Maca is the health ‘buzz word’ that seems to be on everyone’s lips at the moment, but is it just the latest health craze, or has it gained its increasing superfood status for very good reason? In my opinion, definitely the latter! Even though we may only be hearing about maca, and its multitude of health benefits, fairly recently, it is no newbie to the natural health scene, having actually been used for its medicinal properties for thousands of years. Commonly the maca we see available today is in a powdered form, however it is actually a type of cruciferous vegetable native to the Andes of Peru, with green tops and roots, and with an appearance not too dissimilar to radishes and turnips, and it is this root, that after being harvested, is ground down to form a fine, easy to use powder. One of the very exciting things about maca, is that it is an ‘adaptogen’ – and if you know me, or have ever been to one of my talks, adaptogens are something I get super excited about and frequently recommend, as they help and assist the body to adapt naturally to stressors, such as hectic work schedules, busy home lives, and city everyday living – very helpful in today’s modern society! But as well as being a superstar adaptogen, maca has lots of other wonderful health benefiting properties that make this little modest vegetable a true heavyweight in the natural health field…

  1. May increase energy and enhance mood – regularly consuming maca may help you to feel a boost in energy levels and alertness, and may even help to improve overall mood, with a 2015 study showing a potential link between maca intake and reduced symptoms of depression (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24931003). It is believed that because maca may work to prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes, and support our often overworked adrenal glands, which regulate energy and mood, it may have an overall positive effect on how we feel.
  2. Rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals – maca is a natural antioxidant booster, helping to fight harmful free radicals within the body and prevent damage at cellular level (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25037390). It is also a great source of B vitamins, including B12, B1, and B2, and is rich in vitamins C and E, and in important minerals such as zinc, calcium, iron, and magnesium. Maca also contains a high level of protein, and this, as well as being rich in B12, means it could be a beneficial addition to vegetarian and vegan diets.
  3. May help to balance female sex hormones – an imbalance of female sex hormones can contribute to a whole host of symptoms, from mood issues, to irregular cycles, to changes in body composition, to fertility issues, and it has been shown that adding maca to the diet could help to balance hormone levels, as well regulate the amount of eostrogen within the body. Because of these hormone balancing actions, maca could also be beneficial in relieving symptoms associated with menopause, such as hot flashes and night sweats (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3614644/).
  4. Could give your immune system a boost – as well as being an adaptogen, and sporting a high density of important, powerful nutrients, both of which offer very beneficial effects for the immune system, maca also increases the production of natural antibodies that help to detect and destroy foreign invaders and pathogens that may cause infection (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26883006).
  5. Rich in bone supporting nutrients – including maca in your diet could help to increase and support overall bone density and strength, as it contains many important bone nourishing and supporting minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and copper. Regular intake may help to keep osteoporosis at bay as age increases, and could be beneficial for menopausal and post-menopausal women, as the decrease in oestrogen that naturally occurs can significantly affect bone mineral density (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378874105008329).

Turmeric, maca, and cacao energy balls For a simple, but absolutely delicious maca recipe, try out these nutrient and antioxidant packed energy balls. Chocolatey, nutty, with a hint of sweetness and spice – the perfect mid-afternoon pick me up. (makes approx. 20 balls)

  • 12 Medjool dates
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 2 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 3 tablespoons maca powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Crushed goji berries, desiccated coconut, and ground walnuts (for rolling)

Remove the pits from the dates and roughly chop. Add them to a food processor, along with all the other ingredients, and blend until a thick and sticky mixture begins to form. Check the consistency by pinching some in between your fingers, and if it keeps its shape when rolled, the mixture is good to go. If the texture is dry and crumbly, add a tablespoon of water, blend again, and then check the consistency. Scoop out the mixture with a spoon and roll into small balls. Roll each ball in the crushed goji berries, the ground walnuts, or the desiccated coconut to finish.