Maca root — an ancient plant that can naturally boost your energy, help you manage stress, and even sharpen your memory. Sound too good to be true? We look at the science behind this superfood.
If you want to improve your mood, sharpen your memory and amp up your overall health, it might be time to go pick up a big jar of maca. The benefits of this powerful root vegetable just might surprise you.
Read on to discover how maca works to leave your body feeling better than before.
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What is Maca?
This powerful root vegetable is native to the Peruvian Andes and is similar in appearance to a radish or turnip. Throughout the Andean region, for thousands of years, maca has been prized as a superfood for its ability to enhance fertility, stamina, memory, and learning. (1)
Part of the intrigue about maca, was the fact that it only grows in the harshest, coldest conditions along the Andes, where other plants wither and die. This caused the belief that ingesting maca could help improve performance, mood, and overall well-being. (2)
Interestingly enough, maca is now classified as an adaptogen. (3) Adaptogens are substances that help your body handle stress more effectively, which in turn results in less damage from stress to your body.
The benefits of this powerful root don’t stop there, however. Modern research sheds more light on this little known vegetable. Here’s how a daily spoonful of this impressive root powder can improve your health.
7 Amazing Benefits of Maca Root
1. Maca Root Improves Mood
Maca has a positive effect on mood. One study showed that it helped reduce anxiety and depression in postmenopausal women (without altering their hormone levels) (4, 5).
Researchers believe that maca’s ability to help regulate stress might also help improve one’s state of mind. (6, 7)
2. Maca Root Boosts Energy and Athletic Performance
Throughout history, maca has been said to help improve physical stamina. Modern research backs this claim, with studies showing it can enhance performance during endurance exercise, while also lowering the amount of oxidative stress (stress that can result in DNA damage, aging, and slower recovery) that can occur during exercise. (8)
One study, in particular, found that after just 14 days of supplementing with maca, male cyclists improved their time scores when it came to completing a 25-mile bike ride. (9)
3. Maca Root Boosts Libido and Increases Fertility
Low libido can be a source of major stress in relationships and marriages. Luckily, maca has been shown to be an effective natural option for boosting libido in both men and women.
Research shows that maca can increase sexual desire in as little as 8 to 12 weeks. (10)
Maca has been shown to increase fertility in men in particular. In one study, four months of maca supplementation resulted in an increase in the volume, count, and motility of sperm. (11)
4. Maca Root Improves Memory and Concentration
Traditionally, maca was used in Peru to improve the performance of children in school. (12) Studies show that maca indeed has a positive effect on cognition, brain functioning and learning in memory-impaired mice. (13, 14)
Another study discovered that the black maca variety, in particular, has the greatest effect on learning ability. (15)
5. Maca Root Relieves Menopause Symptoms
Menopause often comes with a whole slew of unwanted symptoms, like hot flashes, mood swings, irritability, and insomnia. Many of these symptoms are caused by a decline in estrogen.
Maca can help soothe menopause by relieving symptoms associated with estrogen decline. (16) In addition, maca has also been shown to promote bone health, which is particularly important for women after menopause, when they’re at a higher risk for developing osteoporosis. (17)
6. Maca Root Protects Skin From Sun Damage
It turns out that maca also has positive effects on your skin health – particularly when it comes to protecting it from the harmful, aging effects of too much sun.
Studies show that maca extract applied topically may help prevent skin damage from UV exposure and was recommended by scientists as an alternative natural form of sun protection. (18) This is great news, considering the majority of commercial sunscreens are loaded with chemicals that can seep into your bloodstream and disrupt your hormones, among other nasty side effects. (19)
7. Contains Antioxidants and Nutrients
Maca root is extremely nutritious, providing a generous amount of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants like copper, vitamin C, potassium, iron, manganese, and vitamin B6. In addition, it also contains potent antioxidants that can help fight free radicals, the molecules that can damage DNA and cause aging and disease. (20)
How to Take Maca
Maca can either be taken in capsule form, or added to soups, smoothies, and Paleo baked goods in powder form. It has a pleasant, slightly malty flavor that does well with sweeter foods and blends.
While there is no set dosage for maca, be sure to follow the instructions on your supplement or powder. It’s important not to go overboard, as it can have a powerful effect on your hormones.
You can purchase maca at your local health food store, or online. Just be sure to purchase an organic version that is free of additives or fillers.
Maca is safe for most people and has a low risk of any side effects. However, if you are on any type of hormone-altering or replacement medications, pregnant or breastfeeding, be sure to talk to your doctor before supplementing with maca.
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