5 Good Reasons to Try Maca

image: Shutterstock

image: Shutterstock

Every once in a while, a food comes to light we may not be familiar with but in another part of the world it is revered for it’s ‘superfood’ qualities.  Maca is one such food.  If you haven’t heard of it, there are reasons you may want to know what it is and why people are looking to it for everything from increased energy to regulation of hormones and increased fertility.

Maca originates from high in the Peruvian Andes Mountains of South America where it has been growing wild for thousands of years. It is a cruciferous plant as are other healthy vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and turnips.

A significant number of vitamins and minerals are inherent to wild maca. These include calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, sulfur, sodium, as well as iron and may also contain beneficial trace minerals including zinc, iodine, copper, selenium, and manganese. It is also thought to be high in vitamins B1, B2, C, and E. 

Maca’s purported health benefits are based on generations of people who have used it.   It has thus gained some serious attention by natural health enthusiasts in North America. For those who have used maca whether in the Andes or elsewhere, the benefits are said to include:

  • Increased Energy Many athletes have now started taking maca for peak performance. if your energy levels are low, maca may be worth a try.
  • Increased Libido Maca is thought to increase sexual function in both men and women. Balanced hormone, endurance and stamina are cited among the benefits benefitting libido. Watch this clip on CNN which reports on the benefits specifically to women.
  • Menstrual cramps/Menopause Maca is considered beneficial in aiding with menstrual cramps. As well menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings and even depression can be alleviated. 
  • Fertility It has been noted that where maca grows is so high above sea level that animals brought to those heights from lower altitudes will stop reproducing. However if you feed them maca, they become fertile again. It’s as though nature offers a fertility remedy at those high altitudes. More on this can be seen in this New York times clip.
  • Adaptogen Maca is considered an adaptogen meaning it can help strengthen the body so it can better handle daily stresses and resist disease.

Caveats

Always use a reputable source for your maca supplements and follow the manufacturers recommended dosage.  It’s a good idea to consider running a new supplement by your medical doctor if you have a condition you are trying to remedy. But many do choose to try natural remedies over pharmaceuticals initally.  And as with any supplement its not recommended to start something new while pregnant.

My favourite maca powder is from Giddy YoYo It tastes delicious in a smoothie, is superior quality and can be purchased direct from the manufacturer OR on-line at Sessabel.

The Dirt on Men’s Body Care Products

Testicular cancers, reduced sperm quality and low fertility are being linked to toxic chemicals commonly found in men’s personal care products. I know YIKES!! Today Environmental Defence Canada released a study on this very subject which of course peaked my interest.  As a mom and wife, and buyer of most personal care products in my house, this is definitely info that I want to know about.

I had a pretty good idea that conventional shave products, shampoos and soaps are laden with toxic stuff.  I studied Environmental Chemistry in my life before kids and ever since have been a nut for checking for unsavoury chemicals in everyday things.  In fact, my husband had recently asked me to go through the very long list of chemicals in his L’Oreal Men Expert Shave Gel and his L’Oreal After Shave Balm. I found a crazy melange of unpronounceable chemicals which I researched online, one by one.  Let’s suffice it to say, we figured out before the Environmental Defence study not to use this stuff.

However after reading Environmental Defence’s study, I realized that some of the chemicals used in everyday products are irrefutably scientifically linked to ill-health effects such as testicular and prostate cancers.  That was not a direct connection I had made before. The study even mentions how these chemicals affect males pre-natally (page 17 of the report). So women of child-bearing age, you want to be aware of the study details too as most every conventional body care products (for both men and women) contain some of these scary substances.

Perhaps the most alarming part of the study for me was the undeclared (meaning they are not listed on the labels) ‘cancer-causers’.  The study reported on some common products found in the bathrooms of men volunteers. The products were sent to a well-known laboratory in California where they were tested for toxic substances such as phthalates, 1,4 dioxane, and synthetic musks.  Some of the products that tested positive included Calvin Klein ‘Obsession’ After Shave, Head and Shoulders Dandruff Shampoo and Old Spice Deodorant (see Table 2 in the study for all products tested). So even if you are an avid label-reader like myself, you simply cannot be sure of all the health hazards in your products.

And none of us are scot-free. If you don’t own any of the culprit products note that this study by Environmental Defence represents a super-small sampling of products available in the personal care product market.  Many conventional products have these toxins in them. My husband’s L’Oreal products contained some of the chemicals that Environmental Defence calls the Toxic Ten ingredients.  Compound that with the information that it is very likely there are ‘hidden’ cancer-causers and most probably heightens all of our cause for concern.

Be aware that a number of  manufacturers who produce these products will cite ‘safe levels’ of these toxins in their own defence. From my own experience working in a lab, I know that ‘safe levels’ are usually based on dosage.  This means in testing to find a ‘safe level’ a toxin was administered at lower and lower doses until no adverse health effects were seen.  The issue outside the laboratory becomes that in real life, our bodies are exposed to oodles and oodles of these chemicals over the course of a day.  Many don’t break down and aren’t flushed out of our bodies very easily. So as nobody can tell me my personal ‘safe level’ as they don’t know everything I may use in a day, my rule of thumb is to avoid toxins altogether.

So how to wash your life free of these toxins?  You can start by reducing your use of conventional products or better yet, by ditching them altogether.  Look for all-natural options  made from plant-based ingredients.  You still want to read labels to ensure no parabens or the like made it into the formulation.  I find that many small companies who tout themselves as natural are often great at finding ways to avoid the nastiest of chemicals. To weed out the ‘greenwashers’, look for good resources such as Environmental Defence Canada’s Just Beautiful campaign which gives names of companies selling truly natural products in personal care products.

Also feel free also to ask.  Send me a question if you are unsure of the issues with a particular ingredient or product.  Many people have asked me such questions which I will give answers to in future posts. Until then…