You may have stumbled across this caffeine-free, plant-based superfood in your local health food store and wondered what exactly is maca—and what does it do? Full disclosure: This root vegetable is packed with endurance-boosting adaptogens that help combat stress and fatigue and give you the much-needed dose of energy you may be in dire need of.
Learn the benefits of introducing maca into your daily routine and how best to consume it based on the recommendations of a registered dietitian.
Maca contains anticancer properties and vital nutrients
Originating from Peru, this superfood vegetable is not only packed with vitamins and minerals, it is also believed to help boost mood, stamina, and even memory. According to Roxana Ehsani, RDN, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, maca is a “cruciferous vegetable (related to broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage) that contains anticancer properties like glucosinolates and polyphenols." These important antioxidants help enhance the elimination of potential carcinogens from the body and may potentially reduce tumor growth. Also rich in vitamin C, copper, iron, potassium, vitamin B6, and manganese, maca is a great source of several important vitamins and minerals.
It can potentially improve mood, memory, and energy levels
According to a recent study on the benefits of maca and its impact on mood, Ehsani notes that consuming this root can help “reduce anxiety and symptoms of depression in menopausal women.” She also notes that another study on the effects of maca and energy levels found that “cyclists improved the time it took to complete a bike ride after consuming maca extract for a period of 14 days.” Additionally, research on animals has shown potential improvements with learning and memory, however Ehsani notes that more research needs to be done on the subject.
It may help boost libido and fertility
If you’re looking for an extra boost of energy in your intimate life, this Peruvian herb has long been proclaimed for its libido-enhacing properties (and there is research to prove it). According to Ehsani, maca can also potentially have beneficial effects on reproduction, particularly for men. She notes that “one small study found that it can positively affect fertility in healthy adult men, specifically increasing sperm concentration, and motility.” However, she urges that individuals should first consult with a health care professional (like a registered dietitian nutritionist) before consuming for this specific benefits.
How to best consume maca
The edible root of maca is typically dried to consume in powder form, and it can also be consumed as a liquid extract. Ehsani recommends adding this earthy and nutty root to both savory and sweet dishes like smoothies, coffee, oatmeal, baked goods, or even into dips like guacamole. She also advises that pregnant or breast-feeding women check with their health care professional before consuming to err on the side of caution.