By Chef Tina Jo Stephens
Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food
~ Hippocrates, Father of Modern Medicine, 431 B.C
It is my belief that there is a food or an herb to treat absolutely any ailment that can afflict the human body. So when I started feeling the effects of my changing hormones, I turned to nature first. There are so many natural supplements out there that claim to help with hormonal balance and women’s health, but I wanted to find a whole raw food to help balance my changing hormones. My thoughts behind this were simple. I’ve learned that the endocrine system acts in such a way that adding hormones, natural or synthetic, to your body can upset the delicate balance of everything. Most women who supplement hormones, natural or otherwise, suffer many of the same symptoms they originally suffered after going off of them. I certainly don’t want to experience this twice. Who wants that?
So, I began my search for a whole raw food that would alleviate my menopausal symptoms. After days of research, I stumbled upon maca. It truly is a superfood!
I was amazed to learn that maca root is a turnip-like root which grows at a high elevation in the Andes Mountains. Maca root does not contain phyto-estrogens, actual hormones or hormone-like compounds, such as those found in wild yam and soy, which research is now showing can actually be harmful. The difference with maca is that it contains natural substances which stimulate the pituitary and hypothalamus, literally acting like a reset button for the entire endocrine system. In other words, its actions stimulate your body to bring itself back into balance by restoring natural hormone levels. WooHoo! But wait – it gets better! Maca also contains high levels of minerals, such as iron, magnesium, calcium and potassium as well as protein and amino acids.
Not just for the Ladies!
Maca is known as an “adaptogen” which means that it works in harmony with the body. It adapts to your body’s metabolism regardless of age or sex. Maca is known to increase fertility and libido in both sexes. Maca also acts on the adrenals, providing a feeling of increased energy and vitality. Remember, the compounds in maca root are not hormones. They simply stimulate your endocrine system to balance itself naturally! For men, research has shown that maca root can literally increase sperm count in a matter of days. It has also been shown to be useful to correct erectile dysfunction, balance testosterone levels and reduce prostate size.
Maca root is also absolutely safe during pregnancy. I was thrilled to learn this, being that my BFF (best friend forever), Debra, is carrying her second child, my godchild. I cannot reiterate this enough: Maca root is a food, not an herb! The difference is that herbs are considered toxins and you can take too much of them. There is no way to overdose on maca root as there is absolutely no toxicity with this superfood. Maca can help balance hormones and keep progesterone levels high during pregnancy, which is especially beneficial during the first trimester. It can help alleviate those uncomfortable symptoms of nausea, dizziness and vomiting.
The Maca Experiment
So with my BFF pregnant (as I mentioned earlier) and me about to enter menopause, I decided to experiment with the claims of maca on the two of us. I made sweet flax crackers with agave, goji berries, maca and a few other ingredients. I eliminated the goji berries in Debra’s treats as goji berries are an abortifacient, obviously something to avoid in pregnancy. But they are an excellent addition to a “change of life” diet or any diet for that matter.
We began having the sweet maca flax crackers as a mid-day snack and also added maca to our afternoon smoothies. I kid you not, I had immediate results. The night sweats I had been experiencing diminished significantly the very first day I added maca to my diet! After a few more days they were completely gone and, get this, I started sleeping through most of the night! Something that hasn’t happened in quite some time. I suddenly realized that I’d been feeling a little off for a while, I don’t know how to explain it other than I just felt a bit different than my normal self, but that too changed! It’s almost as if I’d been experiencing low level PMS for months. I felt better, had more energy, and was less emotional – in just a few days.
Of course, I could hardly wait to talk to Debra to find out if she was feeling any different. She’d been getting just a touch of nausea before she got out of bed in the mornings and was feeling really tired during the day, then the nausea would hit again in late afternoon. Chatting with her on Day 2 of our experiment, I was thrilled to hear that her nausea disappeared and she was no longer needing an afternoon nap.
We both are a few weeks into our continued use of maca and still are amazed by our results. Debra, who is also my acupuncturist, has begun recommending maca powder to her patients. As for me, I’m a believer and have created more delicious ways to incorporate it into recipes. But listen, don’t take my word for it, give maca a try yourself and do your own experiment. I’m betting you’ll be glad you did.
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About Chef Tina Jo:
Through her books, DVDs, and programs, Chef Tina Jo is teaching Americans how to make healthy lifestyles DELICIOUS, bringing live whole foods back to the dinner table one dinner plate at a time. Learn more at www.cheftinajo.com.Chef Tina Jo is a highly respected Gourmet Raw Vegan Chef, Author, Speaker and Coach known internationally for her humor and down–to–earth approach to raw veganism. She, along with her TV show Splendor in the Raw, was awarded Top 10 Best Show, Best Chef and Best Website in the Best of Raw 2009 Awards. She has made it her life’s mission to bring super delicious, fresh, simple, fun, affordable raw vegan food to the mainstream.