The maca is included within those considered superfoods. Ingredients that, for the most part, can be obtained from vegetables. They offer a good nutritional ratio and also include active compounds that act as antioxidants or energizers.
This herbaceous plant of annual growth is cultivated historically in the area of the Andes, in Peru, and its consumption can be done both fresh and dry.
Although it has always been taken for its nutritional contribution, was part of traditional medicine. Today, with the advancement of medicine and clinical trials, we wanted to test some of its properties and see the potential effects it could have, in combination with current drugs.
Benefits of Maca
We will study the main properties and benefits of maca, from a scientific point of view, contrasting truthful and proven information from clinical trials and studies.
Balanced nutritional composition
Something very interesting when evaluating any food is to check its nutritional composition, since from this base many of its future medicinal effects are born.
Let’s see the composition of nutrients and energy that would give us a tablespoon (28 g) of maca.
- Energy: 91 kcal
- Proteins: 6 %
- Carbohydrates: 20 g
- Fibre: 0 %
- Fats: 1 g
In addition, it includes in its list of properties an important contribution of vitamin C (133% of the recommended daily allowance) and vitamin B6 (15% CDR).
Among the minerals, elements such as potassium (15% RDA), iron (23% RDA), copper (85% RDA) or manganese (10% RDA), among others, stand out.
The important part is the study of functional plant compounds. Those who may have antioxidant activity, improved circulation, hypotensives, etc. In maca we find some of these compounds, especially the polyphenols (antioxidant compounds) and glucosinolates.
May have action on fertility
For many years this superfood has been attributed properties to increase libido in men and women, and even fertility. These claims from traditional medicine have been transferred to modern medicine, where clinical trials have been conducted to give veracity to this fact.
The results have concluded that the use of maca root has direct action on increasing fertility and sperm quality in men. This study was carried out evaluating the quality, mobility and number of sperm in healthy patients, after 4 months of maca intake, obtaining remarkable benefits.
May have antidepressant effect
More and more new organic ways are being sought to fight depression, a silent disease that affects a large number of people in the Western world.
Faced with aggressive drugs, alternatives such as maca are sought, having studied in different clinical trials its potential effect against depression and other mental illnesses.
Several studies have concluded a positive effect of maca, especially in post-menopausal women with mild states of depression.
Can increase energy
The use of maca root powder is a highly coveted food supplement in the sports and fitness world. The initial studies have only been carried out in animals, where a significant increase in the metabolic response to sports activity has been observed, with greater strength, shorter reaction time and energy, in general.
However, there is a lack of scientific evidence to affirm that maca has unique properties in terms of strengthening the muscular system.
Has action against the sun’s rays
Within the world of polyphenols and glucosinolates, There are groups that offer suppressive action of UV rays, which are those that can modify DNA and cause physiological disorders or even skin cancer in humans.
The first clinical trials have been conducted on animals, specifically in rats, finding a positive effect when applied for 3 weeks on the skin, reducing the entry of UV rays in a sun exposure.
Although more information and scientific contrast are lacking, its effects are only beneficial (a priori, in animals) when applied to the skin, not when taken through food or as a food supplement.
May benefit mental activity
At the brain level, the effect of glucosinolates and polyphenols on brain protective activity has been studied, finding significant benefits on their activity.
Current trials have been conducted in animals, where they have found improvements in brain activity by finding faster responses to proposed problems, although this does not mean that the results can be reproduced in humans.
However, it opens a range of possibilities as a food supplement to strengthen memory in stages of studies in children or even when suffering from diseases such as senile dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Side Effects of Maca
As always happens in the world of food supplements or plant products, everything has a possible side effect, and it also happens for maca root.
Only mild allergy effects have been found to some of its polyphenol-based compounds, but they are very isolated cases, so maca is considered a safe food.
These side effects occur most often when consumed fresh, so many herbalists and medical staff recommend boiling it beforehand (even if it loses some of its vitamins).
As for consumption by pregnant women and children, it is recommended to consult the doctor beforehand.