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Maca (Lepidium meyenii) is a Peruvian plant of the Brassica (mustard) family which grows exclusively in the central Andes at high altitudes, a habitat of intense cold and sunlight, and strong winds. Cultivated for more than 2000 years, Maca root, the edible part of the plant, is traditionally used as a food and in traditional folk medicine to enhance sexual function, fertility, energy, alertness, mental concentration, mood and physical immunity. Yet, only a limited number of its purported benefits have been supported in scientific studies. These include its nutritional content and its energizing, antioxidant, fertility-enhancing and cognitive-supporting properties.

Dried Maca (unprocessed) is a very nutrient-dense food, made up of approximately 10% protein, 60% carbohydrates, 8.5% fibre and 2% fat. It contains almost all of the essential amino acids needed by humans, as well as a number of micronutrients, including iron, calcium, copper, zinc and potassium. (Nutrient levels vary depending on the type of Maca and how it is processed.) It is also considered to have adaptogenic qualities due to its demonstrated ability to help the body adapt to a number of stressors.

Thirteen main types of maca have been described that can be characterized by the color of their roots, being the edible portion of the plant. Recent studies have demonstrated that different types of Maca (according to its color - black, red or yellow) have somewhat different properties and health benefits. (1, 2, 3

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