Maca root or Lepidium meyenii is a biennial plant from the high Andes of Peru. It is an herb from crucifer family which is well known for its radish or turnip-like appearance. It is grown as a vegetable for food and medicinal purpose. Maca benefits our body in several ways such as it acts as antioxidants, helps in relieving menopausal symptoms, enhances mood, protects from harmful sun rays, improves sex-related hormones, etc.
Its tasty root is consumed either in powdered form or with other homemade recipes. It is also available as supplements, powder, capsule and liquid form.
What is Maca?
Maca is generally grown for nutrition and health benefits of its root. Nowadays it’s demand is increasing due to its enhanced use in the supplement industry. It has a well-developed hypocotyl in inverted pear-shaped form.
Maca is well-known as an ” adaptogen”, a substance which is helpful in adapting to the stressful situation, either physical or mental. So, Maca root not only provides good health and nutrition but also helps in managing stress.
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Maca nutrition facts
It is an excellent nutrition rich food filled with protein, fiber and several vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, copper and iron with lots of health-promoting phytonutrients. (1)
One ounce of Maca powder contains –
- 91 calories
- 20 grams carbohydrate
- 4 grams protein
- 1-gram fat
- 2-gram dietary fiber
- 9-milligram vitamin C
- 7-milligram copper
- 1-milligram iron
- 560-milligram potassium
- 3-milligram vitamin B6
- 2-milligram manganese
- 6-milligram niacin
- 70-milligram calcium
- 1-milligram riboflavin
Benefits of Maca root
Maca root has several nutrients which have health benefits. It boosts your energy and also manages the proper functioning of your body. Here I am going to list down top 8 Maca benefits that you can refer for various purposes.
Acts as Antioxidants
Maca root acts as a potent antioxidant. They do so by boosting the level of glutathione and superoxide dismutase in the body. These substance acts as a free radical scavenger and thus helps us fight against many chronic diseases, such as cancer.
According to a study, the polysaccharides extracted from Maca roots have been found to have antioxidant property (1). While in one more research, done in Chez republic, when Maca extract was given to rats, they showed increased free radical fighting property.
Not only this, there was a significant decrease in the level of triglycerides and cholesterol level in the liver and reduction in blood sugar level (2). One study suggests that Maca root can also protect against neurological disorders (3). Overall, Maca helps you protect your heart, lungs, and liver.
Helps to relieve menopausal symptoms
Menopause is a condition when there is a complete stoppage of menstruation in women. This can lead to many unpleasant symptoms like irritability, mood swings, dryness of vagina, altered sleep pattern, etc. (4).
All these symptoms are found to occur only because of fall in estrogen level. Maca root has been found to help alleviate all these symptoms and also prevents menopause-related osteoporosis. It is also known to help in bone health promotion (5).
Helpful for prostate hypertrophy patients
The prostate is an accessory reproductive organ in males. With the aging, size of the prostate gland increases and the condition is called as benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH (6).
This condition can create a problem in passing urine as the prostate gland is present in the track for the passing of urine. According to a study, red Maca root has been proved as a helpful material in reducing the size of the prostate.
Protects you from sun rays
Ultraviolet rays are harmful radiations that come from the sun. They can cause damage to your skin. Applying Maca extract on your skin can help you protect your skin from UV rays. A study done on rats for some duration showed that application of Maca extract prevented UV rays damage (7).
It is all because of polyphenol antioxidants and glucosinolates present in Maca extract.
Enhances mood and boosts energy
Those who use Maca powder have reported that they feel raised with energy and increased concentration power. Studies have shown that it may positively enhance stamina and reduce symptoms of depression. It is still unclear about the process involved but Maca root regulates adrenal level.
Improves Female reproductive health
It has been confirmed that Maca roots can benefit female’s sexual health by enhancing sexual function (10). In a study, compared to a placebo, Maca was able to improve sexual dysfunction significantly.
According to a study in 2008, it was found that Maca can reduce menopause-associated depression and anxiety. It also balances female sex hormones (11).
Balances estrogen level
Estrogen is a female sex hormone known to regulate the reproductive function in females. Any imbalance in the secretion of this hormone can cause irritability, irregular menstruation, and mood swings. According to a study, Maca root can help in balancing the related hormone levels.
One study published in the International Journal of Biomedical Science gave 34 early postmenopausal women tablet containing either Maca or a placebo two times a day for next four months.
It helped balance hormone levels to relieve symptoms of menopause such as night sweats and hot flashes and even increased bone density (12).
Increases fertility in males
Studies have shown that Maca powder or extract can benefit male sexual health and productivity too. According to a study out of Peru, it was found that supplementing Maca for eight weeks can increase man sexual desire.
Meanwhile, another study in 2001 found that Maca could help improve sperm quality and motility, thus preventing male infertility. (13)
How to consume Maca root?
Maca root is easily available in health and retail stores. It can be found in liquid, powder, and capsule form. You can go for any form since all are equal in benefits. The only advice would be to look for pure Maca extracts, which are 100% organic.
There are also a variety of Maca supplements available in its pure form or combined with other ingredients. Maca color may vary as black, yellow and red. Here also, all are same in potential benefits.
You can consume Maca with smoothies, shakes, coffee or any cereal. The taste of Maca root powder extract is nutty. So, it goes well with many homemade recipes. You can consume Maca in the range of 4-10 grams daily in powder form.
Precautions for Maca use
Generally, Maca doesn’t cause any potential side effect when taken in ideal amount. But for those who are suffering from thyroid disorders should be little careful while Maca consumption.
Maca contains goitrogens which can potentiate the effect of thyroid disorders. So, for those who are suffering from hypothyroidism should cautiously use Maca root.
It is also advised to those who are on hormone altering medication that they should avoid Maca extract as they are found to adjust hormone levels. For patients with diabetes, it advised not to use Maca as it also alters blood sugar levels.
There are still studies going on to prove its effect on pregnant and breastfeeding women. So be little cautious while using Maca.
Final thoughts on Maca root
Maca root is a highly nutritious and healthy vegetable. It is filled with vitamin C, copper and iron. Also known well for its action in improving the sexual character of males and females.
It helps in mood elevation, boosting energy, increases concentration and helps prevent menopausal symptoms as well.
It can be used in either powder, extract, cooked or raw form. It can be added to various dishes or smoothies. You should take care not to use it where it is cautioned.