The 3 M’s
Superfood Powders: Matcha, Moringa, and Maca
By Julie Alvira, MD, MBA
In recent years, we’ve had interesting trends like kale and turmeric, which are still in for this year. But, food companies are embracing and developing new clients. I’m talking about matcha, moringa, and maca. You may have heard about all of them before but this year; however, they are becoming more popular because of their potent nutritional powers as part of the healthy mind body conscious movement. Are you a part of this movement? The idea is to be aware of your health and that mind and body are in fact interconnected.
Matcha is derived from the same plant as the regular green tea camellia sinensis (native from China), but is grown differently. Japanese matcha is 100% green tea and the most potent. Leaves are covered with bamboo mats or tarp to reduce exposure to sunlight. This key aspect is very important because it increases the chlorophyll content, which turns the leaves a special green color.
Following several other steps, the leaves become tencha, which is a precursor to matcha. It is the tencha that is ground with special grinding wheels to produce a fine powder. There are distinct grades. So, if purchasing some, make sure to look for a bright green, sweet smelling, high quality powder from Japan (Note: The Chinese version is less expensive and doesn’t utilize the same quality process).
I don’t drink coffee, so matcha is a good alternative because it has caffeine (less than a cup of coffee). Instead of making you have a jitter energy mood, it produces mindful alertness. It keeps you calm because of the phytonutrient l- threonine, while at the same time alert. Besides the chlorophyll, other components are: catechins (epigallocatechin- EGCG) and amino acids. Drinking matcha is a whole other experience. Salut!
Moringa is native from India and nearby countries and comes from the moringa oleifera tree. Sometimes it is called different names, such as drumstick or miracle tree. It is caffeine free and its round leaves have many nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, calcium, potassium, iron, fiber, and the list goes on. It makes for a great source of protein (more than spinach), which is great if you follow a vegan plan.
Basically, it is a complete plant. You can find it in powder form, capsules, and leaves. Moringa drumstick can also be cooked, but make sure to steam it because it is not easy to digest. As with most superfoods, there is still more research to do, but so far we know it may lower blood glucose and cholesterol, has anti inflammatory effects, and helps with sleeping. If you are pregnant, consult your doctor, as moringa had been linked to miscarriage.
Maca originates in the high altitude parts of Peru (Andes) and has been named Peruvian ginseng because of its stimulating energy effects. Like matcha, maca can be a substitute for caffeine. It’s part of the radish family and commercially the most common form is powder, which comes in red, yellow, and black.
As with Moringa, maca has a lot of vitamins but also a lot of amino acids and numerous antioxidants. It has become popular for men because it increases energy (in women, too) with gentle stimulation that does not interfere with sleep, virility, stamina, libido, and overall sex drive (in women, too). Studies had shown it helps with testosterone levels but that argument needs more research.
You can add maca to smoothies or cereals, and use it as an emulsifier to improve the texture of baked goods. Red maca is the one with the most phytonutrients, while the black is the one linked with virility and libido positive effects. There are also studies that have shown maca helping with depression, anxiety, and menopausal effects in women but this argument also needs more research.
Note: Consult your doctor before you try any new superfood trend.
Julie Alvira MD,MBA is the owner of Coach Dr. Julie, LLC. www.coachdrjulie.com. Julie helps clients in recovery get unstuck in their eating and physical exercise habits. She’s a certified master health and wellness coach, certified addictions recovery coach, and a certified advanced clinical interventionist. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a virtual or face-to-face session at her office.