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The Benefits of Maca: How healthy is this wonder plant, really?

maca powder in a bowl and on a metal spoon
Content Editor & Ecotrophologist
Leyla is an ecotrophologist. She writes articles for foodspring about nutrition and healthy living. She also creates free food programs to help you eat healthy.

Said to increase your mood, potency, and athletic performance, maca is regarded as an absolute superfood. Let’s take a look at the claims behind the benefits of maca.

What is maca?

Maca powder is becoming more and more a permanent fixture on supermarket shelves, but what we market as a superfood is a common staple in the Peruvian diet.

The fresh plant’s elongated leaves are often used in salads in Peruvian cuisine, but you won’t find fresh maca here. If you want to find maca, you have to rely on food supplements – maca root powder or capsules are available in most organic supermarkets. In this part of the world, maca root can only be found in this processed form. No wonder: the plant is native to Peru.

The maca plant

At an altitude of 4,000 meters in the Andes, where hardly any other plant grows, maca thrives, which is one reason why it’s considered particularly undemanding.

It’s a cruciferous plant and is related to broccoli, cauliflower, and the like.

Today, not only does it grow in the Andes, but it is also cultivated as a common crop in Peru. Its use can be traced up to 3000 years back.

The root of the plant is what’s processed. After harvesting, the maca root is either traditionally washed and boiled in saltwater or dried and preserved.

Maca powder is produced by grinding the dried root. The root bulb can be red, yellow, or black, and the different colors are associated with different health effects.

Our tip: For proper vitamin and mineral intake you should always eat a balanced diet. If you eat a diverse diet, you hardly need to worry.

infographic of the benefits of maca: has been cultivated in the Peruvian Andes for more than 3,000 years. Contains 10 percent plant-based protein. Fresh maca contains 8x more water than the dried root.

What are the health benefits of maca?

Maca is believed to increase your athletic performance by improving your muscle tone and your athletic stamina. The plant is also said to have a positive effect on fertility and/or potency.

Taking maca may help relieve anxiety, stress, arthritis, and respiratory conditions.

a wooden spoon is filled with a pile of light-brown maca root powder
©foodspring

In other words, the plant is regarded as a real miracle plant.

The German Federal Ministry for Risk Assessment, however, emphasizes that there is not enough research to evaluate the potential health benefits of maca. It also stresses that the source of the plant plays an important role in supposed maca benefits.

Consequently, there are not enough studies on the potential adverse effects of the maca root. Moreover, a large proportion of the studies are animal studies, which are not suitable for making generalized statements.

Maca, like any other food, cannot work miracles. Nevertheless, there is more to this root than science indicates. Let’s take a closer look.

How healthy is maca?

When fresh, the maca root consists of 80% water. After drying, however, the water content shrinks to 10%.

The nutritional values of commercially available organic powder demonstrate that maca may be a reliable source of essential nutrients.

Maca’s Micronutrients

Micronutrient per 100 grams
Carbohydrates 72g
Protein 12g
Fats 1.8g
Calories 388

With approximately 10% protein content, maca’s a really good vegetable protein source. It also provides your body with important omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential fatty acids that your body cannot produce on its own.

These support normal body function and are critical for pushing your body during a workout.

Our white chia seeds are also high in omega-3 fatty acids and a healthy portion of vegetable protein. What’s the difference? Whether used in chia pudding or as a topping on your bowl – these are not capsules, but rather real food.

Image of a bowl of chia seeds next to three flowering sprigs of mint
©foodspring

Maca is also rich in glucosinolates and secondary plant compounds. Additionally, it’s full of iron, iodine, manganese, phosphorus, sulfur, and zinc, and provides calcium and vitamins..

Our summary

  • The maca root is celebrated as a wonder plant
  • Its supposed effects, however, are not sufficiently scientifically proven
  • Nevertheless, it is full of vegetable proteins, omega-3 fatty acids, secondary plant substances, and important micronutrients
  • In this part of the world, you can only take maca extract in powder or capsule form
Article sources
We at foodspring use only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

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