I get the biggest boost of energy from my morning smoothie when I add a powdered herb from Peru called Maca. If you want increased energy, stamina and even an improved sex life, maybe you should consider adding this amazing food to your green smoothie as well.
Maca Nutrition And Health Benefits
Maca is widely eaten in Peru as a root vegetable and marketed elsewhere in the world as a supplement for increasing energy, stamina, strength and libido. Maca root contains calcium, iron, magnesium and selenium as well as essential fatty acids and 19 amino acids.
While widely considered an aphrodisiac, maca does not increase sex hormone levels (testosterone and estrogen) in humans, but acts on them instead. It contains phytochemicals that act on the central nervous system as well. Studies on humans have shown maca to be a powerful libido-enhancing properties and a possible treatment for mild erectile dysfunction.
Precaution: Maca is among a variety of plants that contain glucosinolates (like kale, broccoli, cabbage and radishes). People who have a diagnosed thyroid condition (hypo/hyperthyroidism) should limit their intake of goitrogenic foods like maca. There is no clinical evidence that taking maca will lead to thyroid problems in healthy individuals unless an iodine deficiency is present.
Using Maca In A Green Smoothie
I recommend that you find a raw, powdered maca supplement if you cannot get access to the dried roots themselves. In most places in the world, you will have to rely on powdered supplements, extracts or “gelatinized” maca. Due to processing, gelatinized maca is not raw, although I’ve found it to be equally effective.
I find that the powder dissolves well in a smoothie. It has a distinct flavor that is hard to mask, and takes some getting used to. The powder itself smells something like butterscotch and lends that flavor as well as a hint of nuttiness to your smoothie. It’s not necessarily unpleasant, but not exactly delicious. Try a little bit and maybe add a banana or some berries to mask the flavor further if it bothers you.
I prefer to use non-bitter leafy greens like fresh baby spinach or leaf lettuce with maca smoothies. Dandelion greens mixed with maca yield a funky flavor and kale blended with maca burns my throat.
How Much Maca Do You Need To Get The Health Benefits
Maca is a root vegetable, eaten like carrots, so a capsule of maca powder isn’t going to do much for you at all. The serving sizes indicated on maca supplements are way too low to get any of the benefits.
I find that I get the best results when I put two to three tablespoons of maca in a large, 32-ounce smoothie. I do not recommend taking more than six tablespoons of maca per day, and I don’t recommend taking it long term. Maca works best when you rotate it. Take it for a few days, then go off for a few days, then back on.
My Experiences With Maca
I’ve experimented with maca on several occasions. A couple years ago, I added a tablespoon to my green smoothies every morning for a couple months. I used Navitas Naturals brand maca root powder that I found at Whole Foods. It is certified organic and raw (it’s been processed at low temperatures).
I experienced an energetic boost in the morning from my maca green smoothie. This boost of energy didn’t have the downsides that caffeine has such as jitters, racing heartbeat and nervousness. It gives me a sustained energy throughout the day – at least it feels that way to me since I don’t “come down” from it like I would from an energy drink.
As for its aphrodisiac properties, I can also vouch for its potency there as well. I definitely felt a higher-than-normal increase in libido when I started taking it. It is often called “nature’s Viagra” (although the effects last all day and into the next), and the scientific research has shown that both men and women often report an enhanced feeling of “sexual well being” from taking maca.
I’ve noticed that the libido and energy enhancing properties of maca are dose dependent. Taking three tablespoons has a much greater effect than taking one tablespoon. Men who are suffering from low testosterone, or people with sexual dysfunction (including mild erectile dysfunction) might benefit from 3-6 tablespoon doses. I recently took a 3 tablespoon dose of maca every day over a two week period and I felt “turbo-charged”, but with no negative side effects.
The only bummer with maca is that your body builds up a tolerance for it pretty quickly. At the one tablespoon dose, I stopped noticing the effects after just one week. At three tablespoons per day, the energy and libido-enhancing effects lasted for two weeks, then diminished slightly during week three, then significantly dropped off during week four and five. By week six, I’d add three tablespoons of maca to my green smoothie and it really didn’t have an effect. This “dropping off” will be most noticeable in people who are taking it to treat low libido, sexual problems or chronic fatigue.
I completely went off maca for seven days, then made a smoothie with three tablespoons of it and the energy and libido-enhancing feelings came back. I feel that maca is best taken in a rotation. Use it every 3-4 days, or take it for a week on and a week off. Experiment with the dosage and frequency to find out what works for you, and if it stops working, don’t despair. Just go off it for a week or so and then take it less frequently.
Where To Find Maca
Forget maca pills since the dosage is way too small. Go for either raw or gelatinized maca powder in a bag. I use Navitas Naturals brand.
Maca can be found at health food stores and is popular among raw foodists, so a local raw food restaurant may carry it for sale. It’s not cheap though. You can often find much better prices if you order it online.
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Tracy Russell is the creator of the Green Smoothie Health & Weight Loss Program and founder of Incredible Smoothies. She is passionate about helping people improve their health with green smoothies and a whole foods lifestyle.