What is Maca?
High above sea level, in the peaks and pinnacles of the Peruvian Central Andes mountains, a hardy plant grows at an altitude of over 14,000 feet. This little plant, Lepidium meyenii, or maca, is a sturdy root vegetable long treasured by the residents of Peru for both its nutritional properties and medicinal value.
About Maca Root
Maca was used by the Incans more than 2,000 years ago. The Incans found maca so potent as a source of energy and endurance that they restricted its use to the Royalty’s court. Conquering Spanish explorers brought the maca root back to Spain’s royalty for use as a fertility and energy enhancer as well.
The Maca root was hidden away in the 1500s, and sat on the brink of extinction until its potent properties were rediscovered in the 1980s. Today, maca’s cultivation is thriving, with more than 1,000 acres planted annually in the highlands of Peru. Peruvians enjoy maca daily, eating it for energy, emotional stability, better immunity, and to heighten sexual function and fertility. Maca root can be found in powder and pill forms, with different varieties widely available, even for those of us that don’t reside on the Andes mountainside.
Maca Root Powder
Maca used to be prepared cooked whole in pits, layered with coals of charred earth and roots. It was also boiled, mashed, and rolled into balls and cooked in clay pots by Peruvian locals. Today, the most common form of maca available is maca root powder.
Maca root powder comes from maca roots that are typically dried and then ground into a powder. Our Live Superfoods Maca Powder and Live Superfoods Red Maca Powder are both dried at low temperatures, ensuring the vital living nutrients and enzymes are preserved. Both of these maca offerings are certified-organic, Kosher, gluten-free, vegan, and raw.
The Benefits of Maca
What the Incans, conquering Spaniards, and native Peruvians knew instinctively to be the benefits of maca, modern day science is now validating it. Hundreds of clinical studies are verifying maca’s reputation as an energizer, fertility booster, and libido enhancer. Studies are also being done on maca’s potential ability to reduce prostate size, improve memory impairments, as a non-hormonal alternative for menopause, and as a fertility enhancer for both women and men.
Nutritionally, maca root offers a variety of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial compounds. Maca root is a rich source of vitamin C, B vitamins, calcium, iron, and copper (to name a few). Maca also contains 18 of the 20 essential amino acids needed to synthesize protein, and cholesterol controlling sterols.
Maca root is commonly found in three different varieties, named for the color of the actual root itself: yellow maca, red maca, and black maca. This distinction is only lent to the skin of the maca root. The maca bulb itself is mostly a creamy yellow color no matter what the skin variety is, and various maca powder varieties will all have the same yellowish, creamy appearance.
While they all look the same, different colored maca varieties may have different properties and abilities. For example, black maca is reported to have increased fertility properties for men, while red maca has shown in clinical studies to decrease prostate size in rats, and may support bone density in women.
All varieties of maca will provide the reported energy, stamina, endurance enhancing, immune supporting, and libido enhancing properties, and most people select a maca variety based on flavor preference, with each color having very slight differences in flavor.
What is Gelatinized Maca?
Maca root powder also comes in a gelatinized form. The process of “gelatinizing” the maca root powder removes the starches naturally found in the root vegetable. This process makes the maca powder more concentrated, easier to digest, and easier to mix into water or juices.
The gelatinization process does use some heat above what is generally considered “raw”, so our Live Superfoods Gelatinized Maca Powder is not given the “raw” distinction. It is, however, still certified-organic, Kosher, gluten-free, and a vegan food.
Gelatinized Maca root powder is great for those with sensitive stomachs, or for those looking for a more concentrated maca powder.
What does Maca taste like?
Maca is a root vegetable, like a radish, turnip, or potato. Its flavor can be quite earthy or malty, with a caramel or butterscotch undertone. Maca has a wonderful warm, almost vanilla-like aroma. The flavor and smell of maca make it a great addition to smoothies, particularly when combined with a cacao powder or mesquite powder. Many people add it to their daily energy drink, smoothie, or juice, and it can also be added to water or added to a raw energy bar.
How to Use Maca Powder
In addition to adding maca root powder to your favorite smoothie or green juice recipes, maca’s earthy butterscotch flavor makes it a great addition to other foods, too.
Maca Cinnamon Almond Energy Bars
- 1 c pitted dates
- 2 c raw, organic almond butter
- 1 c maca root powder (any type)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean powder
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons raw virgin coconut oil
- 1/4 teaspoon Himalayan sea salt
Combine all ingredients in a food processor until well combined. Place wax paper into a small bar pan or bread pan, and press mixture into bottom of pan. Cover with another layer of wax paper, and place in freezer for 15-20 minutes to set. Remove from freezer and cut into squares. Enjoy!
Have a favorite maca recipe? We'd love to hear about it! Send it to us here.