Why is Gelatinized Maca Better? Choose Wisely for Your Stomach

Gelitinized maca vs Raw Maca

One of the main reasons why gelatinized maca appeared on the market was for easy digestion so that anyone with a sensitive stomach can use maca. But there are also two other reasons, which we mention below. 

When we started using maca, we had it simple. Back then, way before maca root got full ‘global’ attention, not many commercial maca products were available. We had mainly two options, maca powder or maca capsules. No gelatinized maca. These products were available (to us) for purchase exclusively online. At that time we lived in Europe, and ordering maca products from Spain seemed to be the most convenient solution for us. There were not so many choices. Life was easier.

Fast forward, today one can find a wide array of commercial maca products, available in shops, both online and offline. And to fit the demands of a growing market for herbal remedies, among these vast arrays of maca, selections are also gelatinized maca products, as an alternative to raw maca.

When we heard about the gelatinized maca, we were also wondering if and why we should buy it. I mean, the gelatinization process means the plant is going to be exposed to some heat; thus some nutrients will be lost. Along the way, we learned a lot about the gelatinization process, and in this post, we will share all we learned about gelatinized maca and why this type of maca might be a better choice for you.

To better understand why is maca gelatinized and if it is right for you, here is something about the gelatinization in general.

What is gelatinization?

Different plants (and grains) contain different relative amounts of starch grains. Gelatinization is the process of removing that starch or other components from plants that are not easily absorbed by the human body. The process: As starch is not soluble in cold water, the gelatinization occurs when starch granules are heated in a liquid. At around 60⁰C hot water begins to break open the starch molecules. Next, as the temperature rises, water penetrates the starch molecules, causing them to swell. Water that is bound in the granules causes granule themselves to swell.

Gelatinization temperatures depend on the type of starch, the amount of water and other ingredients. Starch begins to gelatinize between 60 and 70C. At 96⁰C no further starch gelatinization takes place, and the process is complete.

How is maca gelatinized?

In Peru, the native people always eat cooked maca. After the harvest, this root is air, or sun-dried naturally for about three months. After the drying process is over, maca is then milled and stored for later use. The simplest way to somewhat gelatinize or pre-cook maca would be by putting the raw maca into a pressure cooker. On more manufacturing (laboratory) level, once harvested the roots will going through different processing stages. First is a disinfection process. Next step is drying maca at high pressure and temperature for a short period. The cooking and drying stage is done with special care to assure a low level of humidity without denaturalizing the active components so that the final product will have the similar nutritional properties as raw maca. In each stage there are quality controls and once completed, each step is certified and an official certificate of analysis issued. All these stages will reduce the minimum of any possibility for mold or microorganisms to appear in the final product.

Why is Maca gelatinized?

No 1. Mould – When cooking maca rot, it will kill the mold and bacteria.

When maca is appropriately dry, it becomes solid to touch and hard almost like a rock. However, if maca is not left long enough to dry as it should, it will feel a bit soggy to touch because a certain amount of moist is still present in maca. What this means is that this kind of not so well dried maca will attract mold, as mold loves damp and wet maca. Once it starts to grow on maca, it starts to produce toxins that are bad for our body and our digestive tract. Most likely this is the reason why people in Peru always cook their maca, which means better sanitization. For that reason, some companies will also opt-in for buying from Peru already pre-cooked or gelatinize maca.

No 2. Digestion – By removing the starch, the food becomes gentler on the digestive tract.

Gelatinization requires an extrusion process that removes the starch and other components from the root, leaving a more concentrated powder that is easier to digest. Therefore, the second reason why is maca gelatinized is digestion. Maca root with no starch makes this root more natural to be absorbed in the digestive tract. Also, once gelatinized, it will change its color, from a pale beige to a (darker, image below, glass on the right) yellow-ish color because the sugars have started to caramelize. This process would make maca sweeter to taste.

No 3. Potency – The removal of the starch allows for more optimal absorption of its nutrients.

Even though all cooking methods alter the nutrient composition of a plant, some will destroy particular nutrients; others will enhance nutrient content. The same will happen to maca. It will lose some beneficial enzymes and nutrients. However, those nutrients which are available after the gelatinization process, are concentrated and precious nutrients. This fact is somewhat reassuring to know. that during the gelatinization process, maca root will still contain a high amount of active nutrients, thus get more potent than raw maca. Even more important, all these valuable and concentrated nutrients that remain, they will be optimally absorbed into our body creating positive health benefits.

So, to reap maca’s maximum nutritional benefits, maca producers will go one step further by removing the starch from Maca. By heating the Maca roots, it will amplify some nutrients, including minerals. This process makes the remaining nutrients more concentrated and bioavailable. And this is when our body will benefit from the maca active compounds.

Left - Raw Maca; Right - Gelatinized Maca

Gelatinized Maca – Advantages and Disadvantages

Advantages
– Lower or no starch content (Raw maca is high in starch.) thus, more easily digested and its active ingredients more quickly absorbed by your body.
– One could argue that this process makes maca more sterilized (Raw maca might be higher in bacteria)
– More concentrated than raw maca powder and has more bioactive nutrients than raw maca. It takes approximately about 4 kg of fresh roots to make 1 kg of Gelatinized Maca powder.

Disadvantages
– Loss of enzymes – high heat destroys all enzymes. Once heated to high temperatures many essential nutrients, fatty acids and all the natural enzymes are destroyed.
– Loss of glucosinolates – again, high temperature alters these sensitive hormone-balancing nutrients making them less useful.
– Raw maca powder has the plant’s full spectrum of nutrients preserved in it, including all enzymes, minerals, vitamins and glucosinolates.

Which maca should you buy, raw or gelatinized?

Are they both useful? Yes. Which type of maca is better for you? It is difficult to say as each one of us may benefit from the specific nutrients found in both types of maca.

We (my partner and I) noticed that even though our stomachs are and can tolerate raw maca, we tend to lean towards buying gelatinized maca products more than raw maca. Especially when on a detox, juice or protein diet, we tend to blend and juice everything there is raw in our fridge, and gelatinized maca seemed to be more suitable, more potent and sweeter for that purpose. But, both raw maca and gelatinized maca have similar feeling and nutritional value, and we sometimes use both forms of maca in our recipes interchangeably.

So if you have digestive problems, your current diet does not include starchy foods, and if you are seeking more bio-availability or more comfortable digestibility options, maybe the gelatinized maca is the one for you. And if you do opt for gelatinized maca, these are the ones we recommend: gelatinized products we used. 

Also, when buying gelatinized maca, it is always good to check the label on the back of the product to make sure it says: Certified and 100% Gelatinized.