By GMB Nutritionist Melissa Fine.
Having stood the test of time as an ingredient that’s safe for human consumption, it’s about time we learn more about this South American superfood!
For us, maca may be a ‘new’ superfood…but in the Andes of Peru, it has been valued and utilised for it’s medicinal properties for thousands of years. Here’s the lowdown on all things maca.
‘Lepidium meyenni’ sounds like something straight from Harry Potter, but this is in fact the botanical name for maca! While it looks like a turnip, maca is actually a cruciferous veg, coming from the same plant family as broccoli and cauliflower.
The maca plant has a green top and roots that are yellow to purple, or even black. The roots are ground into a powder, which has a flavour we’d describe as a bit earthy and nutty, even buttery!
Maca is particularly rich in the antioxidants glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and Vitamin C. Antioxidants neutralise or ‘fight off’ cell-damaging free radicals; these are produced as a byproduct of metabolism, and are also inherent to environmental toxins that are hard to not be exposed to - like cigarette smoke and pesticides.
Without getting too complicated, know this: antioxidants promote good health in the long-term!
While more substantial research is required, studies are demonstrating that maca can benefit body and mind. This was shown in a recent randomised, placebo - controlled, double-blind trial - the ‘gold-standard’ trial method.[^1] 175 adult participants were given 3 grams of either black maca, red maca, or a placebo, to be taken daily for three months. By the trial’s conclusion, those who’d been taking black or red maca reported an improvement in mood, energy levels and health-related quality of life – whereas the placebo group did not. Also worth noting: there were no adverse side effects.
The mechanisms surrounding these improvements are still to be determined, but one theory is that maca’s potential to reduce blood glucose levels might play a part - a steadier level of blood glucose means a steadier level of energy, and no getting hangry!
In a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 14 menopausal women, participants were given 3.5 grams of maca daily, or a matching placebo for six weeks.[^2] By the trial’s conclusion, although there were no changes in hormone assays (measurements), those who’d been administered maca showed reduced scores of menopause-related anxiety and depression. Sexual dysfunction had also decreased. These improvements were not seen in the placebo group.
In another trial, maca did impact the hormone assay in early-postmenopausal Caucasian women.[^3] Hormones became more balanced, and hot flushes and night sweats were alleviated in participants who received 2g of maca/day for four months.
However, a review of the research to date concludes that larger, high quality trials are needed to make stronger conclusions about maca and it’s potential benefits during menopause.[^4]
One bite of this and you’ll be asking, “Are you sure this is vegan?” We’re not sure how they do it, but BSKT’s vegan choc is legit; the maca, vanilla and coconut sugar in here make this 67% dark choc taste all caramel-y…and we’re always on board with the chocolate and coffee combo!
The Caramelised Clusters in this range are dusted with maca and mesquite, cinnamon and sea salt…throw a handful over your yoghurt or smoothie bowl and you’ll be in breakkie heaven.
If you’re looking for a more concentrated form of maca, this brand is our go-to. Each batch is freshly ground to order, before being shipped from Peru under strict temperature control.
We’ve been making an in-vogue beetroot latte in the office with this caffeine free blend. Naturally pink, it’s too pretty to drink…almost ;) There’s a substantial amount of maca powder in here, and with ingredients like fudgey roasted carob and spices, it tastes like dessert in a mug. We also love a spoonful of this in our smoothies.
GMB founder, Peta has been having her NuZest protein powder daily for years, so she’s stoked that NuZest are now pairing their European golden pea protein with functional ingredients. The result? A protein powder that not only supports physical endurance, but also general health and wellbeing. I love this one blended with frozen banana slices and coconut milk.
Have you tried maca powder? Let us know how you like it, and if you have any other fave maca products to add to our list.