Product Spotlight! MACA + CACAO by Organika
Things are about to get sweet!
As the seasons are changing - or trying to - here in Toronto, this month I have been clinging to my last chances to really enjoy a hot cup of cocoa.
I wandered into my local health food store to re-up on my raw cacao purchase so I could whip up my homemade hot cocoa and a noticed a little something different on the shelves. Organika had put out a mix of raw cacao and raw maca.
MACA + CACAO!?!
I've seen this combination in actual chocolate bars and energy bars before. I may have even seen another powder combo like this but Organika being a favourite, organic, canadian brand I was intrigued. Why would they create this specific blend? Why not sell the powders separately? Wouldn't they make more money that way?
To answer these questions I dove into the specific medicinal benefits of cacao and maca to try to determine how they might work synergistically. Here is what I found!
Cacao is the plant from which our beloved chocolate is made. What we should note is that cocoa and chocolate are not quite the same as raw cacao. Cocoa and chocolate are products made FROM cacao and, as you may know, in the processing of these kinds of things, more often than not, we will lose a significant amount of the good stuff - nutrients, enzymes, etc.
Raw cacao powder contains more than 300 different chemical compounds and nearly four times the antioxidant power of your average dark chocolate... thats more than 20x the amount in BLUEBERRIES!
You'll also find protein, calcium, carotene, thiamin, riboflavin, magnesium, sulfur, flavonoids, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids! The incredible balance of all these elements makes it so that those naturally occuring phytochemicals can kick in to high gear and become particularly potent in their ability to reduce the risk of cancer, lower LDL cholesterol and improve heart function!
Most of us find that chocolate makes us happy, and yes that could be partially the sugar that most conventional chocolate bars are pumped full of, but studies have found that you can get those mood boosting benefits from that raw cacao as well! It naturally raises serotonin levels!
Cacao also contains plenty of theobromine, a mild stimulant. This, combined with the small amount of caffeine found in cacao, make it a nice replacement for kicking that coffee habit! Additionally, theobromine has the ability to release the compound anadamide, which can create uniquely euphoric feelings relaxation and contentment. For this reason, theobromine has been used as an effective treatment for certain types of depression!
Actually... CACAO RULES!
Again, it's an unfortunate truth that the more the original cacao is processed the less goodness you're going to get out of it. High heat from processing and refining to produce chocolate damages the micronutrients, along with those health benefits. On top of that, once the manufacturers throw in high fructose corn syrup, sugar and partially hydrogenated oils, there isn't much room left for the actual cacao and you're getting more detrimental effects from those inflammatory ingredients. Additionally, studies have shown that dairy products actually block the absorption of antioxidants so your milk chocolate is likely providing little to none, while producing more free radical damage due to all that sugar.
All that is to say, raw cacao powder is where it's at! Why mess with a good thing!? You still get all the delicious chocolatey taste without all the added crap and WITH all the added health benefits.
So honestly, I knew most of this before looking into the whole question of why CACAO + MACA? But it's important to understand that basic awesomeness of what cacao can do for you and your body before we can begin to understand why adding maca to that mix makes so much sense.
Maca root is actually a happy member of the cruciferous family, like broccoli and cabbage, holding all those same cleansing benefits of those vegetables with a LOT of extra swag that gives it all the attention of a "superfood". Some of it's superpowers?
Boost Immune System
Improve Memory & Focus
Maca is an adaptogen, a word I have touched on before but if we're staying in the realm of superpowers I would liken it to a shape shifter. Basically, it becomes whatever your body needs to balance hormones, the immune system and adrenals so that you can better adapt to stress and find vitality. It is particularly well known, however, for that hormonal factor and specifically its ability to increase libido and fertility.
This hormone balancing action can be beneficial for both men and women.
In women, maca has been found to help control estrogen levels in the body. This becomes significant when estrogen levels are either too high or too low, which can make it difficult for a woman to ovulate and become pregnant. Balancing the amount of estrogen that a women produces, and the relative amounts of progesterone produced, is directly responsible for improving reproductive health, fertility and decreasing hormone-related issues such as irregular menstrual cycles, excess hair growth, and mood swings.
In men, maca has been shown to affect serum levels of testosterone. This is related to it's ability to improve sperm production, mobility, and volume - important for increasing male fertility. Some studies also suggest maca may also be protective for the male prostate.
Maca's positive effect on hormones doesn't end with estrogen and testosterone. It has also been noted that maca may restore adrenal and thyroid hormonal function. As these glands are important for our response to stress and our metabolism, this may be the reason maca has been tied to improvements in energy, mood, and memory!
Finally, maca root acts as a natural antioxidant by boosting levels of glutathione and SOD (superoxide dismutase). These are two major disease fighters that our body naturally produces, and maca gives it that extra encouragement it needs to produce MORE! The increase of glutathione in the body not only improves the immune system and that disease fighting action, but it also helps balance cholesterol and improve glucose tolerance by lowering blood sugar levels. For these reasons maca has been proven to help prevent the development of chronic diseases that are characterized by high levels of "bad" cholesterol, oxidative stress and impaired glucose tolerance such as diabetes and heart disease.
WOOO! That's a lot to love.
Maca + Cacao
OK, so with all of that information about these two superfoods, you probably get why it would be awesome to include them both in the diet. If you ask me, that is reason enough to put them together and call it a day! However, based on everything we now know about both of these natural health heroes, there are a few pointed reason they work so incredibly well together to most notably improve energy, mood, focus, concentration and vitality in a way that your morning coffee never could.
1) GIVES YOU REAL ENERGY
The energy you get from a coffee is short lived, leads to a crash and wreaks havoc on the health of your adrenal glands and over time your stress levels and ability to cope without it. The combination of maca and cacao provides that little bit of caffeine plus that theobromine to stimulate while still keeping you focused and level with the added benefit of the adaptogenic action of maca that actually nourishes your adrenal glands rather than stressing them. This means you won’t get those jitters you get with coffee and you won’t get that crash either. Plus, it will actually prepare your body to be able to deal with stress and tiredness ongoing, without the need of extra simulants. While coffee has that addictive quality due to its short term fix, long term harm, maca + cacao has both the short term and the long term benefit leaving you better able to cope without it as well!
2) MAKES YOU A BALL OF SUNSHINE!
While coffee gives you that boost in serotonin, similar to cacao, it also boosts cortisol, your stress hormone. This ultimately leaves you uneven, especially after that serotonin boost wears off. The combo of maca and cacao provides you with that serotonin boost, but simultaneously produces anandamide to keep you relaxed and in a state of total bliss! Meanwhile, the maca balances hormones of the adrenals, thyroid, and reproductive organs, all of which play a significant role in the maintenance of proper neurotransmitters and overall mood and stress balance.
3) THEY PROVIDE A 1 - 2 PUNCH OF ANTIOXIDANT ACTION!
As we noted, cacao comes with a host of antioxidant compounds that fight free radicals while maca has the ability to increase your bodies own production of antioxidants! Combine those two and you will be a free radical fighting vigilante, sneaking up on them from every angle!
4) THEY ALKALIZE & NOURISH
Unlike your morning coffee, which proves to be very acidic to the body, the combination of maca and cacao provides an incredible balance of nutrients include protein, vitamins and minerals that will alkalize the body and provide you with the raw materials you need to function properly throughout the day. In this way, using this combination in the morning contributes to a more well rounded breakfast than your grab and go coffee.
5) BUILD THOSE BONES
Of the many nutrients maca and cacao provide together, of particular note is their combination of calcium. As we noted earlier, dairy products actually inhibit the absorption of antioxidants so when you pour it in your hot cocoa or your morning coffee, you are getting much less out of it. BUT THEN HOW WILL I GET MY CALCIUM!? Both maca and cacao boast more calcium per gram than milk. PLUS they have the other synergistic nutrients you need for proper absorption of it. Those bones will be juuuust fine without the dairy.
6) BALANCE BLOOD SUGAR
This is an area where I feel like this combination is extra genius. The cacao adds a natural deliciousness and comfort that negates the need for excess added sugars, no matter how you use it. However, the best part is that the glutathione produced by the maca will help to lower blood sugar, making any sugars you do add, much easier on the body.
Bascially, I think Organika has chosen to combine these two as a gift. Making it easier to see the combo and blend it to the most delicious balance, Organika’s MACA + CACAO is a public service announcement, telling people like me, who would otherwise just be searching for that straight up cacao, that there is something better out there!
This was a huge upgrade on my regular cacao. I really felt that difference in energy, mood, focus and… OVERSHARE WARNING!… libido! What’s great is that Organika’s blend is just as chocolatey and rich as my regular cacao, so I don’t even really notice that addition of maca. If anything it takes a bit of the bitter edge off.
I was able to use it in all the same kinds of recipes as I would with regular cacao, and it actually motivated me to make chocolatey snacks that I could enjoy in the morning to give me all those benefits first thing!
Here’s what I came up with!
Bulletproof Maca + Cacao
This is an upgrade to your morning coffee in all the ways mentioned above, while still giving you that warm comforting beverage first thing in the morning. Making it bulletproof also feeds the brain and amps up your body’s ability to use fat for fuel.
2 cups boiling water
1 tbsp maca + cacao
1 tbsp grass fed butter, ghee or coconut oil
1 tbsp MCT oil
1 tsp xylitol (optional)
1 tbsp collagen powder (optional)
1) Place all ingredients in blender… blend until frothy!!! So good.
MACA CACAO COCONUT CUBES
Easy gran and go bites that will give you that boost of energy any time of day... and totally curb that chocolate craving.
2 tbsp coconut oil
1 ½ cups coconut butter (or manna)
2 tbsp maca + cacao
¼ cup shredded coconut
1 tbsp honey (optional)
1) Heat a small pot over medium-low.
2) Melt coconut oil in pot
3) Add coconut butter and melt, stirring consistently
4) Add maca + cacao and incorporate, strring consistently
5) Add honey, if using, and incorporate, stirring consistently
6) Drip the mixture into an ice cube tray, adding equal amounts to each cube (filling about halfway)
7) Top each cube with a sprinkle of shredded coconut. Place in the fridge overnight or for at least 2 hours.
8) Pop out the cubes and enjoy. Store in fridge to keep the shape.
Maca Covered Strawberries
Same ingredients as the cubes except instead of dripping the mixture into an ice cube tray, dip strawberries in it, then dip in shredded coconut and place in fridge to set!!! :)
Avocado Maca Cacao Pudding
A nice easy dessert, breakfast, snack, filled with healthy fats that will make you feel like a kid again!
2 ripe avocados
2 tbsp maca + cacao
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 medjool date
1) Place all ingredients in food processor or high powered blender
2) Blend slowly until you have reached desired texture. If you want it to be less thick add a tbsp. or two of coconut milk.
3) Top with whatever the heck you please! Enjoy!
Maca Cacao Bites
These guys are the most delicious little energy booster with a focus on walnuts to add to that brain power!
1 cup walnuts
2 tbsp maca + cacao
1 cup medjool dates
1) Place walnuts in food processor and pulse into small peices
2) Add dates and process into kind of a dough
3) Add maca + cacao and process until smooth
4) Scoop out sections of the mixture and roll into bite sized balls
5) Place them on parchment lined baking sheet and put in the fridge for at least 1 hour to set.
6) Pack them in your lunch, snack on them when you need a boost or a little indulgence for dessert.
Maca Cacao Nice Cream
Make your ice cream, nice cream!! This is a dessert you will really get something out of. NO ADDED SUGARS, dairy-free and gluten-free! Fun for all ages.
3 frozen bananas, chopped into chunks
¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tbsp almond butter
1 tbsp maca + cacao powder
½ tbsp. raw cacao nibs
1) Place bananas, almond milk, almond butter and cacao + maca powder into a food processor or high powered blender
2) Pulse/ process until smooth and creamy. You may need to turn off the motor and stir the mixture a couple of times while processing
3) Add cacao nibs and pulse once more.
4) Scoop the ice cream out into a bowlor two and enjoy!
Coconut Maca Fudge Bars
These guys are next level! A little more work but they are so delicious, full of healthy fats and completely gluten-free and dairy-free as well! To be enjoyed for a decadent dessert or a sweet morning breakfast bar! Will keep you full for days!
1 ¾ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup cashews, chopped
¾ cup almond butter
½ cup maca cacao powder
½ cup coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ tsp sea salt
½ cup maple syrup
¼ cup raw honey
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2) Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread shredded coconut evenly on the baking sheet. Toast for about 7 minutes, until shreds are golden brown. Remove and let cool.
3) In a large bowl, stir together maple syrup and ¼ cup of almond butter until smooth. Stir in the coconut, walnuts, cashews and salt.
4) Separate out about 2/3 of this mixture and press into the bottom of an 8x8 lined pan. Set aside.
5) In a separate bowl, stir together the remaining almond butter, vanilla, honey, maca + cacao, and melted coconut oil. Stir until smooth. Pour evenly over the crust in the ban
6) Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture over top. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or freeze until firm enough to cut into squares. Store covered in the fridge or freezer.
... with some bulletproof maca of course! I hope you learned something and will experiment with some recipes!
Here's to you, your health and you happiness, with a little help from some handy nutrition tips and superfoods!
Keep it real!
THE REALISTIC HOLISTIC