What is this thing that looks like a yellow radish? It’s maca, my new favorite superfood. Although it doesn’t look very impressive (photo from this article), the maca root has been a staple in the towns and villages of Peru for thousands of years and has been used for food and medicinal purposes. About 50 years ago, German and North American scientists researching botanicals in Peru, rekindled interest in maca, calling it the “the lost crops of the Andes”. Today, you can find it in powder form or capsules at most holistic health and grocery stores, including the Sacramento Co-Op and Whole Foods.
Why eat maca?
- Energy and endurance booster: Maca does not contain caffeine, but it’s high in energy producing B vitamins, so you can skip your coffee. Maca is also a really good vegan source of vitamin B12.
- Healthy hormones: Maca supports a healthy endocrine system, regulating hormones that are often out of whack due to environmental estrogens. Maca does not contain any hormones, but works within each individual body to provide just the right amount of nutrients to balance your hormone needs. If you are producing too little of a certain hormone, maca has been shown to regulate that up, and if you are getting too much, it will regulate it down. Hormone imbalances can lead to many ailments, including cancer and depression.
- High amount of calcium, magnesium, and iron: Maca’s calcium and vitamin C help build muscle mass, while its alkaloids, which help the body metabolize, help the body transport all these nutrients just where they are needed.
Maca has been known to provide other benefits, including, reducing hot flashes, boosting fertility, elevating mood and energy, helping with proper thyroid function and much more. Although I am new to maca, I can already vouch for its energy boosting properties.
*As a disclaimer, I have to say that maca may not be suitable for everyone, including women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have certain health problems. You may want to consult your doctor before using it regularly.
My maca experience
Despite all of maca’s wondrous powers, my first experience with it two weeks ago did not go smoothly. I got home from a run at about 8 o’clock on a regular Monday night, and decided to add a tablespoon of maca to my post-run smoothie. I really didn’t think twice about it. In about 30 minutes, I felt energized – almost too energized, and a bit jittery. Funny to admit this, but I almost enjoyed scrubbing the kitchen counters (and Eric can tell you, I am not a fan of the grout). I figured it was the endorphin release after my run. I should have known it was the maca because no amount of endorphins are strong enough to make me want to tackle the grout. That night, I must have woken up every hour and got up extremely cranky.
So why am I telling you to give it a try?
When you first start including maca in your diet, the recommended dosage is about a teaspoon a day. Not surprising that I couldn’t sleep — I had an equivalent of 3 teaspoons at 8:00 pm. So if you decide to try it out (and you totally should) go easy on it at first, and don’t have too much of it late in the evening. You know when you have a double espresso after taking a break from caffeine? Similar situation. Energy boosters = too much energy to sleep.
So to get out of my morning funk after a sleepless night, I threw a teaspoon into a shake, and in about an hour, felt refreshed, energized, and was no longer bothered by the lack of sleep. I didn’t need coffee, and had a good supply of energy throughout the day. So far, it has been a great addition to my diet.
What to do with maca
It’s quite simple and there are variety ways you can eat it. I usually just add a teaspoon into my morning smoothie, like the Green Monster. Maca has a mild but nutty flavor, so you can stir it into pretty much anything: a bowl of soup, stew, oatmeal, and etc… Some people stir it into their tea, something I have yet to try.
Good Mood Smoothie (1 small serving):
1/2 cup almond milk
1/2 frozen banana
2 Tbs cacao powder
1 1/2 tsp maca powder
1 Tbs almond butter
1 Tbs cacao nibs
Unlike the morning Green Monster, the Good Mood Smoothie is more of a treat. Here are two more interesting Maca recipes I found browsing other blogs:
If you try it, let me know how it goes!