Top 5 health benefits of maca
Maca root is rich in minerals, but does it deserve its supposed 'superfood' status? Registered nutritionist Nicola Shubrook discusses the benefits and potential side effects of maca powder.
What is maca?
Maca is derived from the root of a cruciferous vegetable native to Peru, and is related to broccoli, cauliflower and kale. The root, which is the edible part of the vegetable, looks similar to a cross between a parsnip and radish, with green, leafy tops. It's typically consumed as a ground powder.
Nutritional benefits of maca powder
A teaspoon (5g) of maca powder contains:
- 16 kcals / 69 kJ
- 0.5g protein
- 0.04g fat
- 3g carbohydrates
- 0.9g fibre
- 17.5mg calcium
What are the 5 top health benefits of maca powder?
1. May improve libido and sexual function
2. May relieve the symptoms of menopause
Some studies suggest maca may relieve menopausal symptoms including hot flushes, night sweats and poor sleep.
Research to date is limited, but of the studies that have been done, one small trial in 2015 also reported improvements in blood pressure and depression when consuming maca powder over a period of just 12 weeks. Further studies support these findings, with improvements reported in anxiety, depression and sexual dysfunction.
3. May lift mood
Studies suggest maca may lift mood and improve quality of life scores.
4. May boost energy and sports performance
5. May improve memory and aid learning
Is maca safe for everyone?
A typical 3-5g dose (about a level teaspoon per day) is considered safe for most people, with no apparent side effects.
However, some people should exercise caution. These include those with a thyroid condition who are advised to minimise cruciferous vegetables such as maca. This is because this family of vegetables contains substances known as goitrogens, which may interfere with normal thyroid function.
Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should check with their doctor before consuming maca. If you are considering any major dietary changes or intend to supplement your diet, please consult your GP or registered dietician to ensure you may do so without risk to your health.
Maca powder recipes
This article was reviewed on 4 February 2021 by Kerry Torrens.
Nicola Shubrook is a nutritional therapist and works with both private clients and the corporate sector. She is an accredited member of the British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy (BANT) and the Complementary & Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC). Find out more at urbanwellness.co.uk.
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