If you ask South Americans what their go-to superfoods are, maca will most probably be on top of their list. Known as the Peruvian superfood, maca is an ancient plant used by native Andeans. It is one they’ve been using for centuries and for various purposes, such as its ability to enhance our sex drive. The plant is also believed to improve fertility, reduce anxiety, treat anemia and increase energy levels.
Maca is not an herb as many people think, but it is a root vegetable that grows in the Andes Mountains in Peru. It can withstand harsh weather and freezing temperatures – making it a staple food among native Andeans.
Besides eating it raw or cooked, people also prepare maca by drying its roots and then pounding them into powder.
Maca belongs to the Brassicaceae family, making it a cousin of the cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli. The maca root, known as the hypocotyl, looks like a turnip and is the part that brings numerous amazing benefits.
The root comes in various colors – such as red, purple, cream, yellow or black. It has an “earthy and nutty” taste and smells like butterscotch. What makes this plant truly incredible is that it can be dried and stored for years without spoiling!
So much about the facts of maca, so let’s dive into the wonderful world of maca and find out how it can help women in menopause!
Surprising Health Benefits of Maca in Menopausal Women
The powerful maca root is rich in minerals, essential fatty acids, vitamins, fiber and proteins – all of which can create magical results in our bodies.
Maca root also contains over 20 amino acids, wherein eight are essential ones. The root also boasts of nutritious phytonutrients and plant compounds.
Although this Peruvian superfood has been passed down from generation to generation and sold worldwide, limited scientific studies can prove its benefits. More research is taking place right now, as we speak, and is expected to yield positive results in proving maca’s wonderful effects.
I personally use maca, and I can really say it works! If it’s your first time to come across maca and are excited to learn more, here are some of this amazing plant’s benefits that you surely wouldn’t want to miss.
Spice up your sex life
Maca has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac, hence the nickname “Peruvian Viagra”. One study found that maca can improve sex drive in women prescribed with antidepressants (which are known to decrease a woman’s libido). In the same study, the women even reported that they experienced less anxiety and depression when taking maca.
What makes maca even more intriguing is that researchers can’t seem to figure out exactly how it boosts sex drive! It is a mystery to this day! Some say it could be because of maca’s arginine content, which stimulates nitric oxide production, the same way Viagra works.
On the other hand, some researchers believe that maca’s unique long-chain fatty acids are responsible for its libido-boosting effect. These fatty acids have been shown to increase sexual activity among animals. They also have the same structure as endocannabinoids, a chemical that can trigger the pleasure hotspot in our brain.
Enhance your energy levels
Did you know that during ancient times, warriors ate maca root to boost stamina and strength before they went into battle? In the present, modern men and women choose maca to improve their stamina during workouts.
One small study found that using maca extract improved the performance of male cyclists in a 40-kilometer time trial. Experts highly believe the benefits would be similar in women. Maca has also been claimed to aid muscle mass and strength improvement, although more studies are needed to back it up.
Uplift your mood
Give maca a shot if you want a natural way to enhance your mood! Maca contains plant chemicals, flavonoids, which are known to promote healthy brain function, improve mood and reduce anxiety. Isn’t this a great reason to at least try it out? To further prove this claim, a study performed in
Chinese postmenopausal women showed a significant decrease in depression after maca treatment. The same study also found that these women had lower blood pressure after taking maca.
Fight free radicals
Loaded with fatty acids, maca is an amazing source of antioxidants. At the same time, this potent root helps promote the production of natural antioxidants – such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase – in the body.
Oxidation and free radicals can wreak havoc on your cells, DNA and your body in general. If left untreated, the damage can lead to life-threatening diseases, such as cancer, stroke and heart attack. Taking maca is one of the best ways to protect your body from these threats.
Reduce menopause symptoms
Maca can be your best friend in menopause! With maca, you have a natural hormone replacement therapy by your side. Unlike some herbs and phytoestrogens (like soy), maca does not try to mimic the estrogen in your body.
In fact, this legendary plant works to raise your estrogen levels if they are too low. With the help of nutrients called glucosinolates, which can stimulate the body is encouraged to produce balanced levels of hormones. According to a 2017 study, maca can help alleviate menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, night sweats and interrupted sleep.
Nourish the adrenal glands
Are you experiencing chronic stress? Do you feel exhausted all the time? Maca is here to help! Like licorice and ginseng, the maca root is one of the rare plants that can be classified as an ‘herbal adaptogen’. This means it can regulate your hormones to help you fight stress and illness.
This “Peruvian ginseng” stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which are the master glands of the body. When these glands are in great shape, other glands (like adrenal, thyroid and pancreas) will be too.
Crush your cravings
Loaded with fibers, maca is an effective tummy filler that reduces hunger pangs between meals that result in too much snacking. Aside from that, fiber also plays a major role in our gut health. It fuels the friendly bacteria in our gut, keeps the digestive tract flowing and regulates bowel movements. When our gut is healthy, so is our overall wellbeing.
Improve bone health
This miracle plant helps slow bone loss and stimulates new bone growth as it promotes hormone balance. It also contains calcium and phosphorous, two nutrients that are vital for bone strength. Black and red varieties of maca appear to be the most beneficial for the bones. In a pilot study of 12 menopausal women, maca increased bone density after only 4 months of consuming it.
Sharpen your brain
Are you forgetting things lately? That might be due to brain fog. Up your brain power with maca! Maca root is high in vitamins B, C and E – all of which can improve your brain function. Maca’s antioxidant properties and its ability to boost acetylcholine can also protect your brain from debilitating disorders, like Alzheimer´s.
Where to Find Maca
You can find maca in supermarkets, health food stores and online shops. They come in capsule, liquid, powder and extract form.
Always choose safe and quality products! When buying maca, make sure that it has been produced in Peru, as it is illegal to export unprocessed maca. If possible, pick a maca brand that is organic and naturally harvested, one that does not use artificial fertilizers and pesticides.
Note that some types of maca root powder extract come in gelatin form but this doesn’t mean it contains any added gelatin. Gelatinization is a normal process in maca production. It removes starches in dried maca roots to make them easier to digest.
Now that you know where you can grab maca, it´s time to blend it into your diet!
Adding Maca To Your Diet
In Peru, locals eat maca up to three times a day, usually by boiling or roasting it. They also use dry powder and mix it with different kinds of dishes. “Maca chicha” is a fermented maca drink that is also common in the region.
There are countless ways to add maca to your diet. You can mix the powder form basically with any food or beverage. My favorite way to take maca is in a smoothie! It’s refreshing and is a great pre- and post-workout drink. I also mix it with my energy balls.
Check out this great collection of maca recipe ideas we’ve put together!
For an easy yet delicious way to boost your health, try this sexy superfood hot chocolate from Downshiftology.
Satisfy your sugar cravings without feeling guilty! Use Fabulous50s’ healthy and sugar-free chocolate with a maca recipe. [8:30]
Kickstart your day with a maca sun shake from Sarita Gelner. This plant-based smoothie is packed with superfoods like raw cacao, maca, flax seeds and almond butter. [4:18]
For a tasty and nutritious snack, check out Natalie’s Health turmeric + maca powder energy balls recipe.
How Much Maca to Take
There is no standard recommendation on how much maca you should take a day. Follow the recommended amount stated in the maca extract you purchase. If it’s working well for you, then you can increase your dose accordingly. To experience the full benefits of maca, you may want to take maca for two to three weeks.
Safety and Side Effects of Maca
Maca is considered safe for most people. However, Peruvian natives believe that consuming fresh maca root may cause adverse health effects, so they recommend boiling it first. Also, due to its effect on hormones, people with thyroid problems (like hyperthyroidism) should be careful with maca. This plant contains substances called goitrogens that can disrupt the normal function of the thyroid glands.
Now that you know all about maca, it’s hard not to love this ancient wonder food!
For any one of you already enjoying the benefits of maca, what’s your favorite way to savor this wonder plant?
Tell us in the comments below!