Maca has been around for thousands of years and has been used for both culinary and medicinal purposes by Peruvian people. It belongs to the Brassicaceae plant family and is related to crucifers (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, etc.), radishes, and horseradish. The maca root is dried and then generally ground into a powder. Most people describe it as having a caramel flavor, with some leaning more toward a nutty, butterscotch, or earthy taste.
There are three different types of maca, each with their own health benefits. Yellow is the most popular kind of maca and usually comes in a light-brown powder color. Yellow maca is associated with most of the health benefits we discuss below: hormonal balance, adaptogenic effects, and stamina, to name a few. Black maca is lesser known and has been shown to increase male sperm count and mobility. Finally, red maca is the most rare and can protect against prostate cancer and have a positive effect on bone structure and density.
Maca is marketed as having tons of health benefits. The most prominent health benefit is that it balances hormones, alleviating symptoms from menopause and sexual dysfunctions. It's also been shown to have powerful effects on the brain, enhancing learning ability and memory. Other studies show its mood-enhancing and antidepressant effects.
The downside to maca is maca can cause digestive distress if you don’t safely incorporate maca into your diet. While the general serving size of maca is 1 to 2 tablespoons, when you start ingesting maca, it’s best to start with ¼ to ½ teaspoon every other day to allow your body to acclimate to the new superfood.
OK, now that you know the background and benefits of maca—how do you use it? The possibilities are endless! Here are a few of my favorites: