Maca: The Superfood of the Incas

I love almost all superfoods but one of my top favorites is maca. Maca is a root vegetable grown high in the Peruvian Andes. It requires altitudes ranging from 9,000 to 12,00 feet above sea level, making it the highest altitude crop on earth. Maca has been used as both food and medicine by the Incas for thousands of years, and as a particular dietary staple while they built Macchu Picchu.

Sometimes called the Peruvian ginseng, maca is a nutritionally dense member of the cruciferous family of plants that includes broccoli, cabbage and turnips. It is grown for the root which resembles a radish and is full of vitamins, minerals, proteins, alkaloids, amino acids, enzymes and phytochemicals. It tastes similar to a roasted chicory root, a bit lighter and nutty, with a subtle bite like that of coffee. However, it is not a stimulant nor does it contain caffeine.

The home of the maca plant

The best part of maca is that it is an adaptogen, which means that it responds to different bodies’ needs individually. If you’re producing too much of a particular hormone, maca will regulate the production downward. However, if you’re producing too little, it’ll regulate the production upward. Pretty amazing, isn’t it?

Maca also stimulates and nourishes the hypothalamus and pituitary glands, which are the “master glands” of the body. These glands actually regulate the other glands, so when in balance they can bring balance to the adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, ovarian and testicular glands.

 

Maca is high in calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium and iron.  It contains trace minerals including zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, manganese and silicon. It is also high in vitamins B1, B2, a vegetarian source of B12, C, and E and has a higher lipid content of any other root crop, meaning it has lots of heart healthy fatty acids.

Maca is well known for its ability to help enhance strength and endurance. Within days of using maca, energy levels and stamina are likely to increase. Many athletes take maca for peak performance. If you find yourself tired most of the time, experiment with maca to see if it helps. Just a small amount could be exactly what you need for a boost!

Maca has also been widely used to promote sexual function of both men and women, given the nickname Nature’s Viagra. It serves as a boost to libido and increases endurance so all you men out there, take note!

And for the females, maca relieves menstrual issues and menopause. It alleviates cramps, body pain, hot flashes, anxiety, mood swings, and depression. However, if you are pregnant or lactating you should avoid taking maca because of its influence of your hormones.

 

So how do you use maca?

When you first start using maca it’s best to begin by taking smaller amounts and building up; even 1/2 teaspoon is a good place to start. Gradually work your way up to 1-2 tablespoons (of the powder) as an average daily dose. Rotating a few days on and a few days off is recommended. Also, please be sure to purchase maca from a dependable source to ensure it is minimally processed, not irradiated, with no fillers and most of all, organic.

Maca is good in smoothies, salads, drinks, cooked foods and juices. Capsules are also available if you do not like the taste. You can stir a teaspoon of maca in a bowl of vegetables, add it to your superfood smoothie and mix it into a lentil soup before serving. Try pouring maca powder over organic, non-microwaved popcorn and flavor with coconut oil and sea salt. So yum!

Have you tried using maca? If so, what are your favorite ways to consume it?