By Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist
There are a ton of superfoods but Maca has our attention! Broadcast as a potent immune, memory, mood & fertility booster plus a virility or libido enhancer. Let’s break down the science of what maca is and why it’s so lovable.
Maca, not to be confused with the green tea based Matcha, is a root, like ginger & turmeric. You can learn more about matcha. It’s also known as Lepidium meyenii. Maca is grown in the Peruvian, Andes at high altitudes, and is now considered one of the country’s seven Peruvian flag products. There are numerous types of maca root including black, red and white and yellow, which may be sold as powder, pill or liquid. The powder form of maca is most commonly seen as a “booster” or “enhancer” for juices and smoothies sold in the supplement/vitamin aisle at health food stores or at juice/smoothie bars.
1. It’s a Powerhouse Cruciferous Plant
The now coveted Brassica family also includes kale, broccoli & Brussels sprouts. Cruciferous veggies have phytonutrients that help support our natural detoxification processes in the liver. Crucifers are also a key cancer preventive and survivorship promoting plant-based group with research highlighting breast, prostate, colon and lung cancer specifically. These veggies contain naturally occurring compounds like Diindolylmethane (DIM) and Idole-3-carbinol, which may have beneficial effects on estrogen ratios in the body, to be less tumor promoting.
2. Boosts Fertility
A diet rich in fruits and veggies may help fertility, for men and women. For men, plant based eating, especially antioxidant rich fruits and veggies, are thought to help enable sperm to essentially “swim faster”. Preliminary research on Maca shows that black maca root specifically, as compared to red, white or yellow, may have beneficial effects on sperm production. Maca may also help to improve sperm motility and semen volume helping increase chances of conception.
3. Gets You in “The Mood”
Reindeer antler, Spanish fly and good ‘ole chocolate… what do these have in common? Properties purported to help put you in “the mood”. Maca could be the next natural aphrodisiac on the horizon as research shows it can increase sexual desire. Maca is certainly less expensive and safer to consume than certain aphrodisiac supplements, which can cause kidney damage or intestinal bleeding.Some anti-depressant medications can have unwanted effects of dampening libido. Maca may be helpful to increase libido for men and women taking SSRI medications, like Lexapro, Paxil and Zoloft. Study participants taking 3 grams of Maca per day reported alleviation of their drug-induced sexual dysfunction based on the Arizona Sexual Experience Scale (ASEX).
4. Pumps Up Your Energy
A study of 50 men with mild erectile dysfunction given Maca supplements, found they reported feeling more significant positive effects of on their overall and sexual well-being after 12 weeks, compared to those taking a placebo.
5. Puts a Smile on Your Face
Maca isn’t just for men. Post-menopausal women taking 3.5 grams of Maca per day reported reduced symptoms of depression, anxiety, and sexual dysfunction.
Here are some great Maca powder smoothies to try: