A Blast from the Past: The Many Benefits of Maca Powder for Good Health

The Top 10 Uses for this Remarkable Plant

Maca is an ancient plant that has been cultivated by the indigenous peoples of Peru in South America for thousands of years. It has an amazing array of heath benefits for young and old alike. This article lists just 10 of the most important benefits of maca

All about Maca – What You Need to Know

Like many people, you may find yourself craving tea or coffee when you’re feeling listless or devoid of energy. Why not forego that caffeine boost in favour of a more natural solution? Maca is the perfect alternative! This all-natural tuber provides an amazing boost of energy just when you need it most, and in a way that does not depend on caffeine stimulus. Your body is supported safely and naturally. Maca is a super food that is nutritionally dense. That means it contains high amounts of vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids and enzymes.

Maca Helps Balance the Body’s Key Hormones

Many people suffer from hormonal imbalances without even knowing it. Maca root can help to balance hormones that are out of sync due to any number of environmental factors. Rather than supplement with synthetic hormones, why not consider a more natural solution? Maca is the perfect candidate for boosting the body’s essential hormones and glands, including the hypothalamus and pituitary. These glands function as regulatory mechanisms for secondary glands such as the pancreas, thyroid and adrenal.

Maca is an Adaptogen

One of maca’s key properties is its role as an adaptogen. An adaptogen is a substance that affects the body in a variable way. For example, if your body is producing an overly high amount of a certain hormone, maca will adapt that production downward. Conversely, if production is low, maca will regulate production upward. This can have a beneficial effect on growth, mood, tissue function and sexual development. Maca also may be able to help with diseases such as depression or even cancer.

Maca is Easy to Prepare and Consume as a Food Supplement

Unlike many artificially based food supplements, maca is truly a nutritious food that’s easy to prepare and consume. It has a pleasant, nutty and light flavour that blends seamlessly into many recipes. Just a teaspoon of maca stirred into a hearty but bland soup along with a bit of sea salt will enhance the flavour substantially. Another great way to use maca is to add it to herb-based teas. Sprinkle maca over just-popped popcorn or combine it with maple syrup for a flavour boost that’s nutritious and flavourful. Maca can also be taken in tablet or capsule form.

Maca has Few Known Adverse Effects

Maca is a staple food in South America and has no known serious side effects or toxicities. Be aware, though, that you may experience some minor symptoms when you first start taking maca. Such symptoms may be related to maca’s detoxification properties. Many people are used to consuming cooked and processed foods that contain low levels of many beneficial nutrients. When one begins to take nutrient-rich maca, the body starts to rid itself of unneeded substances. During this time, you may experience some minor discomfort. Be assured that such symptoms will recede after a few days.

Clinical Trials and Recommended Maca Dosage

The recommended dosage of maca can vary. It’s best to start with a small dose, such as 1/2 teaspoon per day and increase gradually over several weeks to 1 or 2 teaspoons per day. Some sources specify 500 to 1000 mg three times daily. Maca has attracted the attention of the scientific community, and there have been two published studies. In the first, maca dosages of 1500 and 3000 mg, were reported not to increase male libido, debunking a commonly-held myth about maca. Because the second study did not use a control group, its findings are regarded as essentially meaningless.

Maca Has Specific Benefits for Women

Maca can help restore the hormonal imbalance caused by menopause. It’s especially useful in reducing the fatigue associated with this imbalance. Many women report that the worst symptom they experience is troublesome hot flashes. Used over time, maca may ease some of these symptoms and re-balance key hormones naturally. Many women prefer this natural solution over the use of synthetic hormones such as oestrogen that are typically seen as recommended treatments. In addition, maca is useful in treating menstrual symptoms, such as cramping or heavy or irregular periods. It also helps with the troublesome symptoms of PMS (premenstrual syndrome).

Cosmetic Use of Maca

Maca is becoming a key ingredient in cosmetic formulas and toiletries. Recent research has shown that maca both softens and nourishes the skin. In addition, maca stimulates the growth of fibroblast cells in the skin. These cells excrete a substance that supports collagen production. Collagen is an essential component of healthy and young-looking skin. It’s thought that maca also increases collagen production, resulting in improved integrity of the skin’s structure. For the hair, maca-infused products fight hair loss and help to maintain thick, healthy hair.

Who Should Not Use Maca?

Although maca has many beneficial properties, it’s wise to check with your doctor before beginning a maca regimen. If you get the go-ahead, try taking it first thing in the morning or in the early afternoon to take advantage of maca’s energy-boosting properties. Don’t exceed the recommended dosage, and don’t take maca if you have thyroid disease, because it’s high in iodine and glucosinolate. If you have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or breast cancer, maca is probably not a good choice for you, unless prescribed by a physician.

Maca and the Immune System

Adding maca to your diet, even in small amounts, can have significant benefits for the immune system. This is because maca is very high in protein and functions to strengthen the immune system. Also, it contains five time more protein the potatoes. This extra protein can boost the immune system, along with your energy levels.

Maca, Sexual Dysfunction and SSRIs

There was a scientific study in 2008 that found that it’s possible maca may help relieve the sexual dysfunction caused by the use of selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs). SSRIs are a class of medications that are used in the treatment of depression. The results found that those with SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction may experience improved libido while taking maca.

With so much to recommend it, why not consider adding maca to your health regimen?

Discover Cacao: An Amazing Superfood

Delicious Superfood

Who would have thought that cacao, the source of chocolate, would have so many health and wellness benefits? The fact is that it does! Before we explore those benefits, though, let’s learn about this versatile and delicious superfood and how to use it in some delicious recipes.

What is Cacao?

Cacao is the unprocessed, uncooked form of chocolate that comes in the form of seeds that are widely referred to as beans.

The beans grow on a tree that is native to Mexico and central and south America. The name of the tree, Theobrama, translates as “cacao, the food of the gods” in Greek. The small tree bears pods, each of which can contain up to 60 cacao seeds. These seeds are meticulously fermented and then dried for up to two weeks. Finally, the raw seeds are roasted using high heat, after which they may be combined with fats and sugars to make the cocoa powder that’s used to make the familiar chocolate drink that almost anyone would enjoy. Remember, though, that unprocessed cacao beans also can be consumed raw (1).

More about Cacao...

The fermenting and roasting process brings out the flavors in cacao.

People say that they find notes of coffee and berries in the taste of high-quality cocoa, and this translates to a complex and delicious flavor of this superfood. To use raw cocoa, it’s a simple matter to add it to drinks like smoothies. Remember that raw cocoa has a stronger taste, so it’s wise to combine it with other foods to tone down the flavor. Milk chocolate is a good choice for drinks, until you become used to the flavor. Another strategy is to consume cocoa nibs, which are whole beans that have been peeled and chopped. They’re similar to chocolate chips and can be used in many recipes.

Cacao Smoothie

Recipe and benefits…
  • 1 cup milk of your choice (almond, coconut, etc)
  • 1 cup ice
  • 1 banana
  • 2 Tbsp raw honey or agave nectar
  • 2 Tbsp cacao powder (try cacao nibs for extra texture)

Place the nut milk, ice, banana, raw honey and cacao in a blender. Blend on high until smooth and all of the ingredients are combined.

So, with a delicious cacao smoothie in hand, you’re ready to begin reaping the many benefits of this versatile superfood. Here are just a few.

Chocolate Chili Truffles

Why not try this delicious recipe?
  • 1 cup chocolate chunks
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar or honey
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons toasted almonds, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder

In a large saucepan, melt chocolate over very low heat. Stir in agave, chili, almond extract and coconut milk. Refrigerate for 20-30 minutes or until mixture is about the consistency of a thick frosting. Scoop mixture into balls and set aside on a parchment paper lined plate or baking sheet. Combine the almonds and cacao powder in a shallow bowl. Roll the truffle balls in the almond-cacao mixture. Makes10-12 truffles.

Benefits of Cacao

Cacao is easy to eat, even when you’re having a busy day.

Cacao is nutritionally complex and rich in antioxidants, which means it contains flavonoids that help to prevent damage by free radicals. Cacao also can boost collagen, an important component of healthy skin. Along with some B-vitamins, cacao has both fat, protein and minerals, including iron, zinc, copper, calcium, sulphur, phosphorus and magnesium. Cacao contains chemicals that  can help you feel alert and focused by increasing your pulse rate. Such chemicals also help to increase mood and decrease depression. If you need to lose weight, consider using cacao as an aid. It contains compounds that can help to decrease appetite. In addition, this remarkable superfood has blood-thinning and anti-tumor properties.

Other Benefits of Cacao

Cacao is a rich source of minerals

As previously mentioned, cacao is a rich source of minerals. Here are a few details. All that’s needed is a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder to get up to 9 percent of one’s daily recommended intake of iron, manganese, magnesium and zinc. Iron is needed by the biological process that makes red blood cells. Manganese helps with maintaining a normal heart rhythm and producing energy. Zinc is essential for the body processes that develop new cells, including cells in the immune system. A deficiency of zinc reduces the number of cells that fight bacteria, leaving you at risk for a variety of ailments and illnesses. With all these benefits to recommend it, why not try your hand at making homemade chocolate?

Homemade Chocolate

Try your hands…
  • 1 cup cocoa butter, a fatty substance obtained from cacao seeds
  • 1 cup organic Dutch process cocoa powder
  • ½ cup raw honey or to taste. Using half this amount or less will make a bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 teaspoon real vanilla extract or other flavors to taste
  • Toasted chopped almonds, orange or mint extract, etc., optional

Melt cocoa butter in a double boiler or a glass bowl on top of a small pan with an inch of water (make sure water isn’t touching bowl) over medium heat. When cocoa butter is completely melted, remove from heat and add cocoa powder, honey, vanilla and other flavor extracts. If using a solid raw honey melt with the cocoa butter.

Make sure all ingredients are well incorporated and smooth. Don’t let water or liquid get into the chocolate because it can cause the texture to get mealy. Be careful  with wet hands or even a drop of water in the mold. Pour the chocolate into molds or onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a glass pan to harden. Let harden for several hours at room temperature and carefully remove from the molds. You can also refrigerate to harden it more quickly. Will store for over a week at room temperature or can be kept refrigerated for longer

Chocolate Almond Bars

  • 1 cup cocoa butter, a fatty substance obtained from cacao seeds
  • 1/3 – 1/2 cup maple syrup (amount depending on preferred sweetness)
  • 1 cup cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup roasted almonds
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt

Melt cocoa butter in a double boiler or in a glass mixing bowl set over a small saucepan with 1 inch of water over medium heat. Alternatively, melt in the microwave in a mixing bowl until completely liquid.

Once melted, remove from heat and add maple syrup and whisk to combine. When the mixture is completely fluid with no separation, add cacao or cocoa powder and vanilla extract. Whisk to thoroughly combine.

Taste and adjust sweetness if needed. Pour the chocolate into candy molds or mini paper cupcake liners. Or simply line a baking sheet with parchment paper and pour the chocolate on top. Top with roasted almonds and sprinkle of salt.

Set in the refrigerator or freezer to harden for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Once completely solid, break or cut into pieces/bars. These can be kept at room temperature for serving. But for best freshness, store chocolate in an airtight container or freezer bag in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks, or the freezer for 1-2 months.

With so much to recommend it for a healthy diet, cacao makes a great addition.