One of the most nutritious yet lesser-known superfoods is an ancient root vegetable called maca.
Known scientifically as Lepidium meyenii, the maca plant is sometimes referred to as Peruvian ginseng. It is primarily grown in harsh conditions at extremely high altitudes above 13,000 feet (4,000 meters) in the Andes Mountains of central Peru.
Maca has a long, colorful history of culinary and nutritional use. Its first documented use involved the Incas in the Peruvian Andes, where it was reportedly used by warriors as a potential energizer.
In fact, due to its nutritional value, some evidence suggests maca may have been used even earlier than the Incas.
As a cruciferous vegetable belonging to the Brassicaceae family, the maca plant is botanically related to broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale. However, interestingly enough, maca is most closely associated with mustard, turnip, cabbage, garden cress and watercress.
Andean natives have been growing, preparing and eating maca for thousands of years. And as a common ingredient in Peruvian cooking today, maca is said to give dishes a delightful, earthy flavor.
A Nutrient-Dense Root Superfood
It might not be an overstatement to say that maca’s nutritional density and potential energy-enhancing properties have helped to make life more endurable in the extreme elevations and challenging weather of the Andes Mountains.
However, it’s important to know that even though all parts of the maca plant are edible, it’s the root that is the most nutritious superfood.
Maca root powder is comprised on average of 60-75% carbohydrates, 10-14% protein, 8.5% dietary fiber, 2.2% lipids and an impressive array of phytonutrients and minerals:
- Over 20 amino acids, including eight essential amino acids
- 20 “quality” fatty acids
- Calcium and Potassium
- Sulphur, Sodium and Iron
Maca’s protein content exists mainly in the form of polypeptides and amino acids, including significant amounts of arginine, serine, histidine, aspartic acid, glutamic acid, glycine, valine, phenylalanine, tyrosine and threonine. With these plentiful attributes, it’s easy to see why this root’s nutritional value is considered on the superfood level.
The Beneficial Antioxidant and Adaptogenic Properties of Maca
Maca root promotes natural antioxidants within your body, such as glutathione and superoxide dismutase.* Antioxidants are molecules that help protect your cells against harmful free radicals, which, in excess, have been linked to potential adverse health conditions.
Considered an adaptogen, maca is a natural substance that helps your body address different types of mental and physical stressors. It has been shown to promote homeostasis by normalizing the production of stress hormones – helping you during challenging situations.*
Several studies have suggested that maca can help to enhance your healthy mood, particularly in postmenopausal women, as it contains plant compounds called flavonoids, suggested to be partly responsible for these positive mood benefits.*
Moreover, human and animal research suggests that maca root powder may have positive effects on energy levels and exercise performance.* In a pilot study of eight male cyclists, researchers observed that after supplementing with maca extract for 14 days, the cyclists improved their performance on a 40 km (about 24-mile) time trial.
Other potential benefits of maca root reported from both human and animal studies include support for:
- Cognitive function.*
- Blood pressure already in the normal range.*
- Normal bone health.*
- Normal thyroid health.*
Even though maca has extraordinary potential benefit, it’s important to know that not all maca powders are created equal…
The Maca Processing Approach That Helps Ease Digestion
You may experience a hard time digesting raw maca due to the large quantity and types of starches in the tuber, or edible root. By weight, raw maca root can be made up of as much as 75% carbohydrates. Approximately half of that 75% is starch, specifically amylose and amylopectin.
These difficult-to-digest starches from raw maca powder can cause digestive discomforts, such as gas and bloating. That’s why selecting the right processing method is important.
Maca roots are processed in three main ways:
- Traditional Process: Traditionally, maca roots are harvested from May through July and then left in the sun to dry for 10 to 40 days. The dried roots are then boiled in water or milk until they are soft before being mashed into a porridge called mazamorra. This method only applies to actual maca consumption and is not generally used for supplements.
- Raw Maca Powder Process: Since the 1960s, raw maca powder has been made for the export market. In this process, maca roots are harvested and dried in the sun, or more recently, in dehydrators. Then, they are cleaned and ground into a very fine powder.
- Gelatinized Maca Powder Process: Gelatinized maca powder has been produced since the 1990s. The dried roots are first boiled and then pressurized in order to reduce the starch content. The removal of starch helps make the powder easier to digest. It’s important to note that nothing is added to maca during the process of gelatinization.
So, what is the preferred processing approach for maca root powder formulas?
As it ensures very little starch remains, helping to ease digestive challenges, gelatinization is the preferred process. The lack of starch means that gram for gram, gelatinized maca contains a higher concentration of flavonoids than raw maca powders.
And as a bonus, gelatinized maca root powder tends to have a smoother and sweeter taste that is less bitter than raw maca powder.
5 Key Questions to Ask When Considering a Maca Supplement
Maca powder formulas can vary greatly in overall quality and production processes. That’s why we’ve put together a list of six key questions to help guide you when searching for a top-quality formula.
Is the maca powder formula…
- Certified Organic?
By making sure the maca powder is Certified Organic, you can be confident you have a clean product without traces of synthetic pesticides and herbicides or genetically engineered (GE) ingredients that could potentially harm you.
- Made from maca root and not from other parts of the plant?
While all parts of the maca plant are edible, it’s the root that is considered a nutritious superfood.
- Made exclusively from Peruvian maca?
The increasing popularity of maca has led other countries, China in particular, to mass-produce their own. The issue with mass scale production is that often-times, the quality of the maca is inconsistent at best. Maca grown in the rich soils of the Peruvian Andes is by far the preferred choice.
You already should have a good understanding why this type of maca processing is preferred over raw maca powder. Gelatinization may also be avoided by some producers because raw maca roots can be easily ground into a powder quickly and less expensively.
- Produced by a trusted manufacturer with high-quality processing of the maca?
Ensuring the formula comes from a reliable source with experience in growing, harvesting and gelatinizing raw maca is essential to produce nutritious, highly concentrated powder.
Discover the Benefits of Organic Maca Powder Today
To help you optimize the nutrients and potential benefits of maca, we’re excited to offer you two extraordinary Organic Maca supplement that are:
- Certified USDA Organic for the highest quality without synthetic ingredients.
- Made exclusively from Peruvian maca root powder.
- Gelatinized for smoother digestion of the maca powder.
- Produced by a trusted Peruvian partner experienced in processing high-quality gelatinized maca powder.
Delivered in a non-gelatin, organic capsule (Organic Pullulan), our Organic Maca formula provides an easy-to-take dietary supplement.
As a nutritious alternative without the need for pills or capsules, Organic Maca Powder offers a deliciously smooth taste in a convenient powder that’s easy to add to your favorite beverage or smoothie.
Chocolate, Banana and Maca Smoothie Recipe
- 2 cups (480 ml) raw milk
- 1 cup (30 g) chard
- 1/4 cup (18 g) raw cacao powder
- 1 tablespoon chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal
- 1 teaspoon gelatinized Organic Maca Powder
- 1 teaspoon natural vanilla extract
- 2 pitted dates
- A pinch of Himalayan salt (optional)
- 2 medium-sized frozen sliced bananas
- 1 cup (125 g) ice cubes
Combine all the ingredients into a blender, and run on “high” for 30 to 60 seconds until smooth and creamy.
Serve immediately – makes about two 16-oz. glasses.
Containing healthful nutrients, including essential amino acids, quality fatty acids and minerals, our Organic Maca formulas may help promote a healthy mood, cognitive function and learning potential, protection against challenging stress levels, as well as provide support for normal blood pressure and bone health.*
Exclusively gelatinized from raw organic maca root grown and harvested in the Peruvian Andes Mountains, order your supplies of Organic Maca and Organic Maca Powder today.