Today we will look at the many benefits of tiger nuts.
No, not that part of the feline’s anatomy that is believed to be an aphrodisiac.
These nuts are different. In fact, they are not nuts at all but chickpea-sized tubers with a shriveled appearance. And there is nothing catty about it, save for the stripes on their exterior.
Tiger nuts are also known by the names yellow nutsedge, earth almond, or chufa, and grow in the tropical and Mediterranean regions of the world.
How do they taste?
They are earthy with a natural sweetness to them. You can say it’s almond-like and crunchy.
Like the Brazil nut, tiger nuts are considered a superfood but don’t be fooled by our relatively new fascination with them. These tubers were extremely popular in Ancient Egypt.
For some reason, they lost their mojo but the good news is that they’re back on the shelves.
Let’s look at the many advantages they offer to the human body.
Health Benefits of Tiger Nuts
While tiger nuts may have been fashionable in Ancient Egypt, modern man was not the first to get hold of the tubers. That privilege belonged to our ancestors of the Paleolithic Age some two million years ago.
Tiger nuts comprised 80 percent of their diet. Perhaps even more during days when they took a break from breathlessly running down mammoths and mastodons. That’s just speculation though.
Anyway, time to abort the prehistory lesson and move on to the health benefits of tiger nuts.
Rich in fiber content
Tiger nuts are known for their rich fiber content. This makes them hard to digest which is not necessarily a bad thing. The undigested fiber gives body to the stool and thus helps to combat constipation.
The tubers are also known to contain resistant starch, which nourishes the good bacteria in our intestines and thereby help to improve gut health.
Rich in minerals
Tiger nuts are also a good source of plant-based protein, healthy fats, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, vitamins C and E, and zinc.
Calcium and magnesium help to keep the teeth and bones healthy, while magnesium also contributes to a healthy immune system.
Potassium is essential in the development of nerves and muscles, whereas zinc is vital to the growth of reproductive organs.
Vitamin C, like calcium and magnesium, helps to protect teeth and bones, while vitamin E aids in the treatment of hemolysis.
Tiger nuts also contain folic acid that helps in the formation of blood cells.
Good for the heart
Fiber-rich foods such as tiger nuts have the ability to absorb cholesterol.
Also, as you know, some fats are good for the cardiovascular system, especially monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. One of the foods that are high on these fats is olive oil and the lipid profile of tiger nuts is similar to that of olive oil.
Tiger nuts may have antibacterial properties. Though research is still not conclusive on this one, some trials (not human) have shown them to be effective against Salmonella spp and E. coli.
Help with allergies
Tiger nuts are an effective substitute for foods that may be allergic for some individuals. For example, if wheat flour gets you scratching and clawing at your rashes, tiger nut flour is a fine gluten-free option.
Similarly, for those who are lactose intolerant, tiger nut milk is a very good alternative.
Good for vegans
These tubers should also fit seamlessly into a vegan’s diet.
They offer numerous nutrients that are found in meat. For example, invaluable minerals present in them such as magnesium, calcium, potassium and vitamins, can cover for deficiencies.
Side-effects of Tiger Nuts
To be fair, there aren’t many.
Though people with less than adequate fiber in their diet or who are sensitive to high-fiber food should take it easy at the start. Sudden intake of too much of the tuber can cause digestive complications, like bloating and diarrhea. However, over time and as the body gets used to them, the symptoms may reduce.
Eating them raw can also be a problem for some. For example, tiger nuts contain anti-nutrients which make it difficult for the body to absorb essential minerals and vitamins.
Also, those allergic to pollen may have a greater chance of being allergic to tiger nuts.
How to Eat Tiger Nuts
Tiger nuts can be consumed raw or cooked. Roasting them prior to eating may hike their antioxidant levels. Soaking them could have the same effect. Also, soaking and roasting these tubers before consuming make it easier for the body to absorb the nutrients.
You can eat them in the whole state. Or you could make tiger nut milk by using a blender and cheesecloth. The pulp can be repurposed into tiger nut flour. The flour in turn can be used to make pancakes and cookies.
And we cannot forget the popular tiger nut drink, horchata, a recipe for which is given below.
- 1 cup tiger nuts
- A bowl of water to soak the tiger nuts
- 1 liter hot water
- Sugar to taste
- Ground spices for garnishing (Cardamom and cinnamon are popular choices)
Step 1: Soak the tiger nuts at room temperature for about 24 hours, keeping the water 2-3 inches above the level of the tubers.
Step 2: Place cheesecloth over a fine sieve and keep the sieve above a bowl. Drain the tiger nuts.
Step 3: In a blender, pour the drained tiger nuts, add hot water and blend the combination till it becomes smooth.
Step 4: Pour the mixture through the cheesecloth-lined sieve. Ensure to extract every ounce of goodness by gathering the cheesecloth at the ends and giving it a good squeeze. The horchata is almost done.
Step 5: Add sugar to taste, give it a good whisk and pour it into a bottle. Refrigerate the drink and when the time comes, top it off with ground spices of your choice.
(If you like making your own healthy DIY food, you might want to check out our recipe for the superfood Sattu.)
Why Tiger Nuts are Still a Somewhat Niche Product
Let’s just say they are extremely hard to kill and have developed a reputation of being a bit of a nuisance. They tend to grow quickly and choke other plants in their vicinity.
Unlike other crops in Ancient Egypt, such as wheat and barley, they have not quite managed to sustain their popularity. It could be that the Egyptians back then had no choice. They coated the tubers with honey, which tells you they did not see tiger nuts as a culinary delight but were forced to eat them.
Also, economically, the tubers are not feasible. Tiger nuts do not produce the volumes that other crops give.
What is your take on the benefits of tiger nuts? Have you ever tried them? Let us know in the comments.