Well Being

What Is Maca? An Introduction To The Bluth Family’s New Favorite Food

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What Is Maca  An Introduction To The Bluth Family s New Favorite Food Maca powder flour in glass bowl with maca roots or Peruvian ginseng lat Lepidium meyenii jpg

The long-awaited fourth season of Arrested Development debuted yesterday on Netflix. True to Netflix form, the entire 15-episode series was added at once, making it possible to binge-watch the whole season in one sitting if you’re so inclined.

I was pretty good, stopping after just six episodes. I promise not to reveal anything about the new season here except this: Someone in the Bluth clan is addicted to the maca plant.

What Is Maca  An Introduction To The Bluth Family s New Favorite Food maca jpgYou may have heard of maca recently–for the past few years, it’s been gaining ground as a trendy supplement and aphrodisiac in the United States. Navitas Naturals (purveyor of all manner of conveniently packaged ancient superfoods) describes maca as a potent Peruvian snack “prized by Incan warriors to increase stamina, boost libido and combat fatigue.”

The maca plant is native to Peru, where residents have used it as a food source, supplement and medicinal herb for hundreds of years. A member of the Brassica vegetable family, it’s an herbaceous plant that produces a root similar to a turnip or radish.

This maca root comes in many colors, though cream, black and red are most common. It can be cooked and eaten as a vegetable, or dried and milled into maca powder. It’s maca powder that you’ll see added to drinks at juice bars, residing in your hippie friend’s cabinet and showing up on health food ingredient lists.

In Peru, maca root vegetables have traditionally been eaten raw, cooked in ovens with hot stones or dried and stored.

The dried roots are eaten after boiling in water or milk, and are sometimes mixed with honey and fruit for preparation of juices, and addition of sugarcane rum for cocktails and other alcoholic beverages. Flour is also prepared from the dried roots for making bread and cookies. Maca is mixed with chuño (freeze-dried potatoes), oca, quinua and soyabeans to prepare different dishes and dessert. Toasted and ground (roots) are used to prepare “maca coffee.”

Peruvians have long attested to maca’s power as an aphrodisiac, and recent scientific evidence confirms it. In one 12-week study, men who were given 1,500 to 3,000 milligrams of maca extract daily were able to improve their sperm count, sperm motility and volume of seminal fluid. They also reported a dramatic increase in sexual desire.

Though rigorous research on maca is scarce, it has an array of other purported health effects. These includes increasing energy; improving athletic performance; helping treat menstrual problems and symptoms of menopause; boosting the immune system; supporting proper thyroid and adrenal glands functioning; and improving memory.

As far as nutrients go, maca is loaded. Maca root and powder provide a good source of plant protein, vitamins (especial B1, B2, C, D and E), minerals (iron, potassium, copper, calcium, magnesium), fiber, amino acids (particularly glutamic acid, which triggers are umami “taste buds”), oleic acid and plant sterols. “In comparison to the potato, another root crop, maca contains five times more protein and about four times the fiber,” according to Natural News.

But what of the maca plant’s ability to induce hallucinations? No dice, I’m afraid. The few mentions I can even find about this all assert no. We’ll have to look for another explanation for the os–whoops; no spoilers!

One more thing our Bluth friend was wrong about? The maca plant’s legal status. He says it’s legal to consume in the United States, but illegal to grow; and legal to grow in Mexico, but illegal to consume. As far as I can tell, neither of these things are true.

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Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Liz Nolan Brown, Elizabeth Brown, Elizabeth N Brown, health writer, nutritionist, food, vegan, vegetarian, recipes