What’s Maca Powder Good For?
This is not a fitness supplement as such but it has been considered a super food for a long time and it’s one of those that grew on me very much.
What Is It?
Maca is a plant native to Peru also known as Peruvian Ginseng. It was only discovered in the 1980s, mainly because it is indigenous to high plateaus in the Andes and quite harsh conditions so it’s quite difficult to stumble over.
We usually find it in powdered form but in its natural state it’s actually a root and it can come in different colours (from pale to black) so don’t get confused if the powder does not always look the same. The most common one I have come across was pale yellow.
What Is It Good For?
There is a lot of different benefits that Maca powder is supposed to have so let me tap into the most interesting ones:
This is probably the main condition Maca powder is supposed to help with because this claim comes from traditional medicine and as we know, nature does offer a great deal of beneficial material which locals learned to tap into and use very effectively.
The locals in Peru widely use Maca root for a condition that they call “tired blood” which, in western medicine, is nothing else than Anaemia.
It’s characterized by low levels of haemoglobin (oxygen carrier in blood). That effectively means that the heart needs to work a lot harder to deliver a sufficient amount of oxygen to the tissues that need it (organs, muscles,…), hence the name “tired blood”.
It can have many causes from self – inflicted to genetics.
It’s, however, often caused by bad nutrition – lack of Iron, Copper, B12 or folic acid in the diet or a problem with their absorption.
Iron absorption can be hindered by some substances like:
- Tannins – components in tea
- Polyphenols – components in fruit and vegetables, spices and herbs, tea,…
The fact that these components hinder the absorption does not mean that they are bad for us!!!
It, in no way, means that we shouldn’t consume tea, dairy, fruit and vegetables! Fruit and veg are actually rich in Vitamin C which, guess what, aids to the Iron absorption 🙂 Nature always has a way to balance everything. And strangely enough, 1 teaspoon of Maca contains 30% of RDI (recommended daily intake) of Vitamin C. That’s quite a lot for a teaspoon.
It only means that if you consume these WITH your main iron source, you might not be doing yourself a favour. So I guess adding Maca into a milkshake (milk being the source of Calcium) would be a bit of a waste. A lot of other vitamins and minerals work the same way. For example Calcium is not absorbed properly if our body lacks Vitamin D.
The research regarding Maca to be able to help with Anaemia is still in early stages, however we DO know that Maca contains a fair amount of Iron and even higher amount of Copper. And we know that these two are very important for the health of our blood. We have to make sure that blood can deliver oxygen effectively, especially when we are active!
And I think you should definitely add this product into your diet when you are an active woman! Women lose blood every month (and the Iron with it) because of menstrual cycle and according to British Nutrition Foundation, around 25% of population is low or deficient in Iron. Which is a quarter! On one hand, it’s hard to believe but on the other hand, not really. The food we eat is processed so much that it contains very little nutrients by the time it gets to us.
A lot of people also don’t eat (enough) vegetables. Our diet is so saturated with trans fats and sugars that when we actually go and try eat something that’s natural and healthy, it doesn’t taste right. Children are encouraged to snack on mini pizzas, biscuits and processed pastries rather than fruit and vegetables or unprocessed meats.
I got surprised. I thought this one would be the inconclusive one but apparently a lot of research has been done on this topic 🙂
I found studies from 2002, 2010, 2015, resulting in a positive conclusion. All of them, however, came from the same centre – National Centre for Biotechnology Information. Nevertheless, I do believe it’s a respectable enough source.
These studies were targeted at older adults, especially women going through menopause and the conclusions were definitely worth reading. Maca was also reported to relieve anxiety and depression in this population group so if you belong to this group and suffer from some effects, give it a go. Maca may apparently help with hot flashes and interrupted sleep too, which are very common in menopausal women.
However this will not happen overnight. Some subjects were taking Maca supplement for up to 4 months. But I’d try it anyway. There is nothing to lose. Even if it doesn’t help with this particular problem, it is rich in Copper and Iron and highly nutritious. Also a pouch lasts forever since you only need a teaspoon a day.
A teaspoon contains as much as 30% RDI of Copper which works closely with Iron to maintain healthy blood and blood vessels. Perhaps this is the way Maca helps with the hot flashes.
Improved Performance In Endurance Athletes
There was a study I came across that was done on endurance cyclists. They were taking Maca supplement for 2 weeks and then they were told to complete a 40km bike ride. Apparently their time was improved.
Maca is a very popular supplement among athletes and no wonder. It contains 20g of Carbohydrates per 28g!!! That’s how it increases speed and energy. However, the results are only conclusive in endurance events. It can help with the initial boost in lifting, that’s for sure but as for gaining strength or muscle mass, it has no proven effect.
If you are a runner, rower or cyclist, I’d definitely consider adding Maca in your diet if you are not doing so yet.
Let’s sum up the nutrition here. I have concluded all the information but it’s rather scattered according to the benefits so let’s look at it again.
You can usually find the information per 100g or an ounce (28g) but I will try to convert it for a teaspoon since nobody will consume 100g, or even 28g of powdered root in one go. (Well, at least I hope not).
1 teaspoon (5g) of Maca powder contains:
Energy: 18 kcal
Vitamin C: 30% RDI
Potassium: 5% RDI
Iron: 5% RDI
Copper: 30% RDI
Vitamin B6: 4% RDI
It might not look as much but you have to keep in mind that these values are for a tiny teaspoon.
Should I Start Using Maca?
I have been a user of Maca for a long time and I love to add it to my smoothies. It smells amazing and it adds a different taste to your smoothies. I’d say it sort of enhances the taste. I use it in green smoothies which could sometimes be a little boring. Never again with Maca 🙂
Consider buying Maca if:
- You are very active
- You want to boost your endurance performance
- You eat Carbohydrate rich diet (endurance athlete)
- You want a mood boost
- You want an energy boost and don’t like coffee (the sugar content sure does the trick 🙂
- You are a woman
- You are an active woman 🙂
- You are menopausal
- You suffer from anaemia
- You could use a nudge in sex life 🙂
Don’t bother if:
- You are an inactive man (men don’t suffer from Iron or Copper deficiency as much as women)
- Honestly I can’t think of any other. It’s a fairly affordable product and the pouch lasts forever since you only need a teaspoon to add to your smoothies or porridge.
Where To Buy?
There is so many providers you can buy Maca from and they will also have different nutritional values depending on quality and processing.
You can get loads of different brands on Amazon.
I like Revolution Foods because they have a “no scoop” policy and they are constantly working on sustainability. They also use Gelatinised Maca which means it’s lightly steamed so that the starch is removed and better + quicker digestion is achieved. Gelatinised Maca is also more nutritionally rich.
MyVegan is probably one of the cheapest options and they constantly have a sale on 🙂
Let me know what do you think in comments 🙂