What is Maca and why should I put it in my Smoothie?

Maca Root Powder - Andean SuperfoodSpend any time learning about how to get healthy, increase your stamina, boost your energy or strengthen your immune system, and you’re bound to come across thousands of rave reviews about “Maca”. Maca has been highly regarded for centuries as a miracle food so it’s no surprise it has become a recent addition to the “must have” nutrient list for smoothies.

Although it’s part of the broccoli, radish, and watercress family and even looks like a very robust radish, it has an earthy taste with a nutty flavor, making it a perfect complement to smoothies. Like the rest of the roots in the cruciferous family, it’s low in calories – one teaspoon of maca powder has only 10 calories.

Native to the Andes Mountains, maca is the superfood of one of the oldest, and once most advanced civilizations on earth – the Incas and Peruvians. Over the centuries maca has been called “magic, the food of the gods, a natural Viagra, and a miracle drug” for a reason. It works. For centuries people have been using it for everything from enhancing their fertility to boosting their immune system or libido, but most people simply love the non-caffeinated burst of energy they get from putting maca in their smoothies.

Most people report a subtle, but noticeable, non-jittery type energy boost within minutes to hours from adding just one teaspoon into their smoothie.

It’s not because it’s magical, but because of the root’s very real and very scientific makeup and how it affects everything from circulation to the endocrine system. To date there are no known toxic side effects from using maca. As a matter of fact, scientists say that repeated use of maca is like repeatedly exercising – the body not only adapts, but also gets stronger over time each time you use it.

Maca RootWhile maca does have side effects they aren’t toxic. High doses are considered to have a relaxing effect on the heart, rather than a tension creating effect like caffeine. High doses can also increase fertility in men and women and may disrupt some forms of birth control, although researchers aren’t sure about this. Maca can also cause more frequent menstruation in some women, although women report it’s also helped with the hot flashes and problems women who are menopausal or pre or post-menopausal experience.

If you do take high does it’s important to make sure you get plenty of water. While taking the recommended dose can increase your energy, high doses can sometimes cause fatigue due to dehydration and heightened potassium levels.

Because the benefits are noticeable immediately, and because they accumulate over time with regular use, maca helps re-enforce the benefits of a healthy smoothie habit. As powerful as the results of taking maca can be, it’s not a drug. It’s a plant. Maca contains over 55 beneficial and naturally occurring phyto-chemicals (plant chemicals). Those chemicals play critical roles in the hormonal health of our body, including affecting our thyroid gland, immune system, reproduction system and brain.

Health Benefits of Maca

Just one teaspoon in your smoothie once or twice a day can do amazing things. Here are just a few of the things you can expect maca in your smoothie to help with:

Energy: Most people feel their mood and energy level lift almost instantly. Users report their energy, stamina and endurance.

Sex Drive: Maca has been shown to increase not only the male sex drive, but the production of sperm as well.

Fertility: Maca increases fertility in both men and women.

Migraines: If you suffer from migraine headaches you might want to try maca. Because most migraines are related to an imbalance in hormone levels, or fluctuating hormone levels, maca works by leveling out those levels. Maca doesn’t create any hormones in the body – it just helps the body produce them more consistently and effectively. It helps balance the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone. Maca also helps restore balance to the hypothalamus and pituitary glands – the body’s master gland system.

Memory: Maca enhances memory as well as our ability to learn and process mentally. It makes us more alert and aware.

Wounds: Maca speeds wound healing and benefits the circulatory system as well.

Vitamin packed: Maca includes 55 phyto-chemicals, including vitamins B1, B2, B12, and Vitamin C, zinc. It has amino acids, calcium and phosphorus as well.

Immune Booster: Maca’s 22 fatty acids function both as a fungicide and as a local antiseptic. These actions, along with the natural Vitamin C and zinc are believed to help aid in overall immunity enhancement.

Stress: For people with adrenal stress from work, disease, exercise or PTSD, maca can reduce the effects of cortisol on the adrenal glands and other organs so impacted by a “Type A”, high pressure lifestyle or job. Athletes, executives and anyone with an active life will appreciate how maca helps address the destructive actions of mental, emotional and physical stress on the body. Maca can help lower high blood pressure and how the body burns and utilizes food.

Thyroid: The Thyroid gland controls the rate at which the body produces energy from nutrients. Maca contains an alkaloid extract which activates the body’s natural calcitonine hormones, which regulate the metabolism of calcium (Ca) and phosphorus (P) in the blood. The hormone is secreted by the thyroid and the parathyroid. It acts in the intestines, bones, and kidneys to increase the (Ca2+) in the plasma. It also aids in wound healing through blood clotting. (Dr. Chacon — Peru)

Pancreas: Maca also boosts the work your pancreas does in keeping your blood sugar levels even. The pancreas is a vital part of the digestive process. If the duct from the pancreas become blocked for some reason the digestive fluids of the pancreas may digest the pancreas itself, or lead to pancreatitis, or pancreatic cancer.

Thymus: Your thymus is the organ responsible for the health of your immune system. It produces the T-cells that fight off infection and disease, especially important if you are getting treatment for HIV, AIDS or cancer. Maca contains vitamin C as well as trace elements of zinc. Researchers found out years ago that C and zinc, when taken together, help boost the immune system function of the thymus gland. Part of maca’s adaptogenic value may be its ability to enhance the thymus’ cell mediated immunity.

Definitions

You’ll often hear various terms, such as “phyto-chemical”, or “adaptogen” used when describing Maca. Here is a list of the most common terms and what they mean:

Phyto-chemical – Phyto means “plant,” and “phyto-genisis” is the study of plants and “phyto-chemical” is the study of the chemical compounds that occur naturally in plants. For instance, the substance that gives blueberries their dark blue color is a phyto-chemical. Scientists generally use the term to refer to those plant chemicals that may have a biological significance, but are not yet established as essential nutrients.

Adaptogen – An adaptogen is a new class of metabolic regulators (such as maca) which increase the ability of an organism (people or animals) to adapt to environmental factors (stress, diet, toxins, disease etc) and to avoid damage from such factors without causing any side effects from its use. Ginseng, a very popular root herb around the world, is another example of an adaptogen. The concept and name is accepted and used among mainstream researchers as well as many medical professionals.

FAQ

No one blog post or website can answer every conceivable question about maca, but here are some of the most frequently asked questions people have about maca:

How long will it last?
Maca will keep up to a year if kept in a cool, dry, dark place, but like most supplements and herbs, fresher is better and more potent. Use it within a few months of ordering if you’re using it at home. If you’re adding it to smoothies at a smoothie bar, chances are it’s very fresh since it’s something most smoothie bars go through quickly since it’s in high demand.

Is it a liquid, powder, tablet, gelatin or capsule and which is best to use?
Maca comes as all of the above, and it’s recommended that you use whatever form best suits you and your life style and preferences. Powder or liquid forms are best if using it in a smoothie. If you use a preferred method (liquid for instance) over a recommended method (powder) you’re more likely to take it consistently. It only works when you take it, so use a form you’re most likely to be comfortable with taking over time. Consider things like taste and how you plan to take it. Many people like to put it in a smoothie; others prefer to dissolve it in water, while others like to take it in pill or capsule form. People react to different forms differently. Some people feel no difference on the liquid and respond well to the powder. It’s up to the individual. The price may vary as well – with powders being less expensive than liquid for instance.

What is the difference between cooked, raw, and gelatinized maca?
In Peru, maca root is traditionally cooked before it is used. Peruvians roast maca roots or boil and mash them like potatoes. One benefit to using cooked maca is that it is easier to digest than the raw root. If you try raw maca and find it upsets your stomach, you can find a supplement or powder that comes from cooked maca. Another option if raw maca irritates your stomach is the gelatinized form. The process of gelatinizing maca uses low heat and pressure to separate out the fibrous parts of the root. This makes the maca more digestible.

Is there a difference between raw and organic?
Yes, depending on the supplier there is a difference, notably in the way it is handled. Organic doesn’t necessarily mean raw. Some manufacturers lightly heat their maca, and cooking, even slightly, means the maca is not raw. If raw is important to you, ask your supplier or smoothie bar owner about their maca. Lightly heating it makes it easier for some people to digest, but does not impact the potency of the root.

What does it taste like?
Different people say different things about the taste, and raw maca tastes different than dried but in general, maca has an earthy taste that is mildly nutty with a hint of butterscotch. It’s easily blended into superfood smoothies, various milks, chocolates, or mixed into flour for dessert recipes and doesn’t have a strong taste when combined with other foods or liquids. Although people in Peru and some restaurants do cook with maca bread, soups etc. Maca is used as a tea, as a spice, in yogurt, chocolate bars and as a supplement.

How often should I take it?
Just as with any exercise, herb, supplement or product, it’s wise to cycle, or take some time off from time to time so your body doesn’t become so used to it that the benefits lapse. Typical schedules vary. You may want to take it for a week then take a week off. Or you can do a month on, a month off and so on. Listen to your body and follow a schedule that works best for you! If you’re asking if you can have a couple of smoothies a day, the answer is probably, depending on how much you put in the smoothie and how your body responds to it. If you find yourself staying awake, unable to sleep, or feeling very alert, you might want to cut back.

Maca Smoothie Recipes

It’s been my experience that maca goes well is just about every smoothie imaginable. Many of the smoothie recipes posted on this site recommend using maca as an add-on for all the benefits listed above.

As with any new smoothie ingredient, vitamin, or supplement, start out with a smaller dose and work your way up. One teaspoon of maca is a good starting point, but you can easily work your way up to 2 tablespoons per smoothie.

For a smoothie where maca is the main ingredient, check out this Maca Superfood Smoothie Recipe.

For all of my smoothies featuring maca, click here.

I’d love to know if you use maca in your smoothies and what health benefits you have experienced – please divulge in the comments below.

Where to buy Maca

Your local health food store is sure to carry maca. Ask someone working there for their take on this superfood. If you’d rather purchase maca online, hop on over to Maju Superfoods for the best price and quality around.

Sources for this blog post include:

http://www.naturalnews.com/maca.html
http://health.howstuffworks.com/sexual-health/sexual-dysfunction/maca-perus-natural-viagra.htm
http://www.macamagic.com/
http://macaroot.com/

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173 Responses to What is Maca and why should I put it in my Smoothie?

  1. Hi Ryan,
    I’m taking maca more than 2 years now and I feel absolutely great. I’m not a young girl and I thank maca for those enegies it gives me for the whole day. I have to say that at the beginning my experience with maca was bad, I absolutely hated the taste of it and had very hard time when I needed to swallow the powder. But I needed maca’s boost of energy so much, that I didn’t give up and I tried to add maca powder to my morning smoothies. Have to say that this was a wonderful solution for me, as smoothie’s taste completely masked the unpleasant taste of maca. I recommend anyone who doesn’t exactly like that nutty taste of maca to try and add it to smoothie or salad. Trust me, the benefits you’ll get from maca are worth it.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Thanks for sharing your experience with maca, Sarah.

  2. Bunty #

    Hi can you pls tell how Maca is going to help me to solve my erection problem.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Maca is known for increasing libido.

  3. Marlone #

    I’m hearing that maca causes cancer is this true?!!!!

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Care to share the source of this information?

  4. Ronald Miller #

    Hi Ryan are you related to Marilyn Carmody & Patty Carmody.
    They are cousins of mine.
    As for the maca – I’m going to take some and see how it Go’s My Wife has a lot of Health issue and hope this will help.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      I’m not related to those Carmody’s, Ronald, but I’m sure they’re fine people :) I hope the maca helps your wife.

  5. Francisco #

    I started a juicing diet, so I am not eating for 5 days already and I lost 6lb just drinking vegetables and fruits also I am not taking medications for diabetes anymore since I am having raw food , but I feel that I want to try also smoothies and I was wondering if maca will be good for my diet also being diabetic. I have hemp protein but since I am from Peru I want to try maca as part of my juice diet and where to find it will be a good question. I live in Bend Oregon.
    Thank you.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Hi Francisco,

      I can’t speak to consuming maca while on a juice diet. I have no experience with juice diets.

      Maca on a regular diet is a good option and not a problem for diabetics. My article on diabetic friendly smoothies may be of interest.

      https://www.healthysmoothiehq.com/diabetic-smoothies

      Regards,
      Ryan

  6. PamW #

    It’s probably great stuff, but the comment ” it’s not a drug. It’s a plant. ” is not helpful.
    Lots of plants are drugs – foxglove (belladonna), cannabis . . .

    • Ryan Carmody #

      You’re right, Pam. I should have qualified that as it’s not a drug created in a laboratory from synthetic chemicals.

  7. Michelle #

    Does the maca protein powder have the same benefits as the Maca root powder? Which is best?

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Which maca protein powder are you referring too?

  8. Sophia #

    Hello Ryan, I started taking Mac last Friday and have found I have started to break out a little, do you think its safe to take a teaspoon of maca in smoothie at breakfast. aswell as taking spirulina tablets, I take two at every meal. Heard of anyone doing the same combo? Would love to know, I think I should probably stop with spirulina or at least cycle between the two as I am probably getting to much iodine?

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Hello Sophia. A teaspoon of maca in your breakfast smoothie with spirulina tablets shouldn’t be an issue. However, everyone is sensitive to different things and combinations. I would go with your instincts and stop the spirulina when you take maca and see how you feel.

  9. Tracy #

    Hi Ryan

    I have been reading your article (which was really helpful and interesting) and some of the comments about maca. I am just about to purchase maca for the first time and was wondering how long the energy boost lasts? I was thinking of having it in a smoothie before doing a Zumba class in the evening in the hope that it will give me more energy in the class! However saw you said it was not good to take in the evening as it can affect sleep (my sleep is already bad, so I don’t need any extra help with that!). I wondered if that would still apply if you’ve used a lot of energy in the exercise class or whether if I had it in the morning, would the energy boost last into the evening?

    Many thanks
    Tracy

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Hi Tracy,

      The increased energy people typically experience from Maca is more of an overall sense of increased energy, not so much a boost as you might expect from an energy drink. Try taking it in the morning and see if you notice energy increases throughout the day and also at your nightly Zumba class.

      Regards,
      Ryan

  10. Michail #

    Hi Ryan,

    Thank you for the great site!
    I m very interested in adrenal fatigue, and i understand it is a very tricky to handle condition.
    Please have a look at this source, as it might shed some more light as why effects of maca can be opposite (paradoxical) for some people
    https://www.drlam.com/articles/7mistakesofadrenalfatigue.asp
    I ll research more about adrenal fatigue as i think i suffer from it (cannot regulate well my body temp for a start, brain fog, energy crashes etc, but also being low on B12 which might be the root cause in it self), and try to include maca with care not to become addicted to it.
    A long journey of experimentation starts…

    Your site helped me a lot in becoming more aware about adrenal fatigue.

    Regards,
    Michail

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Hi Michail,

      Interesting take on maca and other stimulatory herbs that I have to agree with. They may help with adrenal fatigue, but aren’t necessarily addressing the root cause.

      I advocate cycling all superfoods and herbs (roughly 2-3 weeks on and 1 week off) to increase effectiveness and prevent tolerance build up. I wouldn’t worry about getting addicted to maca.

      Here’s my adrenal support smoothie:

      https://www.healthysmoothiehq.com/adrenal-support-smoothie

      Good luck!

      Ryan

  11. Anita #

    Can someone taking HIV drugs take maca?

    • Ryan Carmody #

      That’s a question for your doctor or a qualified medical professional, Anita.

  12. Dylan #

    Hey maca is great! Maybe too great… it boosts my libido too much, seems too result in painfully long lasting erectipns. Would be better with a sezual partner I think

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Might want to reduce consumption and/or find a partner, Dylan.

  13. Iva #

    Im trying to get pregnant and a friend told me to take maca its good for that

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Yes, maca is known for increasing fertility in both men and women, Iva.

  14. JoDavo #

    Hello Ryan,
    This is my first intro to Maca. Thank you. It sounds awesome. I can’t wait to try it.
    I was wondering, is having raw maca in a warm drink the same as cooking it?

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Cooking maca is different than adding it to a warm drink, JoDavo.

  15. Margaret #

    Hi,

    I am 67 and post menopausal with regular hot flushes and severe night sweats. I have had a breast cancer lump removed which was a carcinoma. Would I still be able to take Maca as I see it may affect estrogen levels.?

    • Ryan Carmody #

      I’m not qualified to answer that question, Margaret. Please consult your doctor or health care professional.

  16. Maribel #

    I have never heard of Maca before but after reading your article I can see there are many benefits to adding it to meals. Thank you.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      You’re welcome, Maribel.

  17. Langa #

    Hi Ryan

    Does Mac a help to increase the bottom bums?

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Not sure what you mean by increase the bottom bums, Langa.

  18. Jonie #

    Hi Ryan

    Is the brand you endorse raw or cooked? And is it yellow or red maca?

    • Ryan Carmody #

      It’s yellow and gelatinized. Here’s a description: The sun dried roots are first boiled and then pressurized in order to remove all starch content. The boiling process does alter some nutrients, but does make the powder easier to digest (due to the lack of starch). The powder is then mixed into drinks or other foods for consumption. Essentially, raw maca and gelatinized are the same, except the gelatinization process removes all of the starch.

  19. Tricia #

    I am 56 yrs. young and I am experiencing extreme menopausal issues. I have had quite severe anxiety, depression, fear, weight gain and just an overall feeling of not feeling like me. I am juicing organic vegetables and fruit with added chia seeds and/or flax seeds. After studying about maca root, I have added a teaspoon of organic gelatinized maca root powder to my juice. In two (2) days time I felt more like myself, I felt happier, clearer headed and had positive energy. One thing is I took it in late afternoon for the last two days. I did not sleep a wink and was a bit out of sorts after dozing off then jolting awake. I will not take it today so I can chill out and sleep, hopefully. I would recommend taking maca early in the morning. Also I know if maca continues to help me, I will take a break from it after a couple of weeks of daily use. Hang in there ladies, be easy on yourself and know you are not alone in this process.

    • Ryan Carmody #

      Thank you for sharing your success with Maca, Tricia!

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