In recent years, there has been a growing interest in incorporating nutrient-dense and plant-based foods into our diets. One such food that has gained attention for its health benefits is the tiger nut. Despite its name, tiger nut is not typically a nut but a small tuberous root vegetable.
In recent years Nigerians have found ways to process these tasty tiny nuts into beverages that can be consumed alone or along with our meals. This article explores the importance of tiger nuts, their nutritional profile, health benefits, and various culinary uses.
What are tiger nuts?
Tiger nuts, also known as chufa nuts, Yellow Nutsedge or earth almonds, are edible tubers produced by the Cyperus esculentus plant, which belongs to the sedge family. They have been cultivated for centuries and have been regularly consumed in Africa, where they have been used as a food source and in traditional medicine.
Tiger nuts have quite a story. They were a favourite food back in ancient Egypt and even the Moors in Spain loved them during the Middle Ages. Nowadays, you can find them being grown in places like Spain, Nigeria, Mali, Ghana, and Egypt.
Tiger nuts are small, round, and brown with rough, fibrous skin. They taste sweet and nutty, and they have got a slightly chewy texture. You can eat them as they are, roast them to get a toasty flavour or soak them in water to make them softer. These nuts are famous for a traditional drink known as “horchata de chufa” in Spain and “kunnu aya” in Nigeria.
Top 8 important benefits of tiger nut
1. Source of food
Tiger nuts have a rich history dating back thousands of years. They were one of the primary food sources for our ancestors, particularly in Africa and the Mediterranean region. Remnants of tiger nuts have been found in ancient Egyptian tombs, highlighting their significance as a staple food.
2. Loaded with essential nutrients
Tiger nuts are packed with essential nutrients. They are an excellent source of dietary fibre and provide both soluble and insoluble forms. This high fibre content aids digestion, promotes a healthy gut and can contribute to weight management. Tiger nuts also contain healthy fats, including monounsaturated fatty acids.
Moreover, tiger nuts are rich in vitamins and minerals. They are a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Tiger nuts also provide magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, which are vital for various bodily functions, including bone health, nerve function and energy production.
3. Aids digestion
Another importance of tiger nut is its high fibre, which aids healthy digestion by supporting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation. The prebiotic fibres present in tiger nuts also serve as food for beneficial gut bacteria, promoting a healthy gut microbiome and improving overall digestive health.
4. Keeps the heart healthy
Tiger nuts contain heart-healthy fats, particularly monounsaturated fatty acids like oleic acid, which have been associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular diseases. These fats help maintain healthy cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure and reduce inflammation, thereby supporting heart health.
5. Helps in managing weight
The fibre and resistant starch found in tiger nuts contribute to a feeling of fullness and can help control appetite. This, combined with their relatively low-calorie content, makes tiger nuts a satisfying and nutritious snack option for those aiming to manage their weight.
6. Can be consumed as food or drink
Tiger nuts offer a wide range of culinary possibilities. They can be consumed raw as a snack, providing a crunchy texture and slightly sweet, nutty flavour. Tiger nuts can also be used to make tiger nut milk, a dairy-free alternative that serves as a nutritious base for smoothies, beverages, and cereal.
Additionally, tiger nut flour can be used in gluten-free baking to add a pleasant flavour and texture to baked goods.
Tiger nut oil is also another option for cooking.
7. Contains antioxidants
Tiger nuts contain antioxidants, which are powerful compounds that protect your cells from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals. By including tiger nuts in your diet, you can help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and keep your body healthy and thriving.
8. Improved blood sugar control
The high fibrous quality of the tiger nut is also beneficial in preventing blood sugar spikes. It slows individuals’ absorption of sugar. They also contain arginine. This amino acid helps keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range by increasing insulin production and sensitivity. These are helpful, particularly for people who have diabetes.
From their high fibre content to their heart-healthy fats and rich nutrient profile, tiger nuts make a valuable addition to a well-balanced diet. Whether enjoyed as a snack, incorporated into various recipes, or used to make tiger nut-based products, this nutrient-dense food provides a satisfying and nourishing culinary experience.
Embracing the goodness of tiger nuts can contribute to improved digestive health, heart health, weight management and overall well-being.