8 Proven Health Benefits of Maca (powder) + 6 Recipes
Maca is a superfood which is mainly known for its libido and fertility enhancing effect.
It is also claimed that it improves your endurance and your energy. Sounds good right? I have checked for you if that is all right.
In this article you will learn:
- What are the proven health benefits of maca
- Which claims you have to take with a grain of salt
- How you can eat maca in a tasty way
What is Maca?
Let’s start at the beginning. Maca (lepidium meyenii) is a root that originally only grew at high altitudes in the Andes Mountains of Peru.
Maca grew only in a certain part of the Andes mountains, under severe conditions, at heights above 4000 meters. Maca is also called Peruvian ginseng.
Maca is a vegetable that has been eaten by the local population in Peru for centuries as we have been eating potatoes for centuries.
It is suspected that maca was already cultivated 2000 years before Christ. Maca was used not only as a food but also as a traditional medicinal herb.
Maca was even used as cattle feed by the Peruvians.
Maca grows in all shapes and sizes and colors.
The most popular colors, which are also available in Europe, are yellow, red and black maca. Certain species have stronger specific health benefits.
When it became known that maca would have a positive effect on fertility, at the end of the 1990s, the price of maca increased enormously and the production was increased.
With the rise of production (in China, people have grown a lot of maca), the prices have dropped again and maca is reasonably affordable for a superfood.
The taste of Maca
Maca has a very distinct taste which I personally like. The taste can best be described as earthy, nutty with a hint of caramel. Most people, however, do not like maca, according to research into taste acceptance.
Maca is therefore also sold as an extract in capsule form and as a liquid extract.
Maca is also sold in powder form. This is dried maca. This powder can, for example, be done by your smoothie or yogurt (further on you can read our maca recipes). Macca tastes very good in combination with cocoa.
If you do maca through your smoothie or yogurt, you can make the smoothie tasty by also adding a scoop of cocoa powder.
Incidentally, I have never seen anything in the Netherlands that the maca is sold as a whole carrot. If you have an address where you can buy maca roots, please share it with us at the bottom of this page.
Why is Maca a superfood?
Maca has been given the label superfood because it has a high nutritional value. It is especially rich in minerals. In addition, it contains many amino acids and dietary fibers.
But the most important characteristic of maca is that it is the action of an adaptogen.
Maca works as an adaptogen
An adaptogen stimulates the body to a better balance in the production of hormones. It remedies an imbalance in the hormones.
An adaptogen is not a hormone itself and does not cause the production of hormones. It only ensures a better balance.
If a certain hormone is produced too much then less will be created and vice versa.
Nutritional value Maca
Maca is very nutritious and is especially a good source of carbohydrates, proteins and minerals.
The nutritional value of different brands of maca can vary somewhat (it is simply a natural product). We have calculated the average of the different brands of maca for you.
The nutritional value of maca which you find below is the nutritional value of maca powder. This deviates from maca extract which is available in capsule form.
Nutritional value maca powder Per 100 grams
Energy 325 kcal
Fat 3,6 grams
Carbohydrates 71.4 grams
Of which sugars 31,1 grams
Of which dietary fiber 7,1 grams
Proteins 14,3 grams
As you can see, maca is rich in carbohydrates. The sugars in maca powder are natural sugars. In spite of this, diabetics will have to take this into account.
For a vegetable, it also contains a lot of proteins.
Fatty acids from Maca powder
Maca powder contains 20 types of fatty acids. However, in such small quantities that they are not worth mentioning. The fatty acids in maca powder consist for the most part of:
- Linoleic acid (1.2 grams per 100 grams)
- Palmitic acid (0.8 grams per 100 grams)
- Oleic acid (0.4 grams per 100 grams)
- Stearic acid (0.25 grams per 100 grams)
The amounts of fatty acids in maca powder are small. Maca powder contains 3.6 grams of fatty acids per 100 grams.
Maca powder is therefore not a dietary supplement that you take as a supplement for your healthy fatty acids.
For this, you can better use a superfood such as a hemp seed or linseed.
Amino acid profile Maca
Maca powder contains many essential amino acids and is a good vegetable protein source. It contains a total of 18 different amino acids.
Amino acid maca powder Per 100 grams
Totaal eiwitten 14,3 grams
Asparaginic acid 1,38 grams
Glutamic acid 2,23 grams
Serine 710 mg
Histidine 310 mg
Glycine 970 mg
Arginine 1,42 gram
Threonine 470 mg
Alanine 900 mg
Tyrosine 440 mg
Phenylalanine 780 mg
Valine 1,13 gram
Methionine 400 mg
Isoleucine 670 mg
Leucine 1,3 grams
Lysine 790 mg
HO-Proline 370 mg
Proline 7 mg
Sarcosine 10 mg
Vitamins in Maca powder
Vitamins Maca powder Per 100 grams
Vitamin C 285 mg (475% ADH)
Vitamin B1 1 mg (90% ADH)
Vitamin B2 0,4 mg (21% ADH)
Vitamin B2 5,7 mg (29% ADH)
Vitamin B6 1,1 mg (57% ADH)
Depending on the area where the maca is grown, maca may contain other vitamins.
Minerals in maca powder
Maca is rich in minerals and trace elements and a good source of calcium, potassium, iron and copper.
Minerals Per 100 grams
Calcium 450 mg (45% ADH)
Potassium 2 grams (57% ADH)
Copper 6 mg (300% RDA)
Magnesium 0,8 mg (30% ADH)
Phosphorus 220 mg (37% ADH)
Sodium 18 mg (1% ADH)
Iron 15 mg (100% ADH)
Zink 12 mg (150% ADH)
Iodine 520 micrograms (34% ADH)
Depending on the soil where the maca is grown, maca may contain other trace elements.
If you want to use maca powder to supplement your iodine (because you eat little or no bread), then you can take the best black maca. This contains more iodine than yellow and red maca.
Health benefits Maca
A great many health benefits are attributed to maca. Many of these claims are made by products from maca powder and are therefore not really neutral.
We have worked out for you which health benefits of maca have been scientifically proven.
Finally, we will also discuss a number of health claims that have not been scientifically proven but are plausible.
Health benefit 1: improvement fertility men
Let’s start with one of the most important health claims from maca. It could improve the fertility of men.
For fertility, the quality and quantity of the sperm cells are very important.
There is evidence that the maca improves male fertility. This research shows that after 12 weeks of using maca the concentration of sperm cells went up. This involved a small-scale study among 20 volunteers.
In another small-scale study involving 9 men with maca tablets, the amount of sperm and the motility of the sperm cells increased.
In this meta-analysis of 5 different studies, it was also concluded that maca improves the fertility of men. In both healthy men and men with fertility problems, the quality of the sperm increased.
All investigations that were carried out were small-scale. But all in all, you can still draw the cautious conclusion that maca can indeed improve fertility in men.
Health benefit 2: improvement of libido in men and women
The claim that maca improved libido was what made maca popular in the West in the late 1990s. It caused a price explosion and production was stepped up.
As you get older, libido drops. In men, this is due to the drop in testosterone levels which start to become noticeable after the 40th year of life.
In women, the production of estrogen recurs during the transition. As a result, the sheath is less well perfused and the libido drops.
Men and women are always looking for ways to keep libido up to standard. After all, good sex life is important for your health and maintaining relationships.
Producers of maca have responded very well to this by putting maca on the market as a means to increase your libido.
In particular, studies have been conducted into the effect of maca, on libido, by-products and superfood suppliers. However, these are not scientific studies and you can imagine that the product benefits from a certain outcome.
In this study, the (male) participants indicated that their libido went up. Strikingly enough without the testosterone levels improved.
In this meta-analysis of 17 databases, limited evidence was found that maca increases libido. However, the researchers found that there was too little data available and that the quality of various studies was too limited – to be able to prove conclusively that maca increases libido.
Maca is also called the “natural Viagra” which is exaggerated in view of the research. But all in all, the evidence points in the direction that maca can indeed increase libido.
Health benefit 3: Maca gives you energy
In a small-scale study involving 8 cyclists, the participants after 14 days took maca supplements to improve their time on a 40-kilometer time trial. The participants also noticed that their libido had gone up.
In these studies, the maca groups performed much better than the placebo groups. It is assumed that this can be related to the antioxidants that maca is rich in.
Health benefit 4: good for your mood
Maca is associated with reduced anxiety and a reduction in symptoms in depression. Especially women in menopause and postmenopause can benefit from maca.
In a study of postmenopausal women, the participants who used maca were less likely to suffer from symptoms of depression. The blood pressure also improved in the group using maca.
During the transition, the estrogen level decreases, which can lead to all sorts of complaints.
Common menopausal symptoms include sleep problems, hot flashes, mood swings and vaginal dryness.
Maca helps alleviate these menopausal symptoms. This was also shown by a meta-analysis of 4 studies (source).
Health benefit 6: Good for the brain
Maca is good for the brain. It improves the ability to learn and the memory (source).
In these tests, it was also examined whether red, yellow or black maca has the best effect on the brain.
Black maca provided the best improvements.
Health benefit 7: good for the prostate
The prostate is a gland that surrounds the urethra in men at the entrance seen from the bladder. As the men get older, the prostate increases in size. This allows the prostate to compress the urethra.
This then gives problems with urination. It makes sure that people have to go out of bed at night to get pee and it gives a feeling of incomplete emptying of the bladder.
Moreover, an enlarged prostate can have a negative effect on sexual health and potency.
Health benefit 8: alleviates symptoms with antidepressants
In the case of depression, SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are often prescribed.
A side effect of SSRIs are sexual complaints such as reduced libido and erectile dysfunction.
Maca can reduce the sexual complaints caused by SSRIs (source).
Plausible health benefits of maca
There are also a number of health benefits of maca which are not scientifically proven but are plausible. These health benefits are plausible because of the properties of the nutrients from which maca exists.
It is plausible that maca can relieve menstrual complaints and PMS complaints. This is because maca has the effect of an adaptogen. This would keep the hormones in better balance.
There are no studies that confirm or deny this.
And if you start looking for women’s experiences on internet forums, you will find women who say they benefit from maca but also women who indicate that the complaints only got worse.
Maca could, therefore, be worth trying for menstrual and/or PMS complaints.
Plausible # 2: reduction hormonal acne
The sites claiming that maca helps with acne are sites that sell maca or advertise it, so I do not want to swallow that too.
It would, however, theoretically be possible that maca helps with hormonal acne because it can keep the hormone balance better in the balance as an adaptogen.
If you are going to try maca against acne then you should at least see improvement after two weeks.
Plausible # 3: maca strengthens the immune system
On various websites, I come across the claim that maca strengthens the immune system. This health claim is made because maca contains proteins and is, therefore, a good assumption despite no scientific evidence.
However, there are so many foods that contain proteins. So you can, of course, continue to make health claims.
In this article, I prefer to focus on health benefits that make maca unique and not on these kinds of nonsensical claims.
For example, maca also contains vitamin C, the most common vitamin with dozens of health benefits. It seems rather absurd for me to link the health benefits of vitamin C to maca. Then you should also do that for the other vitamins and minerals in maca. Yes, then you will find a list of 100+ health benefits for maca.
Plausible # 4: Maca helps with anemia
No research has been done about this. But since maca is rich in iron and vitamin C, you can assume that maca helps with anemia. Vitamin C ensures that iron is better absorbed.
Plausible # 5: helps with stress
But I can imagine that maca, given its adaptogenic effect, could help to lower the cortisol.
Cortisol is an anti-stress hormone that the body produces during stress and has all kinds of adverse health effects.
Like holding belly fat.
Plausible # 6: provides muscle
However, it has been proven that maca does not increase testosterone (source).
Maca has the effect of an adaptogen, which helps to bring the hormone balance into a natural balance.
From maca, it proved that the endurance improved (see the explanation for health benefit # 3). If the stamina improves, then you may also be able to do more work during the strength training, so that a great training stimulus is made (assumption).
In addition, maca is rich in 18 different amino acids which are important for the growth of the muscles (fact).
So yes, maca can help you as a bodybuilder but not for the reason why people sometimes think (as a testosterone booster).
Unproven claims of maca
There are also a number of claims regarding maca for which there is no proof. You will find these unproven claims below.
Not proven claim: maca helps with erectile dysfunction
Maca is also said to help with erectile dysfunction. There is no proof for this, however.
Not proven claim: with maca you recover faster from diseases
No proof can be found for this either.
Nonsensical health claim: protected from the sun
Maca extract protects you from UV radiation when applied to the skin. However, not as good as ordinary sunburn. Nice to know if you do not have sunburn in your home but you do have maca extract.
Maca is safe to use. Peruvians have been eating it for thousands of years as fresh maca root, which they also believe to be cooked first.
The leaves of the maca plant can also be eaten. These can be cooked but can also be eaten raw in the salad.
However, Maca is not safe to use if you have thyroid problems.
Beware of thyroid problems
Glucosinolates are substances that produce crops to protect themselves against larvae and insects.
Glucosinolates only have a negative effect if you eat too much. If you eat a lot of glucosinolates, your thyroid gland will work less well.
If your pain gland has problems then the threshold at which glucosinolates interfere with proper functioning of the thyroid gland is lower (source). For this reason, you should be careful with maca if your thyroid gland has problems.
Normal amounts of glucosinolates are good for health. They have a protective effect against carcinogens.
Maca during pregnancy
No clinically controlled studies have been performed on maca during pregnancy.
As long as it has not been demonstrated clinically that you can safely use maca during pregnancy, suppliers are reluctant. Some even put labels on the packaging such as ‘attention during pregnancy’.
The other side of the story is that women in Peru have been eating maca for thousands of years during pregnancy and healthy Peruvian babies are still being born.
Maca during breastfeeding
The use of maca during breastfeeding is not recommended. This is because no studies have been conducted to assess whether this is safe.
Side effects maca
Macca can cause side effects in rare cases. In these cases, you better stop using maca. Known, rare, side effects of maca are:
- Increase menstrual complaints
- Decrease of libido
- Weight gain
- Skin problems
- Hot flashes
- Detoxification symptoms (diarrhea, dizziness, nausea, headaches, abdominal pain)
Because maca in rare cases can cause side effects, it is advised to slowly build up the use, so that the body can respond to maca.
If you use maca powder you can start with 1 teaspoon per day which you can build up to 8 to 16 grams per day (1 to 2 tablespoons).
If you have an allergy to cruciferous crops then you better not use maca.
How is maca used?
Although we eat fresh maca root in Peru, we have to do it with shapes that are suitable for long storage. In the Netherlands, maca is available in the following forms:
- Maca powder
- Maca capsules
- Liquid maca extract
Maca capsules contain maca extract, where the starch is removed from the product to make the product more concentrated.
For maca powder, maximum dosage of 1 to 2 tablespoons per day applies (8 to 16 grams).
Maca is also used in healthy products such as the Roo Bar Maca Cranberry energy bar and Granola cocoa & maca.
Maca is a pretty popular superfood and in my opinion is one of the superfoods which can rightfully be called a superfood. Maca is also widely available.
You can also buy maca root capsules organic and vegan.
To give you an idea of the price, you pay about 15 USD for a 250-gram package. If you do not think organic or RAW is important then you can be cheaper.
The prices for black and red maca are higher than those for yellow maca.
Which maca supplement I recommend and where do I order it?
The maca capsules that I use myself are those of GloryFeel.
These capsules are of AOV and have good absorption. AOV generally uses fewer fillers and additives than other brands and often has a more powerful effect.
If you do not like capsules, maca powder is a good alternative. Maca powder can easily be drunk in a drink and is easily absorbed.
You can order the powder from here.
The taste of maca is earthy, a little nutty with a subtle hint of caramel.
Many people, however, do not like the taste of maca. It is, therefore, a fairly pronounced taste that you have to get used to. A bit like drinking coffee.
I will give you a number of recipes with which you can process maca in dishes.
With a number of recipes, the taste of maca will be masked by other ingredients, while for other recipes we accentuate the taste. We accentuate this in combination with cocoa.
In one way or another, maca tastes very good in combination with cocoa.
Recipe 1: Maca chocolate balls
These maca chocolate balls are 100% healthy and a responsible snack. These balls are full of healthy fatty acids, proteins, vitamins, minerals and extremely many antioxidants.
The healthy fatty acids are due to the hemp seed and the walnuts.
The proteins are due to the hemp seed, maca powder and the walnuts.
And the raw cocoa powder creates extremely many antioxidants.
No other food contains as many antioxidants as raw cocoa. It even contains 100 times as many antioxidants as broccoli (which is known for its antioxidants).
- 75 grams of hemp seed
- 25 grams of raw cocoa powder
- 3 tablespoons of maca powder
- 100 grams of walnuts
- 1 pinch (Himalayan) salt
- 6 dates
Put the hemp seeds with the walnuts and salt in a food processor and finely chop the walnuts and hemp seeds. Then add the dates, cocoa and maca. Blend until the mixture is a homogeneous whole.
After this, you can roll balls of the mixture. Everything keeps sticking together through the dates. You can possibly roll the ball through some coconut shavings, cocoa powder or pumpkin seeds for an extra festive effect (see image).
Place the balls in the refrigerator so that they can become hard.
You can store these balls for a week in the refrigerator. For winter maca chocolate balls you can add a pinch of cinnamon.
With maca powder, you can make almost endless shakes. Maca powder tastes good in shakes that contain cocoa or strawberries. Less well known is that maca also tastes good in combination with the taste of nuts.
This maca almond shake is ideal for exercise. The bananas and the almonds give you the energy to be able to cope with it hard.
- 2 bananas
- 200 ml unsweetened almond milk
- 1 tablespoon of almond paste
- 1 tablespoon of maca
- Half a teaspoon of vanillin extract
Make sure you freeze banana wedges in advance. This is your base for a delicious cool smoothie. Put everything together in the blender and mix until you have a nice smooth whole. And enjoy it.
Instead of unsweetened almond milk, you can also make this shake with your homemade hemp milk. For this, you see yourself of healthy fatty acids and essential amino acids. You can read how you make hemp milk yourself in our article about hemp seed.
Recipe 3: Maca chocolate pudding
- 200 grams of dark chocolate
- 400 ml of coconut milk
- 2 egg yolks
- 30 grams of maca powder
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- 1 pinch (Himalayan) salt
Cut the chocolate into small pieces and put it aside separately in a bowl.
Put in a pan the coconut milk, the egg yolks and the salt. Stir it while it is heated to moderate heat. After a minute or 10, it should be thicker. The custard is then ready and can be removed from the fire.
Pour the warm custard over the chocolate and leave it for 5 minutes to rest. Then add the maca powder and the vanilla extract. Stir gently and evenly so that everything can bind well and create a uniform whole.
Pour the mixture into empty glasses or dishes after which you can let it cool down in the refrigerator. After an hour it is sufficiently cooled to be able to eat.
Recipe 4: Maca cake
As already mentioned, maca is delicious in combination with chocolate and that is what is used in this recipe again.
- 200 grams of cashew nuts
- 200 grams of almonds
- 50 grams of maca
- ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla powder or extract
- 1 pinch of salt
- 15 dates
- 75 grams of chocolate chips or cocoa nibs
Put the nuts in a food processor and pulse several times until the nuts are finely broken.
Add the maca, salt, cinnamon and vanilla and pulse several times until everything is mixed.
Then add the dates and mix in the food processor until a dough is created.
If your dough feels very dry then you can possibly add a few tablespoons of water.
Add half of the chocolate chips and pulse briefly so that they are mixed.
Remove the dough from the food processor and put it in a baking tin. Press the dough well and add the other half of the chocolate chips and press them.
Put the baking tin in the fridge for one hour so that the dough can harden. Once the dough has hardened you can cut pieces of it.
Tip: use unroasted nuts for your maca cakes. That is healthier because the good fatty acids then remain preserved.
In addition to maca, turmeric is an important ingredient of this milk. Turmeric is known as a powerful antioxidant and works anti-inflammatory and has a detox effect on the liver.
- Half a tablespoon of turmeric
- A teaspoon of maca powder
- A teaspoon of cinnamon powder
- A teaspoon of ground ginger
- 300 ml coconut milk (or unsweetened almond milk)
- 4 drops of stevia extract
Heat the coconut milk in a saucepan on low heat. Do not let it boil. Add the ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until they are well mixed.
Recipe 6: Maca Granola
With this recipe, you can make your own maca granola in no time; ideal as a healthy breakfast.
- 200 grams of oatmeal
- 100 grams of cashew nuts
- 50 grams of coconut grater
- 4 tablespoon of honey
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
- 1.5 tablespoon of maca powder
- A pinch of (Himalayan) salt)
Remove the baking sheet from the oven and heat the oven for at 150 degrees. Put baking paper on the baking sheet. Spread the oatmeal over the baking sheet and place it in the oven as soon as it is at temperature. Fry the oatmeal for 12 to 15 minutes until it is golden brown.
Then add the cashew nuts and place the baking sheet back in the oven for 5 minutes.
Then add the remaining ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon. Bake the whole for 5 to 10 minutes until the coconut grater begins to turn golden brown.
Allow the baking tray to cool with the granola. As soon as the granola has cooled down, it becomes nicely crunchy. Keep the granola in a sealed box in the refrigerator.
With the making of granola, you can of course endlessly combine, according to taste, ingredients. Hopefully, you have gained the inspiration with our recipe to get started with the creation of your own granola’s.
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