Maca, a pungent, turnip-like vegetable with an illustrious history that pre-dates the time of the Inca empire, is getting a second wind. At the height of the Incan empire, warriors consumed maca root before battle for a jolt of extra strength. These days, it’s heralded as a health-supporting, stress-reducing, nutrient-packed superfood.
What is maca root?
An adaptogenic herb — a plant that helps modulate its response to stress— maca contains a wealth of nutrients, including protein, fiber, calcium, magnesium, amino acids and a number of vitamins and minerals. Often referred to as Peruvian ginseng, traditionally maca root has been used to address concerns with energy and reproductive health.†
While the research has yet to catch up with maca’s impressive reputation, some initial studies have shown promising results. Here are three of the potentially most beneficial ways you can put it to use:
1. To increase antioxidant intake
Experts speculate that maca’s potentially protective effects are due to its concentration of polyphenolic compounds, which are also known as antioxidants. Antioxidants work to combat the harmful effects of free radicals, or unstable molecules that can damage cells throughout the body.†
2. To energize
Maca contains many of the nutrients essential for vitality such as fatty acids, minerals and protein. Although the research is still scant, maca’s dense nutritional profile may support its claim as a superfood. It has also been shown to support energy and endurance in athletes.†
3. To support libido & hormones
Hormonal health plays a big role in fertility, libido, menstruation and menopause. One study showed that post-menopausal women who took maca had a significant reduction in menopausal discomforts compared to a placebo group. The researchers suggested that maca had the potential to support well-being during menopause. A 2008 study showed that maca helped to support healthy mood and sexual health in postmenopausal women.†
Since there are no adverse effects associated with eating maca or taking it in supplement form, it may be worth exploring for yourself to see if it consuming maca gives you a boost.
How to enjoy it:
Look for maca mainly in a gelatinized or powdered form. Many people blend maca root powder, which has a bitter, earthy taste, into smoothies to mask its flavor. Try mixing it with hemp milk, peanut butter and flax seeds to compliment the root’s nutty flavor. You can also add maca powder to soups, granola or baked goods.
Need more inspiration? Here are 10 maca recipes to try:
†These statements have not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent disease.