When I first heard about maca just a few years ago, it was almost impossible to find anywhere that sold it.
These days, maca has become so popular that earlier this year there was an official worldwide shortage!
Make no mistake: people everywhere are falling in love with the rich, caramel like flavours of maca. We're adding it to our smoothie bowls, sprinkling it over our porridge, and even using it as part of our favourite desserts.
But most importantly of all, those that use maca regularly are starting to notice some seriously amazing health benefits.
So what is all the fuss about? Just what is causing maca to become one of the world’s most sought after superfoods?
Let's take a quick look.
Maca: The magical superfood
Whilst maca may be a fairly new discovery to the Western world, it has been a staple in the diets of native Peruvians for thousands of years.
Maca grows naturally in the mineral rich soil of the Andes Mountains at altitudes of over 10,000 feet, and is widely considered to offer a number of exciting health benefits; including a unique ability to boost energy, balance hormones, and bolster the immune system.
Traditionally, maca was valued as such a prized commodity in it’s native Peru, it was often reserved for Incan Warriors before battle to promote strength, stamina, and longevity. It was also given to men and women trying for a baby as a natural way to boost fertility and sex drive. Amongst it’s many nicknames, maca was often referred to as ‘warrior food’, ‘food of the gods’ and, in more recent times, ‘nature’s viagra.’
Maca is widely considered to be an adaptogen – meaning that it ‘adapts’ to imbalances in the body and helps to correct them. It is for this reason that it is considered as a remedy to so many health concerns.
Until recent years, maca has largely slipped under the radar of ‘conventional’ medicine. However, with more and more people incorporating maca into their diet and enjoying the many health benefits, scientists have started to stand up and take note.
There are a number of exciting clinical studies emerging on the health benefits of maca. Putting this particular root to one side for a moment, how cool is it that people are starting to recognise the power of real food as medicine? Instead of trialling drugs, scientists have started looking to plants and herbs as the treatment and prevention of common diseases and deficiencies. Long may it continue!
Although there are more studies yet to be released, here are just some of the health benefits that maca has been shown to offer thus far:
Maca boosts athletic performance
Since the days of the ancient Incan warriors, maca has been used as a natural performance booster. I personally like to put a teaspoon in my pre-workout smoothie to boost my energy levels. And, in a study on male cyclists, subjects who consumed maca every day for two weeks improved their time trial results faster than those who did not consume maca(1).
Maca boosts libido and sexual function
Traditionally, maca was given to couples that were trying for a baby. And in numerous studies on both men and women, maca has been shown to improve libido and sexual function (2,3,4).
Maca improves fertilityFurther to it’s libido boosting benefits, there is evidence to suggest that consuming maca may improve fertility in women and sperm count in men (5,6). Through my research on maca for this article, I have found countless testimonials all over the internet from couples that credit maca for it’s ability to help them conceive.
Maca balances hormones
If you have hormonal imbalances, maca may be able to help. Remember we spoke earlier about how maca is an adaptogen? When used to treat hormones, maca ‘adapts’ to the conditions presented by the endocrine (hormone producing) system and helps to restore balance. Maca is often recommended to people with adrenal fatigue or thyroid problems, and has been shown in a pilot study to be an effective natural alternative to HRT (hormone replacement therapy). Maca has also been shown to be beneficial for symptoms of the menopause (7,8).
Maca may improve memory and learning ability
Further human research on this one is needed, but in studies on mice, maca consumption was shown to increase their ability to learn new skills, and improve short and long term memory and recall(9).
Maca increases energy levels and improves mood
We touched on this earlier when we spoke about the cyclists, but there are also pretty solid studies that suggest regular consumption of maca can boost your energy levels and even improve your mood(10).
Remember, the above information only refers to the scientific studies that maca has been the subject of so far. With new studies emerging all the time, there is still a lot more we have to learn!
How to get more maca in your diet
One of the main obstacles against consuming more maca is not knowing how best to incorporate it into your diet. Here are a few ways to start eating more maca, starting today!
My favourite way to take maca is in a smoothie. It pairs with just about anything, but goes especially well with banana, cinnamon, vanilla, cacao, and just about any nut butter. A teaspoon in your pre-workout smoothie provides a great natural energy boost too!
Check out this almond butter and maca smoothie recipe for some inspiration!
In raw chocolate
Maca and raw chocolate are a match made in heaven, so next time you are raw chocolate making, add a tablespoon or two of maca powder.
Maca 'hot chocolate'
Add a teaspoon of maca powder to a healthy hot chocolate to add a delicious, warming caramel flavour. My favourite D.I.Y hot chocolate consists of 1.5 teaspoons of raw cacao powder, 1 teaspoon coconut sugar, 1 teaspoon of maca powder and a pinch of cinnamon, mixed with warm coconut milk.
Sprinkled on breakfast
Simply sprinkle maca onto your favourite breakfast foods (coconut yoghurt, oats, or chia pudding) for extra flavour and health benefits!
In protein shakes
It goes without saying that maca makes a fantastic addition to your favourite protein shakes! I love to use it in a shake a couple hours before training for a noticeable energy boost.
As you can see there are so many different ways to use maca! It's delicious, versatile, and a little really goes a long way. If you're looking to improve your energy levels, balance your hormones or perhaps even increase your memory, I'd definitely recommend giving this superfood a try.
Thanks for reading! If you know someone that maca could benefit, please share this article :)