Ever heard of maca? Showing up on menus around the globe, this is one trend to keep an eye on. Maca grows wild at high elevations in Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, and Argentina and now continues gaining popularity in U.S. cuisine. A relative of the radish, maca often appears a brilliant yellow color with an odor similar to butterscotch. A member of the Brassica family, maca contains similar health benefits to other cruciferous veggies but is also known for its potential for boosting libido and aiding in fertility. I’m here to explore the food trend Maca with you today!
Aside from showing up on menus around the world as a nutritious ingredient, maca is used to for many health conditions from anemia to chronic fatigue syndrome and enhancing energy, athletic performance, and even memory. It is best known for aiding in female hormone imbalance, enhancing fertility in men and women, for sexual dysfunction associated with antidepressant use, menopausal symptoms, and to boost libido. For these therapeutic effects, you’ll find maca in supplement form – in powders and pills. Keep in mind that most research on maca needs further investigation and some is of questionable clinical significance. Much of the research on maca has been done in animal studies and so more extensive investigation is yet to be done.
Maca eaten as a food source appears safe with no reported adverse side effects. It is a root that, like other roots, contains mostly carbohydrates with a small amount of protein and very little fat. You can find it baked or roasted, in soup, and sometimes in a fermented drink called maca chicha. It is a nutrient-rich food that contains minerals like iron, calcium, zinc, potassium and copper as well as B vitamins, and vitamins C and E. Maca does need to be cooked, boiled or dried before consumption and is not generally eaten raw. In the raw root, there is some concern over a toxic compound though results are inconclusive.
For safety, keep in mind that because maca extracts may have estrogenic effects, women with hormone sensitive conditions like breast, uterine or ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids should avoid excessive intake in food as well as taking supplement form. Definitely discuss with your doctor or dietitian if you have any questions about taking a supplement such as maca. The food source can likely be incorporated safely for most people but again – make sure to use it appropriately.
Have you explored the food trend Maca yet?
Let me know about your experience in the comments!
Ginger Hultin,MS, RD, CSO
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