Maca—grown in the high plateaus of the Andes mountains in central Peru and Bolivia—has been cultivated for over three thousand years. Widely praised as a superfood and credited with boosting stamina, energy, libido, and fertility, maca also functions as an adaptogen, a natural substance that stimulates the body to heal whatever is out of balance. Maca has been recommended for decades by both conventional and alternative health care practitioners worldwide.
Beverly Lynn Bennett reviews maca’s nutritional and healing properties and all its available forms. She thoroughly covers how to incorporate powdered maca into daily meals and provides 32 scrumptious recipes, including beverages, morning meals, snacks, sides, main dishes, and treats. Incan Maca Hot Chocolate, Garden Guaca-Maca-Mole, and Maca-Miso Dressing are just a few of her delicious offerings.
Caryn Hartglass: Hey everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass and you’re listening to “It’s All About Food.” How are you doing today? And how was your Thanksgiving, if you celebrated Thanksgiving, I just know that we were on our feet for two, no, about, three, three days non-stop, buying food and then preparing it. And I got to be honest; I’m wiped out now. And now it’s recovery time, but it was worth it we prepared a lot of food and fortunately it was the tip of the iceberg¸ the amount of food that we made versus what we served. And we were enjoying the leftovers all week and now the freezer is loaded up with all kinds of wonderful goodies. I like to think of it as the gift we give ourselves we work really hard and we make all this wonderful stuff and then it’s there for us in the freezer to enjoy. And if you’re curious about any of the things that we made, it’s all in my blog “What Vegans Eat” so I hope you check that out from time to time at responsibleeatingandliving.com. Alright I want to bring on my guest, Beverly Bennett, and she’s the author of, “The Pure Power of Maca.” And we’re going to be covering maca up and down. Beverly thanks for joining me on “It’s All About Food”, how are you today?
Beverly Bennett: Thanks for having me Caryn, it’s great to be on your show.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, how was your Thanksgiving?
Beverly Bennett: It’s funny but I am battling a cold, so you might hear me cough once or twice.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, you know I am not surprised, but I feel like something is trying to crawl into my cells today and I’m fighting it trying to stay cozy warm and had a little miso soup and some tea, and just trying to take it easy. So, there were bugs everywhere.
Beverly Bennett: Oregon weather changed dramatically in a week I think that’s what got me; we dropped like 20 degrees in a week.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I’ve got friends in California, and they’re talking about how cold it is, so I imagine Oregon is colder and wetter.
Beverly Bennett: Yes, not too wet yet, but the rain just starting tomorrow.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, starting tomorrow, look out. Well, how can maca help us with all this crazy, cold weather?
Beverly Bennett: Well, it can definitely boost your system a little bit. Gives you a lot more energy and things like that. It’s an adaptogen, so it kind of helps your body adapt to different stressors. Whether it be hot, cold, physical, mental, those kinds of things. I personally add it to my smoothie everyday. It definitely gives me more energy, it can improve your skin, your hair quality, all sorts of things, balancing your hormones if you’re a female, getting up there like me in your 40s.
Caryn Hartglass: I want to dig into some of this, but before we dig into all those details let’s literally dig into the soil and talk about where maca comes from, and what it is, and how it’s grown and how we got started with it. Is that a mouth full?
Beverly Bennett: Well, maca actually is a starchy root tuber. It’s in the brassica family with all those leafy greens that all us vegans like to eat a lot like you know kale, and collards, and broccoli, cauliflower, but instead of eating the flowers and greens, maca is the root that is ingested. And so that’s actually grown in Indies, in like Peru and Bolivia regions and that’s kind of why it’s just catching on throughout the world because such a remote place and all the indigenous people have been eating it for like 3,000 years, but you know slowly all the health benefits the word’s gotten out, and so its kind of becoming more and more popular in definitely the last two decades.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I remember I got interested in maca maybe a little over 10 years ago when I was doing an all-raw diet and a lot of the folks in the all-raw movement were into raw maca, maca powder, and then I remember the athlete, the super athlete, Canadian tri-athlete ultra marathon, vegan, I can’t say enough superlatives about Brendan Brazier, but in a lot of his books he talks about the power of maca, too, so those are some of the places where I first discovered it.
Beverly Bennett: That’s exactly how I started learning about it. I eat a lot of raw food, so the more I researched about raw food, the more raw food cookbooks I saw. It’s all started popping up, I’m lucky my husband works for a company called Non-Reserves here in Eugene, Oregon. And so I was able to get samples of it and try it out early on and I just fell in love with the flavor of it and how it made me feel so I just started adding it to different things following the examples I saw in other people’s cookbooks, and then I just kind of went on my own. But yeah, yeah more and more people are starting to discover it and you’re seeing it pop up in all sorts of foods in the stores you know pre-packaged snack bars, smoothies people buy, I don’t make them myself.
Caryn Hartglass: There haven’t, are you aware, I’m not, of any clinical studies that have tested maca to actually prove the claims that are made about all the amazing things it can do?
Beverly Bennett: When researching this book, they said that there have been very few randomized studies done with it. Most of the people, the nutritional benefits that are attributed to it are mostly anecdotal. Just alternative health practitioners, nutritionists, and raw foodists and athletes, just you know, sharing their experiences with others and others just trying it themselves and having similar experiences so I am definitely think it’s going to be like turmeric that you’re going to see more and more people studying it as more and more people are searching for ways to heal themselves instead of grabbing a pharmeuctical so you know to ease things or improve things for themselves.
Caryn Hartglass: Kind of like a trend I like that more and more people are turning to food as medicine instead of a pill.[call dropped]
Caryn Hartglass: Hey everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass. And I’m sorry about that, I’m not exactly sure what happened looks like I dropped out, but fortunately I have multiple tools to connect and I’m on another one right now, Beverly, how are you?
Beverly Bennett: I’m still here, still here.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so can you tell me when you stopped hearing me, so I can continue with my babbling, I was talking about patents.
Beverly Bennett: Oh, I did not hear any of that, the last was talking about using food as medicine rather than…
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, ok, now, its probably because I was talking about things some people don’t want me to talk about [laughter]. Anyway, I was talking about 15 years ago in the United States a group tried to patent a maca-related product and said, of course when you patent something it is supposed to be new and novel, but really it was based on some old potion drink that was quite popular, and I believe that that patent is still in existence and people are fighting it, but a lot of times these things happen with foods that come from countries outside the Western world and then we find value in it and try and find ways to profit from it.
Beverly Bennett: Oh, that’s very interesting. I hadn’t heard that before that’s interesting.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I just want to say that we tend to do that in this country try to take something that somebody else from some other country has been using for years and years and years, and we try to figure out a way to profit off of it, or so, so.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m excited about maca, and I’ve just recently incorporated it into my diet, you know I was, you don’t know I had advanced ovarian cancer back in 2006, and as a result, had a total hysterectomy. And as a result of that, that just totally screwed up my hormonal balance when your ovaries are removed, but the body’s amazing and somehow it manages to do what needs to be done. But I still have hot flashes, and I’ve come to learn what makes them hotter and what makes them less frequent. And I think maca is helping, and I’m more and more interested in it. So, I know that it probably has some benefits for many different people for many different things, but we also have to be concerned about it and I want to talk about both sides, the pluses and the minuses. So, some of the minuses probably maca is so nutritious because its grown in Peru high in the Indies, some say it’s in soil that nothing else can grow in, but right, yeah …
Caryn Hartglass: Only potatoes and maca in some regions, some areas they are the only two crops that can be grown.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, so some people say that the soil that isn’t very good there, but I’m thinking because they don’t grow very much stuff there maybe there’s stuff there that the maca knows how to pull out that’s beneficial for us.
Beverly Bennett: Yeah, I would think that it would actually be, I would think it would be more nutrient densing because it’s volcanic soil and like here in Oregon we’re sitting on a lot of volcano thing, and a lot of we’re known for all the great crop we grow here. It probably has a lot to do with the altitude and just the numbers of people that are capable of living at such altitudes as well. You know, so…
Caryn Hartglass: Has anyone tried to grow maca in your environment?
Beverly Bennett: You tend to have fewer, fewer people, but they do figure out to grow tends to be something that’s super nutritious.
Caryn Hartglass: Has anybody tried to grow maca in Oregon?
Beverly Bennett: No. It’s part of an interesting kind of a process. Many people here in Oregon have no Idea that you can even grow bananas in Oregon, in the southern part of Oregon.
Caryn Hartglass: They do?
Beverly Bennett: It blew my mind when I first moved here from Ohio, but then I got into the how much great, fertile soil we have here. It’s just amazing, the crops they grow here. I live in the what’s called the Woodland Valley which is like the heartland of the farming area of Oregon. And so, we’re known for our wine as most people know, but not seeds, greens, beans, lots of leafy greens, root vegetables, pretty much everything grows here.
Caryn Hartglass: If somebody wants a good business…
Beverly Bennett: You wouldn’t think it being so diverse, but it is truly amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, well that’s good to hear. Oregon, especially Portland is a big foodie world.
Beverly Bennett: Yeah, yeah, Eugene is the smaller cousin, I prefer it because it’s like more of a smaller town feel, so a lot of people don’t know about our little gems, but we do have quite a few vegan and vegetarian food companies based here that are like nationally known and internationally known. Like you know So Delicious, Coconut Bliss Ice Creams. And we’re known for the cheeses, and the cheeses are really popping up here in Eugene actually.[Caryn Hartglass: The vegan cheeses.
Beverly Bennett: Vegan cheese companies. We have at least four or five that are based around this area and the same thing with you know with non-dairy milk and non-dairy ice cream products and yogurts, and I feel very lucky to live here.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, let’s talk about the different types of maca that are available and what they can do?
Beverly Bennett: Okay, basically maca comes in four different colors: yellow, light pink, deep purple and then like a gray black. So, even though it is a root, it’s like highly perishable, so if you find a maca root in the United States the freshness won’t be that hard, but it’s much easier to get the powders, the capsules, the tinctures, things like that. And you can find the powder in pretty much through any kind of health, natural food store, or online sources, and so the most least expensive, and the most popular is the cream one and that’s made from the yellow maca root. And then you get one more rare is the red maca powder made from the light and dark purple, and then the rarest of them all are the black, maca roots, and that’s used to make black maca powder, and then there’s a third, I mean a fourth type of maca powder that might not sound like’s it’s vegan, but it is and it’s the gelatinized maca powder. And that one is, the first three are raw, to be considered raw because they’re made from sundried roots, but gelatinized maca is made from boiled and pressurized roots to remove the starch content, so it’s a little easier for people with sensitive systems to digest. There’s no gelatin involved in that process even though it’s called gelatinized.
Caryn Hartglass: Glad to know.
Beverly Bennett: Because I, being a vegan I won’t even go near gelatin. Ironically they’re all the powders are all the same color even though they’re made from different roots. I was always used to using the cream one, which is the one that is most readily available here. There are all like a light tan color,
Caryn Hartglass: Probably the skin has the different colors maybe. I read on some blogs and I know you have to be weary whenever you read anything on the internet, but people say that it is not good to consume raw maca and that the people for the last 3,000 years that grew up with maca in South America would cook it in certain things, and now we’re eating it raw and that has, well, some people say it has problems. What do you think?
Beverly Bennett: Well, when people talk about raw versus cooked anything, I would think it is kind of counterintuitive to say that you would always have to eat it cooked. Because we’re the only species that cooks our food. If it’s meant to be eaten, it’s meant to be eaten raw. But, then they have the people that say you know cooking brings out some vitamins, but then the raw foodists say, but cooking destroys some vital nutrients. And things like that. So, I personally go for raw over cooked anything, but so, yeah that’s kind of a tricky question. Because I kind of hear more people actually say they prefer the raw over the gelatinized, but then the people that have the sensitive systems so, it kind of feels like a gassy, bloated feeling if they consume too much of it. One thing important with maca because it is an adaptogen you don’t want to continue taking it continuously. Otherwise it stops providing, preventing, providing, with so many benefits. [Caryn Hartglass: Oh] You better do what they call cycling through. So you take it for a couple of days, then you take a couple days off, or consume it for a couple of weeks, then take a week off every month, that way you can continue experiencing the great benefits instead of your body starting to adapt and even itself out.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, that’s interesting. I wonder what other foods are like that. That maybe I’m eating everyday, kale not’s like that, at least I haven’t heard it’s like that.
Beverly Bennett: I haven’t heard that either about kale, I need to write a book on kale.
Caryn Hartglass: Because I eat kale everyday.
Beverly Bennett: I do too.
Caryn Hartglass: There’s nothing kale can’t do. Yeah, ok, let’s talk about how you use maca, you have some recipes in your book, and there’s also, you can do just about anything with it, well it’s not like a base, but it can be added into things.
Beverly Bennett: Yeah, I think of it as like a flavor enhancer. Because some people think it tastes slightly sweet, some think it taste slightly tastes kind of malty like the malt powder that made malts way back in the day at the soda shop. And I think it I really think it tastes like caramel and butterscotch, so I kind of like it to pair it with things that have a either chocolate, or carob, or vanilla, or things that have a lot of fragrant spices like cinnamon and ginger, and cardamom and things like that. It’s really a good fall enhancer, to fall foods that you tend to eat a lot at this time of year. Fall flavors. You know like the, I added some to my pumpkin pie last week, I put it in my green smoothie everyday, I like to put it in my blondies, definitely lots of drinks definitely besides smoothies, you can make a really good hot chocolate with it, like a chi would be really good with some maca added to it, things like that. But, then it also goes good with things that have a lot of nuts and seeds kind of that rich flavor, so cookies, breads, crackers, my uncheese sauce, things like that, rice cakes.
Caryn Hartglass: How much should a person have on a daily basis, even though we’re not having it everyday because it is an adaptogen, but when we have it?
Beverly Bennett: They say you can have up to like 500 mg, one to three times a day, but I would see in the book, just in case you’re one of few people it gives digestive problems to I suggest trying one teaspoon per serving and then working up to one tablespoon per serving in a recipe. See how your body and how you like the taste of it. You know everyone’s taste buds are different, everyone’s body reacts different to different things. Increase as you go, and then there’s a cycle as you go, and give yourself a break as you go.
Caryn Hartglass: For you personally, you said you got a boost in energy anything else that you would notice?
Beverly Bennett: I definitely think it helps with the female issue. Menopause will be coming soon; I’m 48 so I know it will be coming soon. It definitely helped improve cramps that kind of thing. It definitely helps, I have extremely long hair, it definitely makes my hair softer. I noticed when I am taking a break for a minute, my skin tends to seem a little bit drier, but then when I put it back into my smoothie my skin seems to be softer on my face. I have less breakouts, things like that. It definitely helps with my hair, skin, and nails. I use to have very long nails as well, but being a chef, most chefs don’t have that. People always ask me and I would say I put coconut on myself and I try to eat a really good vegan diet.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I am a really big fan of coconut oil on my skin, big fan of that. I like to say for my personal care products I want to be able to know that I can eat them. Our skin is our largest organ and we have to be really careful about what we put on it.
Beverly Bennett: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, what do you want to see with maca?
Beverly Bennett: I am hoping that more and more people give it a try especially for the enhancements that it has for people’s fertility, they’re balancing their hormones, definitely a natural energy booster, I’m also a big fan of chia which is also a great natural energy booster instead of people grabbing those Red Bull kind of drinks and things like that that can make your heart palpitate a little too fast. I’m more into you know if you need a little extra energy, look into these natural energizing foods that you can try instead, but that will keep spurring it, everybody wants more energy, everybody wants to feel the best that they can, and I’m all into getting that from food and natural sources versus artificial sources.
Caryn Hartglass: You know I was serious when I was asking if you knew if anyone was growing maca in Oregon because really need to have more sources of this food. Because right now it’s growing in limited areas. In Peru, they can’t export it raw, they can only export it once it’s been processed. It’s one of the ways they protect this special product of theirs. But you know the Chinese have discovered maca and they’re a lot of people…
Beverly Bennett: Yeah, I knew you were going to talk about that one, it’s kind of disturbing go on share that with your audience.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it is disturbing. When they discover things that are allegedly helpful that provide all kind of energy and libido related benefits many of them because there are so many people in that country will jump on those products, and some of them will unfortunately are related to beravile and sharks and they are killing non-human animals in horrific ways for benefits that haven’t even been proven. But, I really believe maca is special and so there are stories of them coming with big suitcases and offering small farmers big amounts of money so they can go home with roots which is illegal.[Crosstalk]
Beverly Bennett: Right, and then if they can’t get what they want doing horrific things to get what they want.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, so I’d like to say that every food has a story, and maca has its story and its story is ongoing, and I’m not sure if nutritional benefits are based on where it’s growing right now, because if that’s the case then there’s only going to be a limited amount and the price is just going to get ridiculous, it already is expensive, so if you can figure out how to grow it Oregon, it’ll be really helpful.
Beverly Bennett: It seems like it should grow well here because roots grow really well here, greens grow really well here, my kale still growing in my backyard right now. Even though we’ve had frosty temperatures for the last week, down in the 20s it’s flat in the morning and then it rises back up as the sun hits it in the afternoon. It would be awesome if someone started growing maca ok, anybody out there in Oregon?
Caryn Hartglass: I understand they are trying to grow it in China, but one of the problems well it’s a bunch of problems I don’t know if it’s nutritionally the same, and a lot of the Chinese want the authentic maca and they think that the kind growing in their own country is not as good.
Beverly Bennett: Right, right. It’s crazy some things what we’ll do for food.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, but I think maca is a fascinating product. I don’t believe that there’s one cure, or one food that can solve all problems, but I do believe that there’s something interesting about maca. One last thing I wanted to say, I don’t know if you’ve read this, is that because it pulls up so many nutrients from the soil those that grow in a traditional way will live that area fallow for like nine years before they grow maca there again.
Beverly Bennett: Oh, wow.
Caryn Hartglass: I had read somewhere that it was every two years, then I just read its nine years so that can make it even harder to grow if you cannot grow it in the same place every year or every other year. Yeah, boy I’m going to have to stay tuned. We need to learn from clinical studies about what it really does for us, and we need to learn how to grow it in more places so everyone can enjoy it.
Beverly Bennett: Yeah, yeah, I agree.
Caryn Hartglass: Anyway, I am curious to see what it continues to do for me, so thanks for writing this book and including these recipes.
Beverly Bennett: I hope you try out some of the recipes because that is where my expertise lies. I’ve been cooking, just doing vegan cooking for 25, 30 years something like that.
Caryn Hartglass: And just getting better at it.
Beverly Bennett: Thank you.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, thanks for joining me on It’s All About Food.
Beverly Bennett: Thanks for having me, I really enjoyed talking with you.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Stay warm and dry.
Beverly Bennett: Okay, you too, all right.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. Thank you
Beverly Bennett: Bye-bye.
Caryn Hartglass: Bye-bye. That was Beverly Bennett, and she has a book out called “The Pure Power of Maca” and part of a little list Healthy Now series from the book pub company. You have a lot of authors from this company, it’s actually ‘Healthy Living Publications”, ok let’s take a brief little break and we’ll be back in a minute, or I’ll be back in a minute and I hope you join me.
Transcribed by Alexa Ellis, 1/17/2017