From the high mountains of Peru, the Maca plant has made its debut here in the United States as one of the top superfoods, especially for women. Maca root aids in all sorts of female hormonal functions, from menstruation to menopause. Can I get a hallelujah?
Peruvians have been utilizing the Maca root since the 16th century, but due to its isolated and tumultuous home in the high Peruvian Alps, it hasn’t exactly been on our radar. However, once we discovered that this inconspicuous root-like vegetable can support hormone balance, the endocrine system, and thyroid function, it could hide no longer!
Maca Health Benefits for Women
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Increases energy
- Boosts libido
- Enhances fertility, including regulating ovulation
- Improves hair growth and skin tone
- Balances hormones during menstruation and menopause
- Relieves hot flashes
- Enhances focus
- Reduces depression
- Improves memory
How Does Maca Accomplish This?
Maca is a nutritional powerhouse! It’s loaded with vitamins A, B, and D as well as a plethora of minerals, including iron, calcium, and zinc, to name a few. As if that weren’t enough, it’s also high in protein and fiber.
Maca provides amino acids, which are a major component of hormones. This is why Maca does wonders for hormone balance.
Maca is an adaptogen. Adapto-what? I know, this term caught me off guard as well. Evidently, adaptogens improve physiological and emotional health, making us more capable of fighting diseases and maintaining our overall mental and emotional stability. In essence, they help us “adapt.” This explains why Maca can help reduce stress and boost energy. There are only a handful of adaptogens in the world, so thank you Maca for gracing us with your presence!
Click here to learn even more about Maca and its nutritional benefits.
Types of Maca
Red Maca: With the highest phytonutrient levels, red Maca is the most effective at general hormone balancing, female fertility, and bone health. It’s also the sweetest tasting of all Maca powders. So ladies, red is where it’s at!
Yellow Maca: The most common type, yellow Maca is packed with nutrition and works to boost energy, enhance concentration, and balance hormones. While each type of Maca root shines in its specific nutritional qualities, yellow Maca still provides all the nutritional benefits listed above but is also the most available and affordable.
Black Maca: The rarest of them all, black Maca is actually great for men as it aids in muscle building and endurance, and it enhances male libido and fertility.
How to Consume Maca
I don’t regularly hike up the Peruvian Alps and harvest Maca plants for supper, and I don’t expect you to either. Fortunately, other people do that for us! The most common form of Maca available in the United States is dried, powdered Maca root. This powder retains all the benefits listed above.
Raw vs. Gelatinized
Raw Maca is the whole, powdered root that doesn’t undergo high heat. Gelatinized Maca root, on the other hand, goes through extreme heat, and the starch is removed. While this makes for a higher concentration of nutrition, many of those nutrients are lost in the heat process, and thus I recommend the raw form. As a general rule, the less processing a food undergoes, the greater the quality and nutritional value.
Forms of Maca Root
Powdered Maca: Very easy to add to recipes (like this Maca Malt Shake), Maca rootpowder has a distinct taste—a little sweet and nutty, but also very bold—thus it’s best to not add too much, or you might overpower the dish.
Personally, I’ve grown to love the rich taste of Maca, and I enjoy the flavor it adds. But you don’t need much to boost a recipe. For instance, I only add one tablespoon to my smoothies, which is plenty for a healthy dosage of Maca nutrients.
Capsules: If you find the flavor of Maca off-putting, or you simply don’t want to take the time to add it to a recipe, the capsules are great to have on hand. They’re easy to take and readily available, and the capsules mask the flavor.
Extract: Available in pill form, an extract is another easy way to quickly consume Maca. As with the capsules, though, you might find added ingredients in the extract, including gelatin, vegetable glycerin, and rice flower. While the extract and capsules are undoubtedly convenient options, they’re not as whole and pure as Maca powder.
Maca as a Medical Treatment
Maca root has been used over hundreds of years to treat various conditions, especially infertility. It’s a plant-based herb, not a medicine, which means Maca root is considered safe to consume. However, if you’re using an excessive amount of any plant as a treatment method, it’s important to consult your medical advisor. You should also consider your own body’s needs and limitations. Taking these considerations into mind, with the Maca root you may find that nature has given us a beautiful solution to some of our most common, complicated problems. So step aside square cut diamonds, I’ll take the beet-shaped Maca instead.
Photos from iStock/CentralITAlliance (main image), marekuliasz (maca powder)
healthy recipes | holistic health | women's health