I LOVE Maca!


Freshly harvested maca


I must admit I’m a big maca fan. I was first introduced to this super food more than 15 years ago and have loved it ever since. I’m so pleased when we can use food as medicine and I love to introduce my clients to this amazing food!




What is Maca?

Maca, (Botanical name :Lepidium meyenii) is a Peruvian plant of the Brassica family (which is the same family that cabbages, turnips & watercress belong to). For more than 2000 years, it has been cultivated by the Peruvians and grown exclusively in the central Andes between 4000 and 4500m altitude. Growing in some of the harshest conditions on earth, (this is an inhospitable region of intense sunlight, violent winds and below freezing weather) it has adapted and thrived, being one of the only food crops that can be grown in this region. The edible part of the plant is a small radish-like tuber which grows in the ground. After harvesting it's naturally dried and can be stored for many years. The dried tuber may then be ground into a powder to be used in cooking or as a supplement.



The region in Peru where Maca is grown

Nutrient Rich

The volcanic soil in this region is both 'young' and under-utilised as nothing else grows at this altitude. To say this little vegetable is nutrient rich is an understatement because it really packs a punch - the macronutrient composition of dried maca is approximately 13- 16% protein, 55% carbohydrate, 2.2 % fat and 8.5 % fibre, and is also a rich source of essential amino acids and the minerals silica, iron, potassium, iodine, magnesium and calcium.


Scientific studies

More recently, scientific evidence has indicated that maca also has positive effects on energy levels, fertility-enhancing properties (acting on sexual dysfunctions) osteoporosis, mood, memory and learning, and even help protect skin against ultraviolet radiation. Clinical trials have shown the efficiency of maca on sexual dysfunctions of women and men, as well as increasing sperm count and motility.


When consumed maca works as an adaptogen - An adaptogen is a substance that can help increase the body’s resistance to physical, environmental, emotional or biological stressors, and who doesn't need that kind of help in this Millennium?!


Maca is thought to have a positive effect on energy levels :D


Who can take Maca?

Traditionally maca has been used by all age groups as a food supplement and also for its medicinal properties. In traditional Peruvian herbal medicine, maca is used as an immunostimulant and proscribed in the treatment of anaemia, tuberculosis, menstrual disorders, menopause symptoms, sterility and other reproductive and sexual disorders, as well as to enhance memory.


Because of its amazing nutritional profile maca is a high nutrient food that anyone can consume but I have found it particularly useful for certain groups of individuals such as:

  • Athletes and sportspeople –to increase energy, endurance and stamina.
  • Women – to assist with fertility and menopausal symptoms such as menstrual problems, tiredness, hot flashes & lack of libido
  • Men – to increase energy, libido, fertility and assist with mild erectile dysfunction 
  • Individuals recovering from illness – provides nutritional support and energy boost
  • Vegans- due its high protein and trace element/mineral levels, makes a perfect addition to a vegan diet.

 


See our recipes for these great clean eats that all feature maca


What is the best way to include it in my diet?

The Peruvians prepare maca in many ways, most traditionally, they boil and reconstitute the dried tuber then make a juice from it, and there are many commercial products produced in Peru such as maca jam, juices and even alcoholic beverages. Here in Australia we are able to obtain the dried tuber powder, that is so very easy to use – it can be added to smoothies, juices, sprinkled on breakfast foods or yoghurt or taken in encapsulated form. I personally like to use maca in my morning smoothie, and I love the maca & cacao blend – (link to Maca Smoothie) but I also like to add some maca powder to my paleo baking or to raw treats. Most people find somewhere between a half teaspoon up to a tablespoon a day is a good amount to take as a nutritional supplement – if interested in serving suggestions for a specific health issue, they vary so you may need to seek professional advice from a naturopath.


This month I’ve included my current favourite – Lime and Coconut Maca bars. So if you haven’t tried this super food yet why not give it a go!


Lime & Coconut Maca bars


1-2 tablespoons Maca powder

1 cup cashews (preferably activated, to increase digestibility)

1 cup dates

1/2 cup shredded coconut

3 tablespoons lime zest

2 tablespoons lime juice


Directions:


Place all ingredients in food processor and blend until the mixture is finely chopped, remove the lid and pick up a small piece and roll in the palm of your hands, if it sticks together its ready to form into bars. If still crumbly, it may need further blending or a little moisture. If very dry, turn the food processor on and pour a teaspoon of water through the opening in the top.

Continue adding water as needed until the mixture just sticks together.

When the mixture is ready, press onto baking paper lined tray to about 1 cm thickness, cut into squares or bars and garnish with extra coconut and a thin slice of fresh lime.

Store covered in the fridge until needed- will keep for a week (if you don’t eat them on the first day), otherwise you can freeze individually and take out as required.

 

References: 
Brooks, N., et al. (2008) "Beneficial effects of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on psychological symptoms and measures of sexual dysfunction in postmenopausal women are not related to estrogen or androgen content." 
Menopause. Clement, C., et al.(2010) "Effect of maca supplementation on bovine sperm quantity and quality followed over two spermatogenic cycles." Theriogenology. 
Gonzales, G.,(2012) Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highland. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Hindawi Publishing Corporation 
Gonzales, G. F., et al. (2001)"Lepidium meyenii (maca) improved semen parameters in adult men." Asian J. Androl.) 
Stone, M., et al.(2009) "A pilot investigation into the effect of maca supplementation on physical activity and sexual desire in sportsmen." J Ethnopharmacol. 
Taylor, L.,( 2005) The Healing Power of Rainforest Herb. Square One Publishers NY