancreas and adrenals), which can improve fertility. As well, maca is also used to lessen the severity of menopause symptoms including decreasing hot flashes, breast tenderness, insomnia, mood swings and brain fog.

With a slightly sweet and bitter taste, maca root comes in a powder form (and as a tincture or capsule), which can easily be blended into smoothies, shakes and desserts. Using maca in its raw form exposes you to all of its super nutritional properties including amino acids, plant sterols, tannins, alkaloids and a number of phytonutrients.

Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

Sources:

http://www.raysahelian.com/maca.html

http://www.plantsciences.ucdavis.edu/quiros/lab/maca.htm

http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=1398&page=58

Image: quinet