Tiger nuts, also known as yellow nutsedge or earth almonds, are not actually nuts, but rather edible tubers.
They’re the size of a chickpea but wrinkly with a chewy texture and sweet nutty flavor similar to coconut.
Tiger nuts were one of the first plants cultivated in Egypt and traditionally used as both food and medicine.
Cyperus esculentus(Tiger nut) cultivation requires a mild climate; Low temperature, shade, because light intensity can inhibit flowering. Tuber initiation is inhibited by high levels of nitrogen, long photoperiods, and high levels of gibberellic acid. Flower initiation occurs under photoperiods of 12 to 14 hours per day.
Tubers can develop in soil depths around 30 cm (1-foot), but most occur in the top or upper part. They tolerate many adverse soil conditions including periods of drought and flooding and survive soil temperatures around −5 °C (23 °F). They grow best on sandy, moist soils at a pH between 5.0 – 7.5. The densest populations of C. esculentus are often found in low-lying wetlands. They do not tolerate salinity.
1. Rich in Nutrients
Tiger nuts contain a variety of nutrients and beneficial plant compounds.
Their specific nutrient content depends on the type. There are three main varieties of tiger nuts: black, brown and yellow.
On average, one ounce (28 grams) provides (1):
Fiber: 2–7 grams
Carbs: 9 grams
Protein: 1 gram
Fat: 7–9 grams
Vitamin E: 278% of the daily value (DV)
Iron: 13–40% of the DV
Phosphorus: 9–11% of the DV
Vitamin C: 2–8% of the DV
Magnesium: 7% of the DV
Zinc: 5–7% of the DV
Potassium: 3–5% of the DV
Calcium: 1% of the DV
Tiger nuts are also a rich source of antioxidants, which are beneficial compounds that protect your body against aging and diseases like cancer and heart disease.
Research shows that germinating tiger nuts prior to eating them increases their antioxidant content.
That said, tiger nuts also contain antinutrients, such as phytates, oxalates, saponins and tannins, which can reduce nutrient absorption in your gut.
2. May Improve Digestion
Tiger nuts may promote a healthy digestion in various ways.
For starters, they are high in insoluble fiber, which passes through your gut without being digested. Insoluble fiber adds bulk to your stools and helps food move through your gut easily, reducing the likelihood of constipation
Tiger nuts are also presumed to contain resistant starch, a type of fiber that can feed the friendly bacteria in your gut, helping your digestion run smoothly.
Moreover, tiger nuts may contain enzymes, such as catalases, lipases and amylases, which help break down foods in your gut, relieving gas, indigestion and diarrhea.
The high fiber content of tiger nuts may initially cause unpleasant gas or bloating. Those interested in trying them should increase their portions gradually.
3. May Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
Tiger nuts may help keep your blood sugar levels in check.
Tiger nuts are also rich in the amino acid arginine, which may increase insulin production and sensitivity, both of which are important for blood sugar control.
Moreover, test-tube studies show that tiger nut extract may inhibit the action of carb-digesting enzymes in your gut.
As a result, less sugar may be absorbed from your gut in a way similar to the action of some blood-sugar-lowering diabetic medications. This is thought to potentially lower blood sugar levels, though more research in humans is needed.
4. May Improve Heart Health
Tiger nuts may also be good for the health of your heart.
That’s partly because of the high amount of monounsaturated fats they contain, which give them a fat profile similar to that of heart-healthy olive oil.
Diets rich in monounsaturated fats are linked to lower levels of “bad” LDL cholesterol and higher levels of “good” HDL cholesterol. They are also associated with a lower risk of heart attack, stroke and death from heart disease.
Tiger nuts are rich in heart-healthy fats. They may improve vein and artery flexibility and blood circulation, which may reduce your risk of heart disease.
5. May Boost Your Immune System and Help Fight Infections
Tiger nuts may contribute to a stronger immune system.
In one test-tube study, tiger nut extracts were tested against several types of bacteria that can infect humans. The extract was effective against E. coli, Staphylococcus and Salmonella bacteria.
Another cell study found similar results. The researchers added that tiger nut extracts might also be effective at fighting antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections.
6. May Act as an Aphrodisiac
Tiger nuts have a history of being used to boost libido.
They’re used as aphrodisiacs in Ayurvedic medicine. In addition, men in Nigeria have used tiger nuts for generations to treat erectile dysfunction, increase sperm count and boost libido.
That said, few studies have investigated these supposed aphrodisiac properties.
Tiger nuts are used as a natural aphrodisiac in some parts of the world. However, human research is needed to confirm their libido-boosting effects.
Tiger nuts are very versatile and can be added to your diet in a variety of ways.
They can be eaten raw or roasted and tend to be softer and easier to chew when they have been soaked or boiled in water.
They make for a tasty snack but can also be used as toppings for a variety of dishes, such as breakfast cereal, smoothies, salads and yogurts.
Additionally, tiger nuts can be mixed in with nuts and dried fruit for an alternative take on trail mix. They may also be ground and used in bread or other baked goods. Ground tiger nuts are a great gluten-free replacement for flour or binder in veggie burgers.
Tigernut Milk (Kunnu Aya)
Tigernuts are often used in various ways in traditional Nigerian cuisine, but the beverage kunnu aya, or tigernut milk is particularly well-loved. It is also blessedly easy to make, requiring nothing more than tigernuts and water, though the addition of spices and a natural sweetener like honey.
Tigernut milk or kunnu aya can be made simply by soaking the tubers in water, blending and straining; however, the addition of spices like cardamom and cinnamon as well as sweetener is lovely.
8 ounces tigernuts
4 cups water
1 ceylon cinnamon stick
3 cardamom pods
1/4 cup honey (optional)
Soak tigernuts and cinnamon stick into a medium-sized mixing bowl with warm water for 24 hours.
Blend the soaked tigernuts, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods and honey with a high-powered blender until a smooth paste is formed. Add water as necessary to allow even blending.
Allow the paste to sit in the fridge for a few hours, pour into a sieve to remove particles and serve over ice.