Top 5 health benefits of maca root
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 root?
Maca root 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.
Health benefits of maca root may include:
1. Enhanced fertility
2. Relief from hot flushes and other menopause symptoms
3. Improve mood
4. Increase sports performance
5. Improve memory and brain function
Nutritional benefits of maca root powder
A teaspoon (5g) of maca root powder contains:
- 16 kcals / 69 kJ
- 0.5g protein
- 0.04g fat
- 3g carbohydrates
- 0.9g fibre
- 17.5mg calcium
How to use maca powder
Blitz into smoothies, add to homemade energy balls or sprinkle on porridge for an energising start to your day. The caramel-like flavour also works when baked into flapjacks and other wholesome sweet treats.
What is the recommended dose of maca?
The average dose for adults is 1,500-3,000 mg. It should be taken with food.
What are the 5 top health benefits of maca root?
1. May improve libido and sexual function
2. May relieve the symptoms of menopause
Some studies suggest maca root 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 root 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 root powder 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.
Overall, is maca root good for you?
Maca root can be a beneficial addition to your diet if you're looking to improve sports performance, lift your mood, enhance memory or even improve libido. Interestingly, studies also suggest it may be used to combat menopause symptoms, making it a natural remedy for women approaching menopause.
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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.
All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.