Maca root is a superfood that just happens to belong to the same family of antioxidant rich cruciferous vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage – to name just a few. It’s an adaptogen that grows in the high altitude regions of South America.
This superfood has been consumed for hundreds of years by the people of the Andes mountains, but is quickly gaining a reputation throughout North America, Europe, and Asia for its healing properties. Common health benefits include stabilizing hormones, boosting energy and mood, increased brain function, and providing crucial antioxidant support throughout the body.
Keep reading to learn more about what maca root powder can do for you, including health benefits, possible side effects, and to see our list of top recommended brands you should consider purchasing.
Types of Maca
Maca’s color is defined solely by the skin covering the root of the plant. When buying supplements, all maca root powder has a brownish color to it, as the skin is removed before grinding it into powder form.
There are three different colors of maca available:
1. Red Maca: The most rare. A malty tasting variety of maca that some sources say red maca offers more antioxidants – though studies have yet to back this claim conclusively.
2. Black Maca: Nicknamed “Natural Viagra” by several sources, black maca is considered best for balancing male hormones – increasing sex drive and slightly elevating sperm counts in men.
3. Yellow Maca: Yellow maca is the most plentiful and least expensive of the three types. It’s shown to help boost mood in both sexes, while having a moderate effect on fertility in both men and women.
As you’ll learn while reading, each offers similar nutritional profiles, though a few small studies and several personal claims from users show slightly differing benefits from each of the colors.
Strangely, most of the studies completed on humans use maca extract and do not disclose the specific color of maca used, while several studies on mice have tested the three maca colors independently and noted somewhat differing effects on how those colors interact with male and female hormones.
Since no conclusive research exists on the efficacy of one color of maca over the other in humans, this article won’t discuss the purported benefits of using one over the other for specific health benefits such as hormone balancing and sex drive.
Maca Nutritional Profile
Maca is low in calories, high in natural plant-derived energy, a great source of vegetarian protein, and offers a significant dose of essential nutrients.
Every 28 gram serving of maca contains:
• Calories: 91
• Carbs: 20 grams
• Protein: 4 grams
• Fiber: 2 grams
• Fat: 1 gram
• Vitamin C: 133% RDA
• Copper: 85% RDA
• Iron: 23% RDA
• Potassium: 16% RDA
• Vitamin B6: 15% RDA
• Manganese: 10% RDA
Maca Recommended Dosage
Most health experts, like Dr. Josh Axe, recommend consuming between 1 – 20 grams daily of maca root in powdered form. Twenty grams is currently considered the safe upper limit of this superfood, though there are people who take up to 50 grams daily with no adverse effects.
Budget and digestive sensitivity are both factors to consider when determining how much maca you should take. To avoid side effects, always start slow, working up from 1 gram daily in the first week, and taking an additional gram daily per week, before arriving at the safe limit and/or your desired daily dose of maca.
Maca Root Benefits
1. Vegetarian Protein Source
At nearly 18% protein content, maca is a great source of animal-free protein. It contains eight out of nine essential aminos. Amino acids are the building blocks of life including building cells and initiating a number of metabolic processes.
Very few plant sources contain this many essential aminos outside a few select sources. Even though the subject of essential aminos and the lack thereof in vegetarian diets is becoming more and more of a subject for debate in recent years.
2. Loaded with antioxidants
Maca contains a number of essential antioxidants including B vitamins, vitamin C, selenium, and manganese. While many of us have heard about the importance of antioxidant vitamins in the human diet, mineral co-factors like selenium and manganese are rarely discussed.
A variety of co-factors are used by the body as antioxidants and as critical building blocks in our immune system. Manganese and selenium work in conjunction with several B vitamins, vitamin’s C and E, zinc, and alpha lipoic acid to assist in the formation of glutathione and SOD (Super-Oxide Dismutase).
Both are considered major disease fighters in the body and, glutathione in particular is a blood marker that’s used to estimate a person’s longevity (ie., low levels of this and SOD indicate elevated levels of oxidation, poor cholesterol balance, and lowered immune system function).
3. Mood and Energy enhancer
Maca contains loads of flavonoids. Flavonoids are yellowish pigments that give variety of plants their distinctively bright color. These plant compounds have been labeled as an antioxidant cure-all for everything bad that happens in the human body.
Science believes flavonoid content may be the reason so many people feel an elevation in mood after consuming maca root powders and extracts. This study along with several others have showed a marked improvement in mood – a reduction in depression symptoms and a boost in serum serotonin levels – in menopausal and post-menopausal women.
4. Libido and Fertility booster
Maca’s libido-boosting benefits are the main reason most men and women around the world take this superfood. There are many theories as to why, but studies have yet to point to a specific ingredient responsible for the hormone balancing and libido boosting effects of maca.
Maca has shown the most benefit to women in boosting libido, with black maca posting a close second in efficacy to red in most women’s opinions. Black maca has shown to improve male sperm count, as well as boosting libido, even though no changes have been reported to male hormone levels (ie., testosterone) in the studies performed to date.
4. Balances female hormones
Maca has shown promise in balancing estrogen levels in women, and it does so not by boosting estrogen, but rather by balancing adrenal and thyroid hormones. This effect has been noted mostly in women entering into, or who’ve already finished menopause, but research on animals has shown the superfood to work on female test subjects of all ages.
More studies need to be completed, but this plant root has proved itself very effective in reducing the occurrence and severity of hot flashes, and the ability to improve adrenal and thyroid function – two processes that are often severely hampered during menstruation and menopause.
5. Balances male hormones
This is yet another maca benefit that doesn’t have much actual science to back it up. Still, maca is highly regarded as an “adaptogen.” Adaptogens work equally well in men and women to balance sexual and non-sexual hormones. Despite the claims you’ll hear elsewhere, no evidence exists to indicate maca can boost the male sex hormone, testosterone. It does, nevertheless help to balance all hormones in the male body including the thyroid and adrenals.
This hormone balancing effect also helps to balance cholesterol and lipid levels, lower blood sugar and insulin, and reduce serum estrogen levels in males. Some men take maca for muscle building purposes, though there’s no science to back up its use as an anabolic stimulant.
6. Increased mental clarity
Nearly everyone who takes maca claims to enjoy better clarity of mind and increased cognition. There’s no scientific evidence supporting this maca benefit, but how can thousands of users worldwide be wrong? Students take it to help them study, professionals use maca daily for the increased physical and mental boost it offers.
It’s widely believed that the abundance of flavonoids in maca are responsible for the increase in mental clarity people of both sexes enjoy. Recent testing shows a correlation between increased flavonoid consumption and lower incidence of dementia in old age, including Alzheimer’s.
Maca Root Side Effects
There are many sources online that list numerous ill effects of consuming maca, such as iron toxicity, low energy, and hot flashes in post-menopausal women.
There are actually few side effects that can be proved other than gastrointestinal upset in sensitive people, and maca’s possible ability to counteract the effects of prescription hormone altering drugs.
For instance, hypo and hyperthyroidism suffers may notice negative side effects such as goiter flareups when combining thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) or antithyroid medications (hyperthyroidism).
In general, if you have diagnosed or suspected hormone issues that require medications to achieve balance in the body, consult your doctor or healthcare practitioner before starting maca.
Best Maca Supplements
1. Kiva Organic Maca Powder
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Kiva Organic offers up this 1 pound bag of raw, non-GMO maca powder at a very reasonable price. The company only sources its maca from local organic farmers who use sustainable practices to grow their maca.
No heat extraction methods are used when breaking down Kiva Organic maca into powder form, to protect from degradation of the antioxidant compounds found within.
This fine powder supplement can be added to anything including coffee, smoothies, soups, sprinkled atop food, or as a baking additive.
2. The Maca Team’s Gelatinized Black Maca Root Powder
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This gelatinized black maca powder from the Maca Team is precooked to dissolve the fine starches found in raw products.
While many of you may prefer an unadulterated product, some people don’t respond well to plant starches and need a gelatinized product to ease digestive discomfort.
Though the price might seem a tad high, the end product is actually more potent. It takes 4 pounds of raw maca root to make 1 pound of this finished product.
3. NaturaLife Labs Organic Maca Root Capsules
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If pure powdered maca doesn’t tempt your fancy, no worries, you can still get the health benefits in very palatable capsule form! NatureLife Labs markets these 950mg capsules as the most potent available.
Capsules are a must for people who don’t like the subtle taste of most maca powders out there. Each capsule contains a mixture of all 3 colors of maca (red, black, yellow) and those who’ve used this brand claim the benefits to be above all the competition.
Not surprising, many who use it claim this product to be superior for increasing mood and libido – in both sexes!
Maca is widely viewed as the best natural way to enhance libido in men and women equally. The possibilities are endless with maca.
This affordable superfood’s ability to restore and balance hormone levels, increase energy, boost antioxidant function, along with several other purported health benefits, make it a big time winner if you’re looking for a natural way to increase health and vitality.
Considering how affordable maca is, and it’s low incidence of side effects, there’s virtually no risk to taking it when compared to other popular health supplements.