A couple of days ago I started the topic of Superfoods. We discussed whether there is any truth to the claims and reviewed benefits of certain foods, claimed as superfoods. Today I would like to give special attention to Maca Root Powder, since it is one of the foods I use nearly on a daily basis.
I came to finding maca root while I was researching ways to reverse hypothyroidism. When I read about maca’s ability to help balance hormones without negatively affecting them I had to try it. I knew there would be no harm–it is a plant; so I had nothing to lose and much to gain. I ordered my first bag of maca through a local co-op [I have to tell you that I LOVE co-ops--the price of maca was about 50% less through the co-op than what I have to pay now]. I strongly believe that maca has been very helpful in my healing process and reversing hypothyroidism. I could not pin point to tell you if it gives me an energy boost or works in another specific way, since I have a very nutrient rich diet and believe that all of the foods I consume work together in helping me heal, but I have no doubt that raw maca powder does it’s job too.
I am going to recap some of the material we covered earlier about maca and then get a bit deeper into its history and benefits.
Maca is endocrine adaptogen. Maca does not contain hormones itself, instead it provides a unique set of nutrients that directly fuel the endocrine system and help the glands to produce vital hormones in precise dosages predetermined by one’s own body.
Adaptogen, by definition, is a substance which brings the body to a heightened state of resistance to disease through physiological health and brings balance .
- Increases energy and endurance
- Increases stamina
- Alleviates chronic exhaustion (fatigue) syndrome
- Improves sexual function in men and women
- Enhances fertility in people and animals
- Helps to regulate menstrual cycles
- Reduces hormonal dysfunction during menopause and andropause
- Can regulate hormonal imbalances
- Aids in alleviating depression- gives a sense of well being
- Reduces anxiety and stress
- Has a beneficial action on the circulatory system;
- Speeds wound healing and reduces anemia
- Enhances memory, learning, and mental ability
- Has a beneficial action on the circulatory system; gives skin a more youthful appearance
- Helps treat anemia, rickets, osteomalacia, and stomach cancer
- Good for healthy teeth and bones
- Acts as a fungistatic and bacteriostatic
- Acts as an anticarcinogen and antioxidant
- Is an alternative to anabolic steroids, helps to build muscle
- Libido enhancer
As an adaptogen, maca works broadly to contribute to overall well-being. It nourishes and calms the nerves with calcium, phosphorus, vitamins B1 and B12, and fatty acids, all of which work eneficially on the nervous system.
It stimulates the appetite and aids in digestion with calcium, vitamins B1 and B2, B12, and fatty acids. Its phosphorus is a primary building block in the cell fuels Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) and glucose-6-phosphate (G6P).
At the same time it supports the adrenal glands so they don’t have to rely on damaging cortisol to fuel the body. Its sterols, calcium, and vitamin C help build muscle mass and its starches aid in physical endurance. Its alkaloids help the body assimilate all these nutrients just where they are required.
In addition, recent studies of maca also show:
- Its fiber as well as glucosinolate content show promise in helping combat some cancers.
- Bio-available calcium, in conjunction with its alkaloids, make it an effective bond builder, thus reducing osteomalacia and rickets.
- Some of its fatty acids function as fungicides and local antiseptics, which may aid in overall immunity enhancement.
- Tannins bind and precipitate proteins, which improves the nutritional value of maca.
- Saponins and terpenoids may aid as a sedative, expectorant, pain reliever, anti-tumoral, and analgesic.
- Effects general and not localized to a specific organ.
- Normalizing action irrespective of the pathological state.
Background and History
Cultivated for thousands of years at elevations over 13,500-14,000 feet, maca had been an important food and medicinal supplement for villagers who inhabited the Peruvian highlands. It has even been used as currency, and even in our modern times still is in some regions.
The Incas found maca so potent that the root was prescribed to warriors in preparation for battles to increase their strength and endurance. It has been told that outside of war-time, however, warriors were banned from consuming maca due to its ability to increase the libido–a fact confirmed by modern science. During peaceful times the consumption of maca was restricted to be used only in the royal court.
When Spaniards conquered Incas, they became aware of maca’s value and collected tribute from the Incas in maca roots for export to Spain. The Spanish royalty learned of maca’s benefits and used it as energy enhancer and for nutrition. As the time went on, however, the knowledge of maca’s properties had been lost. It was not until mid- 20th century that this potent plant was rediscovered and regained its place on the list of power plants.
Today maca root is consumed by people from all around the world, including professional athletes, those looking to increase their energy and libido, and by many who suffer from health ailements, one of which is hormone imbalance.
The nutritional value of Maca is high. According to Dini et al (1994) y Li et al (2001), the chemical constitution of Maca is the following:
59% carbohydrates, 10.2% protein, 8.5% fiber, 2.2% lipids.
Essential Amino Acids:
Nearly all including Aspartic Acid, Glutamic acid, Serine, Histidine, Glycine, Threonine, Alanine, Tyrosine, Phenylalanine, Valine, Methionine, Isoleucine, Leucine, Lysine, HO- Proline, Proline, Sarcosine
Free Fatty Acids:
20 have been found of which the most abundant are linolenic acid, palmitic acid, oleic acid
A, B1, B2, B3, C, D
Iron, magnesium, copper, zinc, sodium, potassium, calcium, bismuth, phosphorus, manganese.
Bismuth is known to participate in the processing against gastritis caused by bacteria.
Phosphorus regulates the transmission of neuromuscular chemicals and electrical stimuli. Important for the hemostasis of calcium and the reactions of lipids, carbohydrates, and proteins. The body’s chemical energy is stored in phosphate compounds.
Campesterol, stigmasterol, beta-sitosterol
Alkaloids, Aromatic glucosinolates including:
Benzyl glucosinolate, p-methoxybenzyl glucosinolate. These are responsible for activating hormone regulators located in the brain that in turn regulate the metabolism of calcium and phosphorus in the blood.
benzyl isothiocyanate, p-methoxybenzyl isothiocyanate
Nutritional Profile of Dried Maca Root
(Average 10 gram serving)
|per 10 g||Amino Acids||per 10 g||Minerals||per 10 g|
|Protein||1–1.4 g||Alanine||63.1 mg||Calcium||25 mg|
|Carbohydrates||6–7.5 g||Arginine||99.4 mg||Copper||0.6 mg|
|Fats (lipids)||220 mg||Aspartic acid||91.7 mg||Iron||1.5 mg|
|Fiber||850 mg||Glutamic acid||156.5 mg||Iodine||52 mcg|
|Ash||490 mg||Glycine||68.3 mg||Manganese||80 mcg|
|Sterols||5–10 mg||Histidine||41.9 mg||Potassium||205 mg|
|Calories||32.5||HO-Proline||26.0 mg||Sodium||1.9 mg|
|Isoleucine||47.4 mg||Zinc||380 mcg|
|Vitamins||per 10 g||Lysine||54.5 mg||Fats/Lipids||per 10 g|
|B2||39 mcg||Methionine||28.0 mg||Linoleic||72 mcg|
|B6||114 mcg||Phenylalanine||55.3 mg||Palmitic||52 mcg|
|C||28.6 mg||Proline||0.5 mg||Oleic||24.5 mcg|
|Niacin||565 mcg||Sarcosine||0.7 mg|
So, is Maca a superfood? As I have said it before, I do not believe that there is one food that we can survive on and live off of–our entire diet must work in harmony to improve our health. Not everyone will have access to maca, and, although, no one plant is alike, all having different nutrient profiles, the nutrients found in maca can also be found in other plants. Of course, they might not be all found in the same plant, but each plant has its own super powers. So, if you have access to maca, like I do, I highly recommend it. If you do not, do your best to find a combination of different plants to get the same nutrients you can add to your diet.
Stay tuned for the next post. I will be giving away a pound of high quality organic, raw maca to one of my readers!