Maca - An Overview of One Of The Latest Superfoods

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Although the maca is now gaining popularity in the western world and is considered as a “superfood”, the maca plant has long been an indispensable food and medicinal source for the Peruvian locals. In fact, there are things that we can learn about the “superfood” maca.

Food Type: Belongs to the Cruciferous Vegetable Group

Scientific Name: Lepidium Meyenii

Origins

The maca plant is a native in Peru where it thrives in an altitude of 9000 to 14000, on top of the Andean mountains where harsh weather conditions and extreme climate exist. The plant has a root that resembles a radish or a turnip and comes in different colors – black, yellow, cream, white and red. Due to the extreme condition, cultivation of the plant is limited.

Uses

It is believed that the ancient Incans use the maca as a source of food and medicine as they believed that the plant contributes to increased energy and strength.

 According to herbalist and member of the advisory board for Gaia Herbs, Mary Bove N.D considers the maca as a functional food as it supports endurance. People who eat the plant live in harsh weather conditions, which puts strain on the body. The maca plant helps these people to adapt and survive.

The different varieties of the maca help one to identify what type of maca to use. The creamy yellow roots are the most common variety and traditionally the leaves are served in salads or food for livestock. The roots are boiled and mashed, one can also steam the young roots as well as blend them for a sweet drink or as a porridge.

Where to Buy

In the US and UK, the maca is available in powder form and added to smoothies or water. It has a bitter taste to it. In Peru, the powder is added to baked goods and since it is abundant in the country, one can shop for baked goods in supermarkets and have the option to buy these goods with or without the maca.

Many holistic companies also sell maca as supplements, for example in powder, tablet or capsule form. For those who are not into smoothies or not interested in the powder form, taking the capsule will ensure that you would obtain all its health benefits. Due to its popularity, other forms of the maca seem to be sprouting up.

Taste

The maca has a bit of starchy and bitter taste to it. Some people also detect a certain sweetness of almost butterscotch note to the maca.

Scott Schreiber, famous chiropractor, nutritionist and acupuncturist noted that each variety has their own phytochemicals that add to the nutritional profile of each, although the base nutrition is the same. He noted that there is some evidence pointing to the therapeutic effects of the maca. Red maca, he said, is the rarest and helps support bone and prostate health.

Maca, he said is an adaptogen, which helps regulate the endocrine system by coping with stressors and changes in the hormone levels without the harmful effects of stimulants such as caffeine. Dr. Josh Axe, a clinical nutritionist said that the maca helps the body’s glands to adapt to conditions by managing the secretion of hormones.

There are other reasons why people take maca. Some would benefit from increase in energy especially those who suffer from chronic fatigue. Others would also benefit from an increase in their immune system’s health, as well as balance out hormonal imbalances. The maca helps the adrenal and thyroid glands to balance and regulate the hormone levels and handle stress levels as well as appetite.

Maca is also currently a subject of several studies and researches particularly when it comes to its effects on women’s health. Research indicates that the plant might be able to help regulate women’s hormonal imbalances by supporting the endocrine system and aid in the production of the adrenal and thyroid hormones. Research shows that maca may help women feel better.

Maca, Dr. Axe notes, is rich in nutrients and minerals, contains potassium, zinc and copper, and is an excellent source of riboflavin, thiamine and magnesium, which, he said, seem to be lacking in today’s American diet.

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