Lepidium meyenii, also known as Peruvian ginseng or simply maca, is an age-old crop with incredible nutritional and medicinal properties. Do you know what these benefits are? Have you ever consumed maca?
Many different health-promoting effects are linked with the regular consumption of the maca root. It acts as a powerful energiser, improves sexual function and reproductive health, reduces the incidence of depression, prevents osteoporosis and attenuates the symptoms of menopause. These are just some of the benefits that you’ll learn more about in our guide on this marvellous plant.
- 1 Key Facts
- 2 Ranking: The best maca supplements on the market
- 3 Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about maca supplements
- 3.1 What is maca exactly?
- 3.2 What nutrients are found in maca?
- 3.3 How does maca contribute to my health?
- 3.4 What does maca taste like?
- 3.5 How should I consume maca?
- 3.6 How many varieties of maca are there?
- 3.7 Is it true that maca can increase fertility?
- 3.8 Can maca help me lose weight?
- 3.9 Is maca a natural energiser?
- 3.10 Can maca increase sexual desire?
- 3.11 Why is maca recommended during the menopausal stage?
- 3.12 Are there contraindications to the use of maca root?
- 3.13 Is maca beneficial for athletes?
- 4 What type of maca is the right one for me?
- 5 Shopping Criteria
- 6 Summary
- Found in the Peruvian Andes, maca can grow at altitudes superior to 4,000 metres above sea level. Archaeological discoveries have demonstrated that its root has been consumed for nutritional and medicinal purposes since pre-Incan times.
- This superfood has been used to increase energy level, improve physical endurance, enhance fertility and attenuate menopausal symptoms. According to its nutritional profile, maca is a source of carbohydrates, proteins, fibre, potassium, calcium,, iron and vitamin B3.
- The root of this plant was originally consumed fresh or dried. Today, the majority of users add it to their diet in the form of dietary supplements in powder, capsules or tablets.
Ranking: The best maca supplements on the market
The Australian market is filled with different maca brands, concentrations and presentation forms; this means that choosing the right supplement isn’t always a walk in the park. In the following section, we’ve ranked the very best maca root supplements available right now to help you choose the best product for your needs.
No. 1: TheHealthyTree Company Maca Blend Powder[amazon box=”B07CL4LYT8″ description_items=”0″]
TheHealthyTree Company is a small UK-based company, whose main goal is to provide you with innovative products that will contribute to your health and overall well-being. And a health boost is exactly what you’ll get with this 250-gram pack of maca powder. Its high content in several vitamins and minerals will provide great benefits on different levels.
It will increase your vitality and energy, while helping you relieve stress with just 10 to 15 grams a day. This 100% organic maca powder is a blend of the three main types: yellow, red and black maca. This product is non-GMO and is suitable for vegan individuals. Past customers have praised the quality and great taste of this supplement.
No. 2: Swisse Ultiboost High Strength Maca Tablets[amazon box=”B07BF62JWW” description_items=”0″]
Swisse is a brand from Melbourne that specialises in delivering quality vitamins and supplements for our health, and their Ultiboost line of products includes everything you need from liver detox to these high strength maca tablets. Designed to contribute to a good sexual health, these tablets will also combat overall ageing.
While these supplements are vegan-friendly, please that the manufacturer cannot guarantee that this product has not come into contact with gluten during processing. Each pack contains 60 tablets, and the recommended daily dose is one tablet during or right after a meal.
[amazon box=”B00KAVWTQ2″ description_items=”0″]
Navitas Organics is a Californian company that produces superfoods to give you a boost in life – as a matter of fact, the name itself means ‘energy’ in Latin. This pack of 227 grams gelatinised maca powder, and it is certified organic by the USDA. You can easily blend it into any number of food preparations to reap all its benefits.
Are you wondering what gelatinised mean? This simply means that the starch has been removed from the powder, therefore facilitating the digestion. This is a big plus, considering eating raw maca can sometimes lead to stomach upsets. This product is both suitable for vegan and gluten-intolerant individuals.
No. 4: Bioglan Organics Maca Tablets[amazon box=”B01HXUJYQ0″ description_items=”0″]
Bioglan is an English brand of dietary supplements tailored for the whole family. This pack of 100 tablets of maca provides you with approximately one month of supplements, as the manufacturer recommends taking 1 tablet three times per day.
This product offers great value for money, and it is also suitable for vegan people. According Bioglan, the maca is 100% organic and the tablets are gluten-free.
No. 5: Powder Super Foods Organic Maca Powder[amazon box=”B07H4JJNC8″ description_items=”0″]
Power Super Foods is an Australian-owned health foods company. They strive to bring the very best functional foods to Australia. All their products have received the ACO (Australian Certified Organic) certification, which means you’re buying top quality without putting your health at risk.
This product packs 250 grams of maca powder to incorporate into your daily eating routine and benefit from this incredible plant. A quick tip from the manufacturer? This powder tastes particularly good in milk-based blends like yoghurt and cereals or smoothies.
Shopping Guide: Everything you should know about maca supplements
In the following section, we did our best to answer the most frequent questions that consumers ask themselves regarding maca root. You’ll find out more about the benefits, properties, uses and contraindications of this supplement.
What is maca exactly?
This plant, whose scientific name is Lepidium meyenii, grows at over 4,000 metres of altitude in the Peruvian Andes, in adverse environmental conditions that include low temperatures, drought and strong sunlight. The part that can be consumed is the root (or hypocotyl), which resembles a large radish.
Several different varieties of maca exist, which are identified according to the external colour of the root. The yellow, red and black maca are the types providing most health benefits. On top of its incredible nutritional composition, maca is used as a supplement because it helps improve your well-being and prevent and/or treat various health conditions.
What nutrients are found in maca?
The maca root can be eaten raw, but its very spicy taste makes it little liked by its users. This is why maca powder is made by drying the root in the sun or with the help of a dehydrator. The following list details the nutritional composition of 100 grams of dried maca root:
- Carbohydrates: 54-60 grams. Black maca has a higher carbohydrate content (about 70%).
- Dietary fibre: 8 grams
- Lipids: 1 gram
- Proteins: 10 grams
- Minerals: iron (14.7 milligrams), calcium (250 milligrams), potassium (2050 milligrams), zinc (3.8 milligrams) and copper (5.9 milligrams)
- Vitamins: Vitamin B3 (niacin): 43 milligrams
How does maca contribute to my health?
The first settlers of Peru had knowledge of the medicinal properties of this plant, generally using it to improve female fertility and promote the physical capacity of their warriors. Written records dating back to the time of the Spanish conquest evidence these benefits.
Here are the scientifically proven benefits of maca that we know today:
- It increases our energy level and provides a generalised feeling of revitalisation
- It increases both female and male fertility
- It decreases the risk of developing osteoporosis
- It mitigates menopausal symptoms
- It has a powerful antioxidant and anti-ageing action. We get sick and grow old when our body is oxidised by the damage of free radicals.
- It protects our skin from damage caused by exposure to solar radiation
- It acts as an adaptogen, promoting the restoration of our body’s balance in stressful situations
- It improves our physical capacity and increases athletes’ performance
- It increases insulin sensitivity and normalises blood glucose levels (the levels of sugar in our blood)
What does maca taste like?
The taste of this plant truly depends on the variety. Yellow maca tends to have a stronger taste, somewhat spicy and bitter. That being said, most users have noted getting used to the taste over time. If you want to improve the taste, you can mix it with cocoa, banana, chocolate, coffee, almond milk, dates, cinnamon or cow milk.
Red maca is the sweetest and softest tasting, while black maca is slightly bitter.
How should I consume maca?
First of all, please remember to stick to the dose recommended by the manufacturer of the supplement. Secondly, you are encouraged to gradually increase your consumption of maca powder. Start off with one teaspoon a day for the first week, moving on to two teaspoons daily during the second week, and finally reaching three teaspoons per day.
You can either dissolve your maca powder in drinks (such as water, milk, tea, milkshakes, juices, coffee), yoghurt or soups, or you can mix it with your cereals, granola (a preparation based on oats, raisins and almonds) or your doughs for biscuits, cookies, pancakes or waffles.
Capsule supplements should be taken during meals – breakfast or lunch – with just a sip of water. Taking maca at nighttime isn’t recommended, as it can lead to insomnia or difficulties sleeping.
How many varieties of maca are there?
There are over ten different varieties of this plant; however, as we mentioned earlier, the red, black and yellow maca are the ones offering great benefits for human health.
Is it true that maca can increase fertility?
Yes, this is actually one of the most studied therapeutic effects of the plant. When it comes to female fertility, maca doesn’t increase the number of eggs produced per cycle, nor does it increase the rate of implantation of the fertilised egg. However, studies carried out on female mice has demonstrated that it increased the number of offspring and reduced the risk of embryonic death.
As for men, the regular consumption of maca root has been associated with positive effects on spermatogenesis, increasing the quantity of sperms and their mobility.
Can maca help me lose weight?
No. No studies have proven a correlation between maca consumption and weight loss. Sometimes, when a food demonstrates great health benefits, we bestow magical properties upon it or see it a jack-of-all-trades that can solve all our issues.
The reality is that maca cannot help you lose weight.
Is maca a natural energiser?
Yes, this plant is a powerful natural energiser. Human studies have shown greater physical performance and less fatigue. One of the first changes Maca consumers experience is feeling more energetic and vital.
Can maca increase sexual desire?
Human studies have proven that maca increases sexual desire in both men and women. An increase in libido was observed within 8 weeks of sedentary or moderately active men taking this supplement. For athletes, sexual desire increased after approximately 2 weeks of maca consumption.
The dry extract of maca can have a significantly positive effect on mild erectile dysfunction. Two clinical trials were carried out, both suggesting that maca may also increase libido in healthy women of menopausal age. That being said, do not let yourself be tricked by misleading ads that claim that maca is a “natural viagra”.
Why is maca recommended during the menopausal stage?
Ob-Gyn and women’s health expert Anna Cabeca says: “The consumption of maca has been shown to balance hormone levels while alleviating symptoms of menopause such as night sweats and hot flashes.”
When oestrogen levels decrease during this biological stage, this drastically increases your risk of developing osteoporosis. Several studies have proven that red maca can prevent bone loss without the adverse effects of hormone replacement therapy (breast and endometrial cancer).
Maca also contributes to countering hormonal imbalances that happen during menopause, and relieves hot flushes, fatigue and vaginal dryness.
Are there contraindications to the use of maca root?
The consumption of maca has been proven to be safe and almost harmless. The studies that have been carried out to check its toxicity or negative side effects have concluded that high doses of maca are safe. That being said, it is strongly encouraged to respect the doses recommended by the manufacturers to avoid putting your health at risk. Here are groups who should be careful with maca consumption:
- Individuals suffering from a serious illness and/or taking chronic medication. Do not take any supplement without checking with your doctor first.
- Pregnant and lactating women should not take maca. No studies have guaranteed the safety of this supplement during the aforementioned biological states.
- Individuals with renal or hepatic insufficiency should avoid maca use, nor people suffering from insomnia.
- People with thyroid disorders. Consult your endocrinologist before taking maca, as it may lead to hormonal imbalances.
- People with a sensitive stomach may benefit from consuming maca in gelatine form. The digestion is faster and easier.
Note that certain individuals have experienced mild side effects during the first few days of use. These include stomach pain, nausea, insomnia, nervousness, dizziness, flatulence, rashes and abdominal swelling. See a doctor if these discomforts persist over time.
Is maca beneficial for athletes?
This natural supplement is indeed widely recommended for athletes, especially those practicing endurance activities, such as marathon runners and cyclists. Studies carried out on football players and cyclists have proven that daily consumption of maca improves physical performance and delays the time from the onset of physical activity until athletes begin to experience fatigue.
Studies conducted on mice have shown that black maca could increase physical performance by 500%.
What type of maca is the right one for me?
As you already now, different types of maca exist, and they come in various presentation forms. We’ll now have a look at the differences between each maca supplement to help you make the most suitable decision based on your needs and preferences.
Types of maca
We mentioned earlier that three varieties (or ecotypes) of maca were used to manufacture supplements: yellow (or golden), red and black. While nutritional composition doesn’t change drastically from one type to the other, the biological properties do. The most common variety is yellow or golden maca.
|Type of maca||Benefits|
|Yellow/Golden||More energy, less fatigue, better mood, support of fertility and increase in libido. It reduces menopausal discomfort.|
|Red||It contributes to the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia, delays ageing with its antioxidant properties, prevents osteoporosis and bone fractures.|
|Black||It promotes the production of spermatozoa (spermatogenesis), improves physical endurance, promotes learning and memory. It also helps normalising blood glucose in diabetic individuals and improves insulin sensitivity.|
You should know that these three maca ecotypes grow in very similar environmental conditions, in spite of the differences of their biological properties. While the external colour of the root is what determines the name of the maca (yellow, red or black), the powder obtained after grinding is always beige, lighter or darker depending on the type.
Types of maca supplements
Maca supplements come in two different presentation forms:
- Powder (also called maca flour): Once harvested, the root is dried in the sun for 10 to 15 days. It is then cut into smaller pieces, each of these parts is dehydrated through exposure to temperatures no higher than 45°C. The dehydrated maca is ground into an ultrafine powder.
- Capsules or tablets: Capsules and tablets also contain maca powder. They are coated with vegetable cellulose (hydroxypropylmethylcellulose). Capsules tend to have a mild, practically neutral taste and should be taken with a glass of water. Note that certain manufacturers also integrate other nutrients into these capsules, such as vitamin B12 or L-arginine. These contribute to enhancing the effects of maca.
There are plenty of maca supplements available on the Australian market right now, and the one that’s just right for you is amongst them. In the following section, we’ve detailed some of the key aspects to consider when you’re looking for this superfood gem:
- Desired effect
- Ease of consumption
- Recommended daily dose
- Allergens and certifications
The results you are looking for ultimately determine which maca type you should opt for. If you are interested in this supplement for an energy boost, to alleviate menopausal discomforts or to increase sex drive, any variety will do just fine: yellow, red or black. That being said, keep in mind that yellow maca is the most affordable, and therefore the most budget-friendly option.
On the other hand, men looking to improve their fertility will be most interested in black maca, as this variety stimulates the production of spermatozoa. This type of maca is also particularly useful for individuals wanting to improve their physical endurance, such as marathon runners or cyclists.
The most suitable for women of menopausal or postmenopausal age is red maca, as it helps to alleviate the symptoms of this biological stage, while preventing osteoporosis. Individuals suffering from diabetes and/or insulin resistance should opt for black maca. Students looking to improve their intellectual performance will also greatly benefit from this type.
Maca capsules are virtually tasteless, making them ideal for people who want to reap the benefits of this superfood but don’t like its taste. The peculiar flavour of maca will depend on the variety. Here are some of the best ingredients to combine maca with: coffee, cocoa, banana, almond milk, cow milk or cinnamon.
The cost effectiveness of maca powder makes it a more affordable option than capsules. As we mentioned earlier, yellow maca is the most budget-friendly variety, while red maca and black maca are sold at a similar price.
|Yellow maca||Red maca||Black maca|
Ease of consumption
Here is yet another key aspect to consider before making your purchase. Maca capsules are easy to consume with just a little bit of water to ease swallowing. You can also slip them in your bag and have them with you anywhere you go.
Maca powder, on the other hand, will need to be mixed with some liquid (water, milk, juice, yoghurt, plant-based drink or milkshake). You can also sprinkle it on your cereals or integrate it in different preparations (pancakes, biscuits or waffles). Note that this will require a little more time and planning.
Recommended daily dose
Most maca capsule manufacturers try to concentrate the active ingredients of this superfood in order to reduce the dosage to a single intake per day. In other cases, you may need to take two to three capsules daily.
The recommended dose of maca powder is 1 to 3 teaspoons per day, which you can easily blend into a pancake or a milkshake.
Allergens and certifications
You are strongly encouraged to buy organically produced maca powder supplements; that is to say, no agrochemicals or artificial additives have been involved in its cultivation or processing. Otherwise, the supplement may be contaminated with toxic residues.
Gluten-intolerant individuals can consume maca, but they should still look for the seal that indicates it is gluten-free. This is because some products may have been contaminated with traces of wheat, oats, barley or rye during grinding.
|Shopping criterion||Maca powder||Maca capsules|
|Ease of consumption||It must be mixed with drinks, cereals or other such preparations.||You can take them with water.|
|Flavour||Peculiar. You may have to combine it with coffee, chocolate, banana, cinnamon or dates to improve the taste.||Neutral|
|Recommended daily dose||3 to 9 grams (1 to 3 teaspoons)||1 to 3 capsules|
|Allergens/certifications||Look for the seal of organic production (or organic food) and gluten-free||Check the gluten-free and organic production certifications|
|Price||More affordable||More expensive|
Maca is a millennia-old food that has proven to have many positive effects on various aspects of our health, as well as providing a general energising and revitalising feeling. Science and tradition have beautifully come together to develop a supplement that can truly contribute to improving your health and wellness.
Throughout our article, we have delved into the different maca varieties, its biological properties, nutritional content, uses, forms of consumption, side effects and contraindications.
As we mentioned earlier you should choose the right supplement for your needs if you want to enjoy all the benefits of this root. You’ll also have to turn maca intake into a daily habit, without disregarding recommended doses. Remember that excesses never serve your health on the long run.
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(Source of featured image: Uliasz: 28099410/ 123rf.com)