If you’ve spent time on TikTok lately, you’ve probably seen the hype behind maca root. It’s shaking up the wellness industry as it’s being added to chocolate bars, supplements, and drink mixes. Maca root’s fame comes from its nutrient profile, as it’s filled with minerals such as iron and copper. This superfood has been used for years in the Andes to boost mood and ease pain. Experts have been researching if these claims really hold true, but here’s what we know so far.

What is Maca Root?

Maca is a cruciferous vegetable that is grown in the Central Andes of Peru. It’s also called “Peruvian Ginseng” as the root is the edible portion. Maca root resembles a turnip but has a slightly earthy and nutty taste. This medicinal plant is generally boiled before eaten or ground up in a powder, which is added to smoothies, sauces, and chocolate. It is rich in a variety of nutrients such as fiber, protein, unsaturated fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals.

The Health Benefits of Maca Root

In an exclusive interview with The Beet, Supriya Lal, RD, a registered dietitian explained the health benefits of maca root and why it's rising to fame. Here’s why you should give it a try:

Maca Root May Reduce Inflammation

Inflammation is your body’s response to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress occurs when there’s a high amount of free radicals, harmful molecules, which can lead to chronic illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. The good news is that antioxidants––especially those found in plant-based foods––can help neutralize free radicals in our bodies. Maca root contains many compounds with antioxidant-like properties, such as vitamin C, polyphenols, and carotenoids, Lal says.

Maca Root May Boost Energy Levels

If you’re experiencing a midday slump, you may want to consider trying an energizing food to help you get through the day. One study found that the polysaccharides found in maca decreased fatigue and tiredness in mice.  However, more research is needed to identify its effects on humans. “While there’s no clear consensus on if maca really increases one’s energy, it does contain carbohydrates and fiber, which provides the body fuel,” Lal says.

Maca Root May Improve Mood

Maca has gained popularity based on the claim that it can improve one’s mood. However, the research to support this is very sparse. One small study found that maca appeared to decrease symptoms of depression and high blood pressure in women. A possible explanation for this effect can be attributed to the high levels of vitamin C present in maca. Studies have shown that people who are deficient in vitamin C often have a low mood, the Mayo Clinic says.

Maca Root May Help With Cognitive Function

Animal studies have shown the effect of maca root on brain health. The results of one study demonstrated that black maca can enhance learning and memory in rats. “Given the high amounts of bioactive components in maca, like the polyphenols, alkaloids, and polysaccharides, there is biologic plausibility that these could potentially help with cognitive function,” Lal says. However, more research is needed to be done to examine the effects of maca root on cognitive functioning in humans.

How To Use Maca Root and Where To Buy It

Maca root is generally sold in powder form to be added to soups, teas, and juices. It is also found in many skincare items such as creams and serums due to its high amounts of vitamin C. While maca root shouldn’t be a meal replacement, it can be an addition to a healthy diet, Lal says. Make sure you’re sticking to fruits and vegetables to get in your recommended daily dose of nutrients. If you’re intrigued by maca root, check it out in your local health food store or organic supermarket today. Some products that stood out to us are the Bearded Brothers Vegan Mega Maca Chocolate Food Bar and Picky Bars Vegan Drizzle (with almonds, cinnamon, and maca).

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