This super food has an incredible story and an impressive list of benefits.
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Credit: Cristina Dini

You might have heard of maca, the latest super food on the block, but what exactly is it? Maca is actually a root, grown on the highest mountains of the Peruvian Andes (over 13,000 feet). It thrives in tough, rocky soil and freezing temperatures where almost nothing else can survive.

The root may be trendy to us now, but Peruvians have been eating it for centuries as a way to increase energy and stamina; think of it as the original caffeine-, chemical-, and sugar-free energy booster. Maca is a powerhouse of nutrients, from vitamins and minerals to amino acids and adaptogens, which help strengthen the body and mind. A super food doesn’t get much more super than that!

You’ll see maca in stores as a supplement or dried powder (available at Whole Foods and many specialty health food stores). It works best when combined with liquid. Chef and former Top Chef contestant Sam Talbot blends it into a breakfast smoothie with another super food: fresh mango.

Find this recipe and more in Talbot’s new cookbook: 100% Real: 100 Insanely Good Recipes for Clean Food Made Fresh (Oxmoor House), in stores this month.

Mango and Maca Smoothie

Active: 15 min. Total: 15 min.

This smoothie is best consumed really cold and as soon as it’s made, but if you have any leftover, let it sit in the fridge for a bit so the maca flavor intensifies even further.3 cups unsweetened hemp milk1/2 cup ice cubes1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)3 ripe fresh mangoes, peeled and coarsely chopped2 ounces dried mango1 tablespoon almond butter1 tablespoon flaxseeds1 teaspoon maca powder1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract2 pitted datesPinch of Himalayan salt

Process all ingredients in a blender until smooth and creamy.