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:
This is the lazy girl’s way to consume maca. If coffee is your morning baseline, all you have to do is start stirring a sprinkle into your morning joe. Easy peasy. The nutty, caramelly flavors of maca really complement the rich coffee brew. I love my coffee with some maca, a scoop of collagen, and some vanilla ghee.
Probably the easiest way to start incorporating maca is to throw it in your morning smoothie. My favorite is a basic green goddess smoothie with kale, frozen banana, nut butter, almond milk, collagen, and maca. The maca really enhances the nutty flavor and gives more depth to the smoothie palette.
3. Energy balls:
Add a scoop of maca to your favorite energy ball recipe. It adds a subtle malty flavor and a big hit of adaptogenic power. I like to pulse it with five medjool dates, a spoonful of cacao, and some sea salt in a food processor, then roll into balls. The cacao really helps balance out the maca flavor and is the perfect afternoon pick-me-up!
4. Homemade granola:
Nowadays there’s a fun granola flavor for anybody and everybody—I seriously spent 30 minutes in the granola aisle at Whole Foods scouring the labels to find the perfect one. Lately I like to make my own grain-free granola packed with nuts, seeds, and almond butter. I love giving it an extra superfood boost with a scoop of maca to energize and focus me in the morning.
5. Edible cookie dough:
I’m all about that edible-cookie-dough life and I think adding maca would make me feel really, really OK with my late-night treat choices. The maca adds such a great butterscotch, caramel flavor that will add a nice flavor line between that no-bake dough and those dark-chocolate chippers!
6. Nice cream (banana ice cream):
Impress your friends by making banana maca ice pops, or treat yourself with a bowl of maca nice cream sprinkled with mini chocolate chips. Pop two frozen bananas into your food processor with a scoop of maca and a splash of almond milk to make a fun frozen treat this summer.