There have been opposing views on the effects of maca on one’s health and wellness. Some women claim it has provided them life-changing results, while others say they feel worse.
But despite mixed reviews, many health enthusiasts argue that maca is still worth a try. So, why should you consider adding maca powder to your diet? What is it exactly and how can it benefit your health?
Discover in this health guide how maca powder can help stimulate libido, reduce your food cravings, strengthen your bones, and provide PMS relief.
But that’s not all because we’ve also included some handy tips on how to add maca powder to your diet!
What is Maca?
Maca, otherwise known as the Peruvian ginseng, belongs to the Brassicaceae family. It is a cruciferous veggie native to Peru and is closely related to broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, and kale.
Its roots are the veggie’s edible part, and the source of all its potent properties. The maca roots are also the ones being ground to produce supplements and powders – maca’s common forms for consumption.
It typically comes with a nutty, sweet flavor, with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
Maca: Interesting Facts
Maca is considered a natural aphrodisiac, known to boost sexual desires.
You can consume maca in your desired amounts, but as with all things, moderation is key.
Got migraine headaches? Maca can help! It relieves a migraine by balancing estrogen and progesterone levels in your body.
What are the Health Benefits of Maca?
If you are updated about the latest trends in the health and fitness arena, you’re probably already aware of maca powder.
Many fitness and wellness enthusiasts tout maca's benefits, saying it can also boost athletic stamina and performance. And its powder form is believed to deliver the same health perks.
So, if you are keen on trying this natural supplement, here are some of the well-regarded maca benefits:
Maca can stimulate libido
Peruvians considered maca an aphrodisiac for centuries. It was known to stimulate libido, virility, and sexual sensations.
Due to its effects on sexual health, it gained the reputation of being “nature’s Viagra” – a claim supported by research. A study found that maca consumption improved the sexual desires of adult healthy men.
A systematic review of four randomized clinical trials (RCTs) with 131 participants in total established maca’s effectiveness in boosting sexual function.
Some experts attribute maca’s libido-enhancing powers to its long chain fatty acids known as macaenes and macamides. These compounds are unique to other plants, and can only be found in maca.
Maca can also relieve PMS
Maca powder not only benefits menopausal women but menstruating women as well. Many women around the world suffer from premenstrual syndrome, commonly known as PMS.
During this time, women’s estrogen levels are very low and experience a 10-fold increase by mid-cycle before dropping low again. Maca helps to even out this hormonal instability as it is an herbal adaptogen.
By consuming maca powder, women who have PMS can find relief from its symptoms such as breast tenderness, fluid retention, and mood swings.
The adaptogenic properties contained in maca may also be beneficial for a woman’s fertility and other conditions like Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).
A gentle warning, though: Since maca helps the body to produce more estrogen, maca consumption may interact with estrogen-sensitive conditions.
If you have a health condition that is related to estrogens such as ovarian or uterine cancers or fibroids, estrogen receptor-positive breast or endometriosis, it is best to consult with your physician first before taking maca.
Maca suppresses appetite
Maca powder contains significant amounts of fibers like lignin and cellulose that play an essential role in gut health.
Fibers are known to help keep you satiated for longer, and promote the feeling of fullness, suppressing hunger and unnecessary cravings.
Aside from its rich fiber content, most maca powders are also packed with protein, an important nutrient for muscle growth, fat burning, and cellular function.
Maca likewise contains seven of the nine essential amino acids your body needs for optimal performance.
Consuming protein-rich foods and supplements will help to nix your hunger pangs. Adding maca powder to your diet may reduce your appetite, which can contribute to weight loss.
Maca promotes bone health
Aside from its unique compounds, essential amino acids, and significant amounts of protein, maca powder also contains phosphorus and calcium that boost bone health.
Black and red maca varieties were said to provide the most benefits. Several studies also discovered that maca has a positive effect on bone mass, and can help prevent bone loss.
Maca helps relieve menopausal symptoms
Menopausal women can find relief from maca powder. During menopause, a woman’s menstruation permanently ceases. This typically occurs when a woman reaches the age of 45 to 50.
Estrogen levels decline during this period and may cause several unpleasant symptoms such as vaginal dryness, mood swings, irritability, hot flashes, and sleep problems.
Maca consumption has been linked to improved symptoms of menopause as it helps increase hormones like progesterone and estradiol, and reduce the production of cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone.
This is one of maca powder health benefits supported by research. A systematic review of four studies conducted on menopausal women discovered that maca helped reduce menopausal symptoms.
Animal studies also suggest that maca can prevent a higher risk for osteoporosis among menopausal women.
Maca boosts cognitive function
Maca has also been linked to an enhanced brain function. Peruvian natives even used it to improve the school performance of children.
Animal studies also found that maca enhanced memory and learning of laboratory rats. Compared with other varieties, black maca was found to be more efficient in this regard.
Maca boosts mood
Several studies also discovered that maca can boost your mood. According to research, maca also plays an important role in reducing anxiety and depression, specifically in menopausal women.
This mood-enhancement effect of maca was attributed to its flavonoid content, which has been linked to these psychological benefits.
Maca improves athletic performance and stamina
Many athletes and bodybuilders take maca supplements for enhanced athletic performance and stamina. It was said that maca helps in muscle growth, increased strength, better energy, and enhanced workout performance.
Animal studies discovered maca’s ability to enhance the endurance of experimental rats.
Meantime, a small study conducted on eight male cyclists showed that they improved their cycling time performance and even sexual desire after being supplemented with maca extract for 14 days.
Maca extract can protect the skin from sun exposure
One of the common causes of skin damage is exposure from the harmful UV rays. UV radiation can potentially lead to skin issues like wrinkles, and may even raise your risk for skin cancer.
Maca extracts were found to contain photoprotective effects that may help guard your skin against harmful UV radiation.
Remember, though, that sunscreen is your best bet when it comes to protecting your skin. Also, maca only works as a skin protectant when it is applied to directly onto the skin, and not when it is ingested.
How Can You Add Maca Powder to Your Diet?
Adding maca powder to your diet is a breeze. If you want to enjoy its benefits to your health, you can do any of these following handy tips:
Make healthier pancakes by adding maca powder into the mix! Top it off with some Greek yogurt to boost your protein intake.
Chocolate lovers, rejoice! You can enjoy the benefits of maca powder in your truffles, too.
Take your smoothies, baked goodies, and oatmeal to the next level by incorporating some maca powder into it.
You can also take maca as a supplement! Maca comes in powder, capsule, and liquid extract forms. Just make sure to read the recommended dosage, and seek your physician’s approval first before taking maca supplements.
What are the Potential Risks of Consuming Maca Powder?
While maca is considered generally safe for human consumption, Peruvian natives say taking fresh maca root may negatively affect your health. With this, it is highly recommended to boil maca roots first before consuming it.
Also, if you have health conditions such as thyroid problems, maca powder may not be the best supplement for you.
Maca also contains substances called goitrogens, which may adversely interfere with your thyroid gland function.
Pregnant and breastfeeding women are also strongly advised to avoid taking any supplements unless permitted by their doctors.
As with all supplementation, it is best to seek the advice of a healthcare professional first before changing or adding anything to your daily diet.
Several studies back maca’s benefits to health, particularly in mood and libido enhancement. But while this is the case, the majority of these studies were small or used animal subjects.
To solidify its beneficial claims, more studies are needed to be conducted on maca powder and its health and wellness effects.
Also, to prevent any health complications, it is best to consult with your physician first before incorporating maca powder into your diet.
As with all supplements, a green light from your doctor is necessary, especially if you are taking other medications or have health issues.