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Black Maca vs Red Maca Root: Comparison

Black or Red Maca

If you're a superfood enthusiast, chances are you've heard of maca, a root vegetable that has been cultivated and used in Peru for hundreds of years. But what you might not know is that there are actually several types of maca, with yellow maca being the most popular and least expensive type. However, many people prefer black and red maca over the yellow variety because they taste sweeter and because they're believed to offer more health benefits than their yellow counterpart. But when it comes to choosing between black and red maca, which one should you go for? In this article, we compare black and red maca in terms of various attributes including taste, potential health benefits and price. For more detailed information about each type, you may also want to check out the in-depth articles Health Benefits of Black Maca and Health Benefits of Red Maca.

Appearance and Taste

If you've ever seen whole maca roots before they're turned into a powder, you already know the most obvious difference between black and red maca: the skin of black maca roots is light or dark gray, whereas the skin of red maca ranges from pink to purple. Another difference between black maca and red maca is the taste: red maca is sweeter and generally has a milder flavor than black maca.

Different Effects on Health

Energy-Boosting Properties

Maca has long been touted as a natural energy booster, and a study published in the journal Pharmaceuticals suggests that consumption of maca may indeed help boost energy levels in some people. This randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study compared the energy-boosting effects of black and red maca against a placebo in people living in Lima, and the results were positive: both red maca and black maca increased self-perception of energy levels more than the placebo. However, the effect was stronger with red maca than black maca. This study also looked at the effects of black vs red maca consumption in people living high up in the Andes mountains, but interestingly, the perceived energy-increasing effects of maca there did not differ significantly from the effects of the placebo. The researchers believe that the role genetic signatures play in how people respond to placebo might explain the differences between the two populations. [1]

Fertility in Men

Maca has been shown to improve both sperm count and motility in men [2, which seems to back up the claim that maca can improve fertility in men. However, when it comes to boosting fertility in men, black maca appears to be better than red maca. A comparative study that looked at the effects of black vs red maca on sperm count and motility in rats found that only black maca seemed to have a beneficial effect [3, 4].

Bone Health

Due to decreases in estrogen levels, women who have gone through menopause are at an increased risk for osteoporosis, a condition in which the bones become weaker and more likely to fracture. As the maca root has a reputation for being capable of balancing hormones, it is not surprising that scientists have been eager to investigate whether maca could offer protection against osteoporosis caused by decreasing estrogen levels. In one study, the diet of estrogen-deficient female rats was supplemented with either yellow, black or red maca for four weeks, after which the bone structure of the rats was analyzed. While both black and red maca provided protection against bone loss, red maca seemed to have the strongest protective effect. [5]

Prostate Health

Several animal studies suggest that red maca might be good against prostatic hyperplasia, a urological condition characterized by an enlarged prostate gland. Interestingly, however, neither yellow nor black maca seems to have the same effect. A study published in the journal Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology compared the effects of yellow, red and black maca on prostate size in both normal rats and rats with testosterone-induced prostatic hyperplasia and found that only red maca was capable of significantly reducing prostate size [6].

Memory and Learning

The effects of black maca on memory and learning have been assessed in several animal studies, and the results have been promising. Black maca has been shown to improve learning and memory in mice that suffer from memory impairment caused by ovariectomy (removal of the ovaries) or the drug scopolamine. [7, 8, 9] Also red maca has been studied in the context of learning, but it does not appear to be as effective as the black variety [10].


In countries like the United States, Canada and the UK, maca root is typically sold in the form of concentrated maca powder. Like most other "superfood" powders, maca powder is rather expensive, with black maca root being the most expensive type. Here are a couple of tips for shopping healthy on a budget that also apply to buying maca, whether you are looking to buy black maca or the slightly less expensive red maca:

  • Compare prices per pound: Smaller packages are often cheaper at face value, but the cost per pound may be higher, which means you may end up paying more in the long run. Use a calculator to figure out the price per pound if the shop does not display it.
  • Buy in bulk: Buying in bulk is often a great way to save money. This strategy works well for items that have a long shelf, such as many dried foods like maca powder.
  • Check prices online: Whether you're looking to buy maca in bulk or in smaller quantities, be sure to check out some online grocery stores. Online stores may provide a wider selection of a given food, which means you have a wider range of brands (and prices) to choose from (check out the selection of maca powders on Amazon).

1. 4. C. Gonzales-Arimborgo et al (2016). Acceptability, Safety, and Efficacy of Oral Administration of Extracts of Black or Red Maca (Lepidium meyenii) in Adult Human Subjects: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study. Pharmaceuticals (Basel), 18;9(3).
2. G. Gonzales et al (2001). Lepidium meyenii (Maca) improved semen parameters in adult men. Asian Journal of Andrology, 3(4), 301-3.
3. G. Gonzales (2012). Ethnobiology and Ethnopharmacology of Lepidium meyenii (Maca), a Plant from the Peruvian Highlands. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012: 193496.
4. C. Gonzales et al (2006). Effect of short-term and long-term treatments with three ecotypes of Lepidium meyenii (MACA) on spermatogenesis in rats. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 103(3):448-54.
5. C. Gonzales et al (2010). Effects of different varieties of Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on bone structure in ovariectomized rats. Complementary Medicine Research, 17(3), 137-43.
6. G. Gonzales et al (2005). Red maca (Lepidium meyenii) reduced prostate size in rats. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology, 3: 5.
7. J. Rubio et el (2006). Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 6:23.
8. J. Rubio et al (2011). Aqueous Extract of Black Maca (Lepidium meyenii) on Memory Impairment Induced by Ovariectomy in Mice. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2011: 253958.
9. J. Rubio et al (2007). Aqueous and hydroalcoholic extracts of Black Maca (Lepidium meyenii) improve scopolamine-induced memory impairment in mice. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 45(10):1882-90.
10. J. Rubio et al (2006). Effect of three different cultivars of Lepidium meyenii (Maca) on learning and depression in ovariectomized mice. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 6:23.