Maca is a Peruvian plant that thrives in the rugged mountains of the Andes. It’s packed with nutrition and functions as an adaptogen. Maca benefits your health in several ways. For example, it can help balance hormone levels and improve memory.
Certain plants have nutrients that can give you a performance edge in demanding situations.
Maca is one such plant. This cruciferous vegetable is native to Peru, and it’s used as a dietary supplement. Packed with nutrition, maca benefits your health in important ways, and it’s classed as an adaptogen. Studies show it can help improve libido, and it has the goods to help boost endurance and athletic performance.
What is maca capable of doing to support you on your health journey? Let’s find out.
In this article, we will:
- Explain what maca is
- Discuss how adaptogens such as maca affect the body
- List key maca benefits
- Offer guidance on how to consume maca
What is maca?
Maca is an edible Peruvian plant that grows in the Andes mountains. Its scientific name is Lepidium meyenii, and it’s also called maino, ayak willku, ayak chichira, maca-maca and Peruvian ginseng. Because of its potent nutritional punch, maca has been labeled a superfood.
Cruciferous vegetables have been hailed for their valuable mix of nutrients. Maca is a cruciferous vegetable. That means it’s related to other cruciferous plants, such as kale, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage.
What is maca like as a cooking ingredient? The maca plant is a staple in Peruvian cooking. Its flavor is earthy and distinctive, and maca brings something unique to the table when it’s added to a dish.
This vegetable has been consumed by indigenous Peruvians as a dietary supplement and food staple for centuries. It’s been cultivated in that region since the time of the Incas. The indigenous residents of Peru have long believed that maca benefits energy, mood and libido. Clinical and laboratory studies conducted during the past 50 years support these claims.
It’s common for maca root to be ground into a powder. Maca root powder benefits wellness thanks to its concentrated nutrition, and it’s often used to give smoothies an extra boost of nourishment.
Types of maca root
There are different types of maca, and you can identify them by their varying colors. Three of the most popular types are black maca, red maca and yellow maca:
- Yellow maca is the most common form of this plant, and it’s also the most affordable variant.
- Red maca has the sweetest taste, and it’s often used to help improve sexual function.
- Finally, there’s black maca. Black maca benefits wellness with its broad range of nutrition, and it’s the rarest form of this root vegetable.
While maca’s nutrient breakdown varies from type to type, research shows that black, red and yellow maca all offer health benefits.
Maca’s role as an adaptogen
Maca benefits your well-being in its role as an adaptogen.
So, what is an adaptogen? An adaptogen is a plant that has the ability to help the body cope with stressful situations in a more efficient way.
Stress can have a harmful physical effect on the body. It can take a toll on these glands:
- Adrenal gland
- Pituitary gland
- Hypothalamic gland
Adaptogens such as maca powder support your health by easing the stress response experienced by these glands.
Maca and the stages of stress
Peruvian maca and other adaptogens help the body handle the stages of stress in a more productive way. There are three stages of stress:
- Alarm phase
- Resistance phase
- Exhaustion phase
Your body’s stress response kicks off with the alarm phase. During this phase, stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are released.
Next comes the resistance phase. Here, the body makes an effort to counter the physical changes that took place in the alarm phase. During the stage of resistance, you might feel more energized and clear-headed, and muscle performance may improve. If the stressor is removed during this phase, the body will return to normal.
Finally, there’s the exhaustion phase. If the body experiences stress for extended periods of time, it may suffer exhaustion. This phase is marked by symptoms such as fatigue, depression and anxiety.
So, what is maca capable of doing for the body during these stages of stress? Adaptogens such as maca powder work to extend the resistance phase of your body’s response to stressful situations. During the resistance phase, we may experience upgrades in cognition, clarity and muscle performance.
By prolonging the resistance phase, maca powder benefits your body’s ability to perform at a high level in stressful circumstances.
Maca supplementation can do good things for your well-being. What is maca capable of when it comes to overall health support?
Here are some ways in which maca benefits your health:
Maca benefit #1: Enhances mood
Conditions such as anxiety and depression can be devastating. Research shows maca root is capable of providing relief to those who wrestle with these ailments.
A 2006 study looked at the effect that yellow, red and black maca have on depression. The data showed that all three types of maca provided antidepressant activity.
Maca benefit #2: Boosts libido and treats sexual dysfunction
Maca is perhaps best known for its ability to ramp up sexual desire. The research indicates there is scientific evidence to support the plant’s reputation in this area.
A 2009 study analyzed the effect that maca supplements had on participants with mild erectile dysfunction. The data showed that maca supplementation improved general and sexual well-being in those wrestling with mild cases of erectile dysfunction. And a 2008 study linked maca supplementation with improved libido in both men and women.
Maca benefit #3: Eases menopausal symptoms
A woman enters menopause when her menstrual periods come to a permanent halt. During this phase of life, estrogen levels decline. This decline can cause undesirable symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, sleep difficulties and irritability.
Existing research shows that maca benefits menopausal women. The data shows that maca supplementation can help ease symptoms associated with menopause.
Maca benefit #4: May improve memory
A clear memory can boost our productivity. It can also help us feel more confident in both our personal and professional lives.
Data shows that black maca benefits memory in notable ways. A 2011 study looked at the impact maca extract had on learning and memory. The study showed that black maca consumption improved memory impairment, thanks in part to its antioxidant activities.
Maca benefit #5: May reduce prostate size
The prostate is a gland that only males possess. As men age, it’s common for this gland to grow larger. When the prostate grows in this way, it can cause problems such as difficulty passing urine.
Studies show that red maca benefits prostate issues. In research involving rats, red maca was shown to reduce prostate size.
Maca benefit #6: May boost endurance and athletic performance
Every little bit counts when you’re exercising or participating in an athletic event. Research shows that maca can help improve endurance and heighten athletic performance.
A 2009 study looked at the effect maca consumption had on male cyclists. The research showed that those who took maca were able to improve the time it took them to complete a 25-mile bike ride.
How to consume maca
Maca is available in many forms. You’ll find maca powder in health food stores, and this supplement is also available as a maca capsule. Additionally, maca is offered as a liquid extract.
You can add powdered maca to your smoothies. You can also use it as an ingredient when preparing dishes such as oatmeal. And you can add maca powder to energy bars and a wide selection of baked goods.
How much of this root vegetable should you consume each day to realize optimal maca benefits? In the studies that have been done to gauge this superfood’s effect on well-being, doses generally range from 1.5 to 5 grams per day.
What is maca capable of doing to support you on your health journey? If you think a maca supplement has something to offer, give it a try. Purchase maca powder, maca capsules or a maca root extract online or at your local health food store.
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