Supercharge your morning by steeping some maca – the popular adaptogenic herb dense in calcium, potassium, iron and other vitamins. Registered Dietitian Mia Syn shares its uses and more:
Have you heard about maca yet? A “superfood” and supplement trending in the US, the ingredient has been hailed as a nutrient-dense herb, adaptogen (helps the body’s ability to deal with physiological, biochemical and psychological stressors) and energizer, helping to enhance cognition. Here is what you should know about maca and how to incorporate it into your diet.
What is Maca?
Maca is a plant that has been cultivated as a vegetable crop for over 3,000 years, natively grown in central Peru in the plateaus of the Andes Mountains. It is a cruciferous veggie, related to radishes and turnips.
The native people in the Andes of Peru, including the Incas, have used maca as food (baked, dried or mixed into dishes) and medicine for centuries. These communities have also used it as a fertility enhancer and as a natural energizer because of its stimulant-like effects.
Maca: The Nutrient-Dense Energizer
While most of the benefits associated with maca are self-documented rather than supported by extensive research, its high nutrient to calorie ratio alone is enough to revere it. Nutritional analyses show that maca is high in vitamins and minerals including calcium, potassium, iron, magnesium phosphorous and zinc. It consists of approximately 13-16% protein and is rich in essential amino acids, which are the building blocks of protein that can only be obtained from food.
Some studies have looked at maca as an energizer, and analyzed its effects on mood and well-being. These studies found that maca may have an energizing effect, and help reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.
Other purported uses of maca include:
- Improve strength and stamina in athletes
- Alleviate symptoms of menopause
- Positive effect on memory
- Assist with menstrual problems
- Help with chronic fatigue
- Treat depression
- Boost immunity
- Reduce the negative effects of stress
- Treat infertility
How Maca Can Be Enjoyed
Maca is available in powdered and capsule forms. Many enjoy the powdered form by adding it to soups, baked goods and beverages. Numi features this ancient healing ingredient in two of their new Holistic Herbal Teasans, Gratitude and Purpose.
When taking maca, it is best to start with small amounts and work your way up to larger doses. Maca is likely safe for most people taken in amounts found in food. However, pregnant and breast-feeding women should avoid use or consult with a doctor first, before incorporating into their diet.