Maca is nature's best friend for your hormones!
Whether you've never heard of it (we'll tell you what it is!) or you already use it, there are few things we want to make sure you know about maca to safely use it to your advantage.
Maca is a root that is native Peru and grows at ridiculously high altitudes (11,000 feet and above!). It is an adaptogen, which means your body gets to use it the way it needs too. Adaptogens are most commonly known for helping your body deal with stress and feel its best. They either help your body calm down or rev it up, whichever it needs. It's cool that nature makes compounds that are so...adaptable! :)
Maca also gives your body nearly all essential amino acids and free fatty acids, significant levels of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, and C, and minerals iron, magnesium, zinc and calcium, a high concentration of protein (that is bioavailable), glucosinolates, and unique acids called macaenes and macamides, which seem to help balance hormones in both men and women.
Maca has a lot of possible benefits!
But in order to use maca safely you really need to know the quality of the maca you are taking.
QUALITY IS A BIG DEAL WITH MACA
In fact, if you can't be 100% SURE about the quality and safety of the maca you're taking, we'd rather you not use it. That is how harmful low-quality maca can be. There's no reason for you to spend your hard-earned money on a product that won't give you results and can even cause more harm!
Here's the "root" of the problem ; )
Maca is a root and it pulls its nutrients from the soil. Like many plants (including rice) it can absorb heavy metals. This has happened since the beginning of time. But, air pollution and runoff from farming and industry as well as mining have contaminated the soil with more heavy metals than ever before.
The only way to make sure maca isn't absorbing too many heavy metals is to grow it in soil that doesn't have too many metals in it to begin with - and after that, you still need to test it in a lab to make sure the levels are low enough to be healthy for you.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Companies that are passionate about the quality of their ingredients will be able to tell you about their process and hands down, they will tell you that they test for heavy metals.
Some companies might test, but don't put it on their website because they don't want to "alarm consumers" that there could be a problem with maca. We've found this usually means they don't want to educate YOU and lets you make your own choices. And they still care a little too much about profits over your health. It's not ok.
Support companies that choose to be transparent. It's a huge step for business that better for the planet (S), for you (H), and for people (E)!
One of the few companies we've found the actively tests for heavy metals and pesticides is Nature Restore. (Note, this post is NOT sponsored and we don't get any money to say this.) We love this company because it actually tests ALL of its products for heavy metals and pesticides.
Nature Restore's founder is so passionate about testing the quality of supplements because he does believe in their power, but he personally experienced health problems from taking low-quality supplements that were full of heavy metals! You can read more about his story here.
Because of his experience, Nature Restore takes what it calls "the long and safe route" to source, test, and manufacture its products for you to enjoy - and we have to say "Thank you" for that attention to quality.
Every batch of ingredients is 3rd-party tested by Eurofins Scientific to ensure products are safe from heavy metals, pesticides, and bacteria that may be harmful. You can ask for the test results if you want to personally review them.
Also, side note (since we love sustainable, healthy, and ethical choices so much - and find they are always the best choice when possible!) Nature Restore partners with 1% for the Planet - One percent of sales go to various charities that its staff has selected company-wide. Awesome.
Nature Restore is not the only company we would recommend, but it is the one we current personally use.
Regardless of what brand you want to buy, make sure you know, for sure, that the maca is tested for heavy metals. Any company worth its salt will tell you.
We have both had to deal with heavy metal poisoning in our health journeys and once heavy metals are in your body, it is a journey to get them back out!
Maca is a wonderful tool for balancing your hormones - and one of the first food-based things Jennifer recommends, actually! It just has to be high quality.
AVOIDING THE LOW-COST ALLURE
Maca is one of those products we see popping up in a lot of grocery stores and health food stores as more and more people are aware of its benefits. And its cheap! TOO CHEAP. Often cheap maca grown in China (another rant for another day) who stole the plant from Peru (not making that up - it's called biopiracy and it is destroying the native economy in Peru. We highly advocate your boycott any maca not grown in Peru. It is unethical.) and is growing it in soil known to be full of heavy metals and struggling with pollution problems. There's even accusations of GMO-modification to the maca grown in the China so it can be grown at lower altitudes. We have not verified this, but it absolutely wouldn't surprise us.
Some companies will even "cut" the actually quantity of maca in each bag with rice bran, so you're not getting pure maca. No, we're not making this up! It's been proven in lab tests.
If the maca you see is cheap, IT IS! And it is dead, worthless, nutrient devoid, heavy-metal filled pile of nothing. We can't make that any clearer. It is not going to give you the benefits you're looking for. It is not worth it the small amount you save.
Choose the company that can prove it cares about quality and your health and is a good citizen of the planet.
Also, don't buy large packages to save money. Maca is actually very fragile in that its quality quickly degrades when exposed to air, heat, and moisture.
Oxygen especially starts to degrade the quality and bioavailability of the supplement, which takes away its benefits! So get "fresh" maca often because it hasn't been exposed to air over and over and over again every time you open the jar or container. If you buy too large of a container, it will be nutritionally devoid by the time you get to the bottom! Also, store in the fridge in an air-tight container to help it last even longer.
RAW VERSUS GELATINIZED
In addition to where it is grown and how it is tested, you'll also have to choose between two forms of maca. This is important to know because you can think your body is reacting to the maca when it could just be the form of maca.
Maca can be found in two forms: Raw maca and gelatinized maca.
RAW MACA POWDER
Raw maca is never heated above 115 degree F through the whole process (harvesting, drying, ground into powder, etc). This keeps the full nutrient spectrum in the maca "alive" because heat reduces nutrients and enzymes. When you're looking for raw maca, you're focused on getting all of the nutrients available from the maca root, including the enzymes and more of the glucosinolates - the compound is thought to most effect hormones. But raw can be harder to digest.
GELATINAIZED MACA POWDER
Gelatinized maca roots are dried in the sun, boiled, and then pressurized to remove all of the starch inside the maca. Because this process removes the starch, it makes the maca much easier to digest, which can be a really good thing for anyone with digestive issues or who has a sensitivity to raw maca. Plus, because the starch is removed, gram for gram, you actually can get more nutrients in gelatinized maca than raw maca. If you are currently a sensitive person or having digestive problems, then we would recommend gelatinized.
For gelatinized maca, we recommend The Maca Team, a company that specializes in growing high quality, organic, non-GMO maca and has a gelatinized version of all the colors of maca (maca comes in yellow, red, and black forms, but that's also another blog for another day! For today you need to know that yellow tests better for female hormone balancing and is the most common form of maca used, while black tests better for male hormone balancing.)
You will find research touting both forms as "better" .... because they actually both will serve your body differently. We always say your body will tell you which one it currently like better and you'll need to make that determination for yourself. But both versions can be healthy and the one your unique body needs.
Here's to including high-quality, conscious choices in our lives, one small switch at a time - even if that's just the maca you use this month!
Each switch matters...one small step at a time,
Heather & Jennifer
COUPON CODE: If you do want to try Nature Restore, we have a 25% off coupon code you can use: SHE25. Again, we don't get any money. We just want to make it even easier for you to say "Yes" to high quality!