What makes this Peruvian root so great?
How much do you know about a mountain range called the Andes?
Maybe you know it’s the longest mountain range in the world and the fact that it stretches over 7 different South American countries. Perhaps you’re aware of the fact that they have several plateaus that are home to some of the highest communities in the world such as La Paz — the highest capital city in the world.
If you did, kudos on your general knowledge. If you didn’t then you’re welcome, there are some potential answers in the next pub quiz you do. You can send me my split of the winnings in the mail.
But you aren’t here for my questionable geographical knowledge, you’re here because you’re interested in your health so let me explain why the Andes should be of interest to you.
One of the countries the Andes crosses in Peru and it is here that a little known root called Maca is found. Actually, if you want some more knowledge, it goes by several names including maca-maca, maino, ayak chichira and ayak willku.
Whatever you call it, this root from Peru is a superfood with a whole host of benefits. WebMD says:
“It looks like the love child of a potato and white radish.”¹
I just had to include that amazing description. But now, on to the benefits!
Maca may look like the result of a potato and a radish having a steamy night but it has got its genetics fully from Mommy radish — the Brassicaceae family². It’s not a family that many know by name but some of Maca’s cousins include the familiar figures of broccoli, radish, turnip and cabbage.
All of these foods have positive health benefits, but Maca is arguably more of a superfood. Perhaps it’s the influence Daddy potato has on his weekend visits.
Maca is naturally rich in antioxidant activity, more specifically glutathione and superoxide dismutase.³ These plus their other antioxidant siblings help to inhibit free radicals in your blood.
In short, free radicals interact with other molecules in your body more easily than others and this can cause some unwanted chemical reactions.⁴ The best way to get rid of them is with a healthy diet and Maca is especially good at this.
More research is required, but many believe that antioxidants also help prevent more serious health conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
2. Better Sex
I knew that would get your attention. There are a few ways that Maca could be your new best friend in the bedroom. If you’re into that sort of thing. Whatever floats your boat.
It’s not going to be a super-charger, but there have been studies that have proved a small increase in sexual desire in test subjects when compared against those on a placebo.⁶
Personally, I’m of the opinion that a healthy sex-drive is, well, healthy! So if you’ve been feeling demotivated, Maca could give you that little kick in the rear you need to get going again.
It goes without saying that however mild they may be, problems with ED are not enjoyable and can really affect your sex life. There have been studies that show Maca extract to be effective on participants with mild ED in improving their sexual well-being.⁷
3. Reduce Blood Pressure
Because Maca is still fairly unknown compared to similar foods, more research needs to be completed but there have been a few studies that have shown Maca to have effects of reducing blood pressure.
In one study it was concluded that over a period of 12 weeks, 3.3g of Maca per day reduced blood pressure and depression in postmenopausal women.⁵ These results were significant in relation to diastolic blood pressure and no one would say no to something that improves your mood! (also something that could help your sex life — win, win!).
4. UV Damage
For a plant that grows exclusively above 4000m, where the UV rays are much more intense, Maca could hold some secrets in skin protection.
As Maca grows below the surface, it is an extract from the exposed leaves that could be beneficial. These leaves have adapted protection against UV rays that:
“have been shown to prevent UV-induced epidermal hyperplasia in the skin of rats.”⁸
Now, I know you aren’t a rat but this does show the potential that Maca has for it’s UV protection. Would you rather spend time in the shade waiting for your chemical sunscreen to dry or eat some Maca?
5. Energy Boost
As well as the potential to boost certain desires, Maca can help increase your energy without certain side effects of other foods we often use. Caffeine, for example can often lead to a crash in energy, especially if we consume too much (most adults have caffeine as part of their daily routine.⁹ It’s easy to overdo it!).
Maca, on the other hand, can sustain your energy throughout the day without giving you any jitters. In fact, in a study of athletes Maca supplementation was proved to increase performance on a 40km cycling time trial after just 2 weeks!¹⁰
There are a number of potential extra health benefits that Maca has and unfortunately there are still many more studies that need to be done to confirm their positive affects. However, I would recommend being ahead of the curve on this one.
You can get many different versions of Maca extract in supplementation form. One of the easiest is powdered Maca that can be mixed with any number of foods or smoothies. Maca has a taste described as earthy, nutty or even butterscotch. Sounds tasty to me!
There aren’t a huge amount of products you can buy that include Maca in their ingredients, rather than being an ingredient of it’s own that you need to mix in yourself, but more people are waking up to the benefits of this little known superfood from Peru. Hopefully now you’re one of them!