Hello health seeker, and welcome to our Super Ingredient Spotlight – a Q&A series highlighting some of our most nutritious ingredients. We start this spotlight series with everything you need to know about Maca.
Maca, where are you from?
To get started, tell us a bit more about yourself. Do you have any nick names?
While most people know me as maca (or pure maca), my scientific name is Lepidium meyenii. I am part of the Brassicaceae or Cruciferous vegetable family along with some of my cousins including broccoli, cauliflower, kale, arugula and cabbage.
Though you’ll most likely find me as a supplement or in the form of a ground powder, I’m actually a root plant that resembles beets and turnips, and I’m typically dressed in yellow, red or black.
I’m also known as Peruvian Ginseng, Ginseng Andin, or Maino, Ayak Chichira, and Ayak Willku in Spanish and Quechuan.
I go by many names, have many faces, but I am down to earth and my main mission in life is to help you find balance in yours.
Where are you from?
Believe it or not, I was born over 3,000 years ago in the beautiful Andes mountains of Peru at an altitude of over 4,000 meters!
My harsh environment makes me rather tough, and this is one of the main reasons why maca is known as an adaptogen. I have adapted to a stressful habitat, which gives me some pretty amazing stress-busting abilities (not to toot my own horn).
Traditionally, I’ve provided Incan soldiers with strength and stamina before they go into battle, and although there’s been attempts to grow me elsewhere, I’m not as potent when I’m grown on foreign lands.
This makes the Andes mountains my homeland, and where I feel the most comfortable.
Is maca's nutrition really as hyped up as what the claims make it to be?
What nutrients do you contain?
I have some pretty powerful nutritional capabilities, just one ounce (28 grams) of maca powder contains:
Carbohydrates: 20 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sugars: 9 g
Fat: 1 g
Protein: 4 g
Vitamin C: 79.8 mg (133% of RDI)
Riboflavin (B2): 0.1 mg (6% of RDI)
Niacin (B3): 1.6 mg (8% of RDI)
Pyridoxine (B6): 0.3 mg (16% of RDI)
Calcium: 70 mg (7% of RDI)
Iron: 4.1 mg (23% of RDI)
Potassium: 560 mg (16% of RDI)
Copper: 1.7 mg (84% of RDI)
Manganese: 0.2 mg (11% of RDI)
This makes me a source of a wide range of nutrients and a perfect boost to many diverse recipes, and your diet.
What are your health benefits?
First and foremost, I’m proud to call myself an adaptogen. If you’re curious about what my role is as an adaptogen, well, I help the body adapt to stress and anxiety. I do this by assisting in the regulation and balance of hormones as part of the endocrine system.
Boosting energy and athletic performance:
I am definitely in the spotlight for athletes and fitness enthusiasts. Why? Because I have been shown to help improve athletic performance and endurance as well as boost energy in active individuals.
I also contain compounds with antioxidant activity that help fight free radicals and protect cells from oxidative stress.
Improving learning and memory:
Fun fact! Traditionally, I’ve been used by natives as a memory enhancer for school children. There are now studies that show I may help improve both learning and memory. This makes me a wonderful nutritional boost for anyone with a hectic and busy lifestyle to help them conquer the day.
Increasing overall mood and well-being:
In addition, I’m known to help enhance mood and overall well-being. A few studies in menopausal and post-menopausal women have shown improvement in symptoms including anxiety, depression and even blood pressure.
Stimulating libido and fertility:
Since my early days, and one of my most well-known benefits is as a natural aphrodisiac stimulating sexual desire naturally and without unpleasant side effects for both men and women. In addition, I’m being studied with positive results for helping enhance male fertility and sperm quality in both fertile and infertile men.
Does anyone need to be cautious with taking maca?
While maca in moderate doses is generally considered safe and doesn’t pose any health risks, if you are on any hormone treatments such as for breast cancer or thyroid issues, you may want to check with your doctor first about taking maca, and start with very small doses.
Always check with your doctor if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Tell us about your use
What do you taste like and how can I use you?
I have an earthy, nutty, caramel-like flavour which makes me a great nutritional boost addition to desserts, smoothies, hot drink blends, baking and chocolate-based recipes.
I am also a key ingredient in all the super breakfast HOLOS flavours.
For more recipe ideas to use maca, check out the below:
Tell me a secret about yourself.
They say that I was so potent that at one point in time Incan soldiers were banned from using me after they had conquered a city to protect the women from their heightened sexual impulses.
Not only that, but rumor has it that my value was so highly prized during the Incan Empire that I was used as a form of currency.
Those are just the whispers, I’ll have to let you make your own mind up about my scandalous ways.
Where can I find you?
Of course, I am a nutrient-rich super ingredient in all the HOLOS flavours. Consuming me as a delicious on-the-go muesli is one of my favourite uses.
However, in North America, you can also find maca in powder or supplement form at your local health food or grocery store. Opt for gelatinized maca which is more easily digestible and concentrated than other available forms.