It's likely you have heard of Maca a plant native to Peru, growing high in the Andes Mountains. Maca is a superfood that is popular for balancing hormones in men and women, resulting in; more energy, increased libido and fertility, increasing muscle mass, regulating glucose and fat burning, reduction in prostate size for men and reduction of hormone related issues for women such as POCS, PMS and menopause. Maca is also an adaptogen and so it balances hormones and is particularly useful for balancing estrogen and lowering cortisol levels.
In addition to these miraculous effects, Maca is very nutrient dense and a good source of iron and vitamin c as well as other minerals and vitamins. It is like taking a multi-vitamin and also packed with amino acids. Even if you aren't an athlete, don't have a hormone imbalance, aren't suffering from anxiety, mood swings, chronic stress or depression, don't have an enlarged prostate and don't have low fertility or libido, it is still really great to take every day for your overall good health and energy. As it is an adaptogen food it is always worth checking with your doctor before taking large amounts or if you are already taking medications which affect hormones like those for thyroid disorders.
If you have ever tried Maca Root Powder, there is a pretty good chance you will agree the taste is a bit gross. Not the hardest thing I have had to swallow for my health but certainly not pleasant and not something I would look forward to each day....
Until it is mixed with cocoa powder or mixed berries that is. Both of which are also nutritional powerhouses and superfoods in their own right. Maca also works well with peanut butter. Of course, you could just take the capsules but the powder is more economical and you will be surprised how quickly it becomes a kitchen staple. For instance, I have now replaced my morning coffee with my Maca Hot Chocolate, add Maca to my afternoon smoothie and use Maca in baking biscuits, muffins and fudge. The strong flavours of berries, cocoa and peanut butter mask most of the Maca flavour leaving only a nuttiness which I am beginning to enjoy.
My Super Hot Chocolate - I combine 1 teaspoon of Maca Root Powder with 3 teaspoons of Cocoa Powder. I also add a dash of cinnamon, turmeric and a sprinkle of black pepper. The additional spices give the Hot Chocolate a little lift so that it is not so heavy to drink. Turmeric and black pepper in combination also reduce inflammation and joint pain and on especially cold days I add a hint of chilli powder to really help get my metabolism going. I usually mix mine with hot water and add in some almond or dairy milk as though I were making instant coffee but of course, you could heat and stir it on the stove with all milk or all water or whichever combination of the two works for you. I personally don't add any sugar or sweetener but that is, of course, a personal preference as is the amounts or lack of additional spices. You might be surprised to find that this hot chocolate gives you a great lasting energy boost but without the jittery, irritable side effects of coffee.
My Maca Berry Smoothie - my kids and I love this as an after school snack. It gives a nice energy boost and feels satisfying. I use mixed berries, blueberries or raspberries depending on what we feel like and what I have in the freezer. If I am using mixed berries, I also add in a couple of cubes of frozen spinach to give the kids an extra hit of vegetables. With Maca and spinach both good sources of iron, it really makes sense to combine them with berries which are high in vitamin C, because vitamin C helps with iron absorption. So along with my cup of frozen berries and (optional) frozen spinach, I add a tablespoon of Maca Root Powder and 2 tablespoons of vanilla protein powder and a tablespoon of collagen and blend with some water and yoghurt or any milk I have in the fridge. I personally find the berries and milk/yoghurt sweet enough but you could add sweetener to this too. Generally, the amount of liquids (milk, yoghurt or water) depends on how thick or thin you would like your smoothie, so play around until you find the quantities that work for you. I am currently using the Forever Aloe Vanilla Protein Powder and NutraOrganics collagen and highly recommend both.
Baking with Maca - my kids love baking and so naturally I want them to grow up with healthy recipes as they learn to make their own baked goodies. With Maca Root Powder being such an incredible powerhouse of goodness and so many good effects on overall health, I am glad that they are growing up thinking of Maca Root as an everyday ingredient. Maca Root Powder can be added to any recipe that uses cocoa powder. I usually add 1-2 tablespoons of Maca Powder in our baking depending on what other ingredients are going in. For example, we love making almond and banana biscuits which are just almond flour and mashed banana. Because the sweetness comes from the banana and no other strong flavours to disguise the Maca taste, I only add a few teaspoons of Maca when we are making these. But if we are making chocolate muffins with cocoa powder and a sugar or sugar substitute then I add 1-2 tablespoons of Maca powder.
To receive the full benefits of Maca you really need to be consuming around 3 teaspoons a day, daily. In my opinion, the best and most fun way to do this is to incorporate Maca into your kitchen as a regular, treasured ingredient for baking and drinks. I love to play around with flavours when I am cooking and I am looking forward to experimenting with Maca in stir-fries and curries.
If you are like me and like to play about with different flavours, I would love to hear about your successes and fails with Maca. Please send me your Maca recipes to try and especially any flavour combos to stay away from! :D