Maca “Ancient Peruvian Super Food”
Maca is an herb native of the high Andes of Bolivia and Peru for thousands of years. Maca is a member of the cruciferous family of plants. The plant is considered a member of the species Lepidium meyenii; it is a distant relative of the tuberous root vegetable radish. The Maca plant produces leaves that grow close to the ground and the plant produces a small, off-white flower.
Maca root was first observed by a German Botanist back in 1843 but has been more recently recognized and studied by Peruvian biologist Gloria Chacon de Popivici, Ph.D. Maca grows at an elevation of approximately 11,000-15,000 feet making it likely the highest altitude food-herb crop in the world.
The root grows well only in cold climates with relatively poor agricultural soils, areas where few other crops can be grown. Although mostly cream in color, there are also red and black Maca varieties, the Peruvian cream color being the sweetest in taste and size.
Archeological data has shown us that Maca was domesticated over 2,000 years ago by the predecessors of the Incan people. Many indigenous inhabitants of the Andes, still view Maca as a valuable commodity.
The Maca root has been used over the ages for its nutritional and herbal qualities. Once harvested, the Maca root was traditionally dried, then powdered. Once powdered it was either eaten or put into sacks and traded for other commodities. Maca was used as money by ancient indigenous peoples.
For thousands of years, Maca has been known as a powerful strength and libido enhancer.
Maca is a powerful adaptogen, which means it has the ability to balance and stabilize the body’s cardiovascular, nervous, musculature and lymphatic systems. Maca has the ability to provide more energy if it is needed, but without over- stimulating the body’s systems. Adaptogens also boost immunity and increase the body’s overall vitality; this is why the Maca root is so well received in the past and present.
According to Peruvian biologist Gloria Chacon de Popivici, Ph.D., Maca alkaloids act primarily on the hypothalamus-pituitary axis and the adrenals. She has theorized that by activating these endocrine glands, Maca is able to increase energy, vitality, and libido. In addition, Maca improves our memory and blood oxygenation. Maca’s actions on sexual function are better researched than its effects on mood and memory. One study showed that Maca increased fertility in rats. I look forward to seeing more studies in this area in the near future but for now, I feel that the high density of this superfood is what provides the improvement in this area.
Maca is dense in nutrition, providing high-quality vitamins and minerals.
Dried Maca powder is commonly available and contains 60% carbohydrates, 9% fiber, and 10% protein or higher. It has a high lipid profile for a root plant: linoleic acid, palmitic acid, and oleic acid are the primary fatty acids.
Maca is rich in calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur, iron, and contains trace minerals, including zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, manganese and silica, as well as vitamins B1, B2, C and E. Maca contains nearly 20 amino acids and seven essential amino acids. Maca is also a rich source of sterols and is higher in protein and fiber than other root vegetables.
Are there any side effects or interactions to overeating Maca?
In toxicity studies conducted in the U.S., Maca showed absolutely no toxicity or any concerning adverse pharmacological effects. Maca should be used in balance and moderation with other natural foods. Maca comes in the form of a dried powder and has gained popularity in the US and in Europe.
It is best to consume Maca in an organic root powder form.
You may use a tablespoon or more of this powder in any natural beverage or food such as smoothies, teas, yogurts, puddings, broths, juices, coffees, homemade chocolates, oatmeal, muffins, cookies, and bread. Maca provides nice flavor to pies and pie crusts. It is also a great emulsifier in foods bringing texture, richness and a very nice consistency.
Maca is a powerful super-food and should be consumed in moderation. Up to two tablespoons a day is a good start and, like every herb, I always suggest taking a break from it for a week after about a month of consumption.
Paul E DiPrizito, aka Paul E, is a writer, researcher, inventor, and coach in many areas of health, nutrition, organization, and efficient lifestyles. He has published several articles and books over the years such as I am? And the Italian cookbook Pass the Italian Bread. His most recent Chia Seeds: An Interview with Researcher William Anderson was just released on July 1st, 2011 and has a wealth of information on Chia seeds.
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