The of-the-moment smoothie mix-in seems to change annually. (Remember wheatgrass? How about bee pollen?) Well, 2020 is here and, with it, a new way to spike your smoothie to give it superpowers: Maca.
Maca is a type of adaptogen, the latest wellness trend to cross over into the culinary world. Simply put, adaptogens herbs or mushrooms that promote stabilization of the body’s response to stress. (Think: busy schedules, everyday worries, sickness or even a tough exercise day.) The idea is that an adaptogen such as maca will support your adrenal glands to ensure your hormones don’t overreact to stress, which can have negative consequences such as fatigue or anxiety.
Colloquially, it’s easy to mistake “maca” for “matcha,” the powdered green tea: It sounds almost identical when yelled over the counter at a local smoothie bar– however, discovering maca’s benefits may be worth all the confusion.
What is Maca?
Maca is botanically related to broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower. While all parts of the maca plant are edible, the root is what has the adaptogenic properties.
Historically, Maca was a common supplement used by the Incan warriors before battle as a source of sustained energy. It first made its way into American culture with a newspaper article in the 1960’s crediting its positive effects on fertility. However, general U.S. market distribution was halted due to negative market studies on its taste profile, which is now most commonly referred to as butterscotch-like and nutty. Since then, the American palate has expanded – representing the current snapshot of diversity in American food culture — and a new notion of “wellness”, that celebrates personalization and longevity has been embraced. Combined, those two factors set the scene for a maca comeback.
Maca Powder Benefits
Maca provides vitamin c, copper, iron, potassium, B6, manganese, and bioactive plant compounds. This translates to Maca having hormone balancing benefits such as boosted energy, libido, fertility, positive mood, healthy skin and shiny hair.
However, don’t picture maca having the same energy effect as coffee or even green tea: It doesn’t take effect immediately and the energy you get from maca is less of an intense uptick but rather described as a clear, balanced energy that can be sustained over time. (Read: No caffeine crash.)
There are different varieties of maca available, all with similar adaptogenic characteristics.
Red Maca: The most rare type that contains the most antioxidants and amino acids out of the three and known to be most effective for balancing hormones (specifically for depression and stress) along with increasing strength and stamina.
Black Maca: Most known for increasing libido, increase memory and energy and is also a mood booster. This variety is also thought to increase fertility in men.
Yellow Maca: This is the most commonly seen at the store. It’s more of a light brown color rather than yellow. It’s known for its universal mood boosting ability and is thought to specifically balance hormones in women’s bodies.
How to Use Maca
It’s important to recognize that everyone’s experience with maca can vary and while you cannot take “too much maca”, it’s always smart to introduce a new food with a mindful approach: We recommend starting with a one teaspoon serving and building up to one tablespoon.
In our test kitchen, a jar of maca can disappear pretty quickly. These are a few of our favorite way to use it:
Maca Smoothie Recipe
1/4 chopped ripe frozen banana or 1/4 cup diced, steamed and frozen sweet potato
1 cup (250 ml) nut milk, such as almond or cashew, or coconut water
1 to 3 tsp. maca root powder
1 Tbs. nut butter
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 cup frozen blueberries or strawberries
1/2 cup raw kale or spinach
1 Tbs. chia seeds
1 cup nut milk, such as almond or cashew, or coconut water
1/4 cup steamed and frozen cauliflower (optional)
Blend all ingredients together. (If produce is extra frozen set it out on the counter for 10 minutes before blending.)
Maca Latte Recipe
1 cup nut milk such as almond or cashew
1 tsp date syrup
½ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp ginger
1 -3 tsp maca root powder
optional: 2 Tablespoons cacao powder, for a chocolate-y version
Heat milk in small saucepan. Whisk in the remaining ingredients, or add heated milk to blender with spices and blend until well combined and foamy. Serve hot.
Maca Overnight Oats Recipe
½ cup rolled oats
1 cup nut milk such as almond or cashew
1 Tbsp nut butter
¼ tsp cinnamon
1-3 tsp maca root powder
¼ cup fresh berries
1 Tbsp chia seeds
Mix all ingredients in a glass container with a lid and refrigerate overnight. Stir in the morning when ready to eat.
Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen Cook Devon Francis leads food development for the Williams Sonoma Test Kitchen. As a passionate health guru, you can find her walking or running with friends throughout San Francisco, exploring the latest health trends and happily eating her way through it all.