This week, we’re featuring a special ingredient called Maca powder – just in time to celebrate love week and Valentines Day. It is derived from a root that grows in the high altitudes of the Peruvian Andes and is known to be “Nature’s Viagra,” as well as a natural energy booster. On top of improving libido, Maca root is also noted to strengthen the immune system, battle fatigue, promote fertility, sooth menopause symptoms, and regulate PMS.
The most common version of the root herb looks like a large radish, yet has the color of a parsnip. In addition to eating it raw or baked, Peruvians have traditionally prepared it by drying the root, then pounding it into a fine, fluffy powder.
I was first introduced to Maca root a few years ago, when I was juggling my full-time art direction career and going back to school for holistic nutrition. My body battled the symptoms of stress, that eventually translated into a fussy digestive tract and a menstrual cycle that became as unpredictable as the channel 4 weather. After getting cleared from my OBGYN that “I was normal,” I decided to work with a holistic nutrition counselor through my school. She suggested I experiment with Maca powder, giving me a clear warning that it was powerful stuff! Curious and intrigued, I picked up a few scoops from my favorite natural foods store (Rainbow Grocery) and added 1 teaspoon to my morning smoothies for about a week. To keep it short, simple and sweet – things were working!
What are the nutritional benefits?
According to Natural News, Maca root is rich in B-vitamins and has bio-available calcium and magnesium. It also helps to balance hormones by stimulating and nourishing “the hypothalamus and pituitary glands” – which are key in the function of your adrenal, thyroid, pancreas, ovarian, and testicular glands. Ultimately, Maca works as an adaptogen, responding to a body’s needs on an individual basis. If your body is producing too little of a hormone, it will work to increase it. If your body is producing too much of a hormone, it will “regulate the production downward.”
Just like other superfoods in the stores, many of the health benefits aren’t scientifically proven, but if you are open and willing to experiment with new foods to heal your body, then it’s worth a try.
For me personally, I find beauty and wisdom in looking at the ancient foods of our ancestors. From my old Chinese grandma’s ginger concoctions to soothe bellyaches to this sweet powder, I can only imagine what it was like 5,000+ years ago when a village doctor would prepare a simple vegetable to cure a common symptom – which sounds much different than today’s medicinal practices.
In fact, I recently read a story about how Incan warriors would eat Maca for energy, strength and power before going into battle, but were prohibited from eating it after battle to protect captured women from their sexual impulses. Who knows if this is true or not, but it does sound intriguing.
What does it taste like?
Taste-wise, Maca has a maple, butterscotch node, but can have a slight bitter aftertaste. I find that it tastes best when you blend it with other “toasty” and “nutty” flavors, like almond/peanut butter, maple syrup, or even dark chocolate. (See yummy recipes below)
Where can you find it?
Since it grows in such high altitudes, you probably won’t find the root, however you will find it in powder or capsule form. If your local natural food store has a good selection of herbs, teas, and spices, you should be able to find it in the bulk bin area, OR you can pick up a cute little Navitas Naturals package from Whole Foods or Amazon.
Cheers to Experimenting with Food
In closing, I send you love and power from our kitchen to yours. As you continue to explore Eat Life Whole, you’ll begin to see a pattern that food and eating healthy can be fun, delicious, and quite adventurous. Explore the healing properties of foods. Make it yummy. Why not?
Try these easy recipes
Kitchen note: Like everything else, Maca root should be enjoyed in moderation. Currently, there is no research to indicate that maca is anything but safe in small doses. However, precautions should be taken if you are breastfeeding or pregnant. We suggest consulting your physician before making any notable changes to your diet.