Spicing up your diet with maca may provide you with surprising health benefits you never dreamed existed! Whether you choose to cook maca root, add maca powder to foods, take maca supplements, or apply maca topically to your skin, the maca benefits are (nearly) endless.
What is Maca?
Maca, or maca root, is a vegetable native to the Andes in Peru -- and is similar in nature to radishes and turnips. Depending on the type and color of maca you choose, it may taste nutty, sweet like butterscotch, or slightly bitter. Common types of maca include black, yellow, and red maca varieties. Maca is also available in powder, tablet, and capsule form. So there are many ways to get your maca fix!
1. Nutritional Benefits of Maca
Packed with nutrients, maca mainly consists of carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals -- and a little bit of protein. Cleveland Clinic notes that maca powder, which is the form of maca many people use, is an excellent source of calcium, potassium, iron, iodine, and B vitamins.
2. A Better Sex Life
Getting a daily dose of maca may help improve your sex life. Cleveland Clinic notes that some evidence shows maca can improve libido and fertility in men and women. A study published in 2008 in CNS Neuroscience and Therapeutics found that subjects taking 3 grams of maca daily showed improvements in libido and sexual dysfunction. A review published in 2012 in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine reports that black and yellow maca improve sperm count and sperm motility in male rats, and red maca extract has a positive impact on the quality of embryos in female mice.
3. Hormone Balance in Women
Maca supplements may help women balance hormone levels, according to a review published in 2006 in the International Journal of Biomedical Sciences. Authors of this review point out that early post-menopausal women who took 2 grams of maca, in capsule form, daily showed improvements in hormone levels and reductions in menopausal symptoms -- like night sweats and hot flashes.
4. Anti-Aging Perks
Maca may even help you look younger! Using maca topically appears to help protect skin against ultraviolet radiation, according to the 2012 review in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. A study published in 2011 in the International Journal of Dermatology found that when maca leaf extract was used on the skin of rats, it helped prevent sunburn and other skin-damaging effects from UVB radiation. Maca-based skincare products are widely available.
5. It May Make You Smarter
Maca, especially black maca, shows promise for improving memory and learning, according to the 2011 review in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Authors of this review say black maca is beneficial for learning and memory in mice, and that central Peruvian natives use maca to improve school performance in kids.
6. Energizing, Mood-Enhancing, and Stress-Reducing Perks
Maca may help boost your mood and leave you feeling energized! Cleveland Clinic reports that maca shows promise for stress management, and the 2011 review in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine says that maca supplementation appears to boost energy, reduce anxiety, and help fight depression.
7. Osteoarthritis Relief
If you suffer from osteoarthritis, maca may be just what the doctor ordered. Maca may help relieve pain and stiffness associated with osteoarthritis, according to the 2011 review. Authors of the review found that taking 1,500 milligrams of maca combined with 300 milligrams of cat’s claw (Uncaria guianensis) twice daily for eight weeks helped improve function, and reduce pain, and stiffness in people with osteoarthritis.
If you’re taking maca supplements, the recommended dosage for adults is 1.5 to 3 grams daily, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Maca Health Risks?
If you’re thinking about taking maca supplements or adding maca powder to foods or smoothies, always chat with your doctor first -- especially if you’re taking blood thinning medications. Maca may counteract such medications. Cleveland Clinic notes that maca can cause bloating and gassiness, and suggests patients with autoimmune disorders avoid maca.
How to Use Maca In Your Diet
Boost your diet by taking maca supplements or adding maca powder to oatmeal, yogurt, dessert recipes, or protein smoothies. Try this refreshing maca smoothie recipe by combining and blending the following ingredients:
1 tablespoon of maca powder
1 cup of soy, almond, coconut, or hemp milk
1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter
1 tablespoon of chia seeds or flax seeds
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract (optional)
1 teaspoon of honey (optional)
The Cleveland Clinic notes that maca root itself can be prepared as porridge, baked, roasted, or fermented into drinks.
More research showing maca benefits is needed, but maca is loaded with nutrients and appears to help improve a variety of health conditions.
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Image of maca powder via Shutterstock
Image of maca smoothie via Shutterstock