You are probably asking yourself: “What the heck are tiger nuts?” Tiger nuts, aren’t actually nuts, but instead grow as a wild weed and are classified as tubers (1). They were originally cultivated in Egypt in 4000 B.C.E. and then  in Europe in the Middle Ages (2). Currently, the main countries that grow tiger nuts are Ghana, Senegal, Nigeria, Togo, and Mali.

Tiger nuts are highly versatile and are consumed in many ways. They can be eaten raw as a snack or roasted. They can be made into a beverage called “orgeat” or “Horchata de chufa” and to flavour ice creams (who knew?).  In addition, fermented products similar to yogurt can be made out of tiger nuts, as well as porridge. Currently, tiger nut flours are trending in gluten-free baked goods.  Plus they can be made into oil and a starch extract. (1, 3).

Tiger Nuts & Health

The nutritional content of tiger nuts is similar to most tubers; however, it’s high in fibre and high in fat similar to nuts (5). Tiger nuts are being linked to a variety of health benefits including improved blood pressure, the treatment of bacterial infection and cancer prevention(1).

Heart Health

Tiger nuts may improve blood pressure. The Na-K ratio is less than one, meaning that it would not have adverse effects on individuals with hypertension (1). In addition, this may be beneficial to individuals that are low in potassium, which can be associated with cardiac arrhythmias and low blood pressure. Overall, tiger nuts are safe for hypertensive individuals and may even improve the blood pressure and circulation of hypotensive individuals. However, there needs to be more primary research to solidify the ability of tiger nuts to improve blood pressure.

They are fibre high (9 grams per 100 gram) and high in healthy fats including the MUFA omega -9 (oleic oil) found in olive oil. Both fibre and healthy fats promote heart health. However, there are few well designed research studies to substantiate the actual dose response of consuming tiger nuts and the decrease risk of heart disease.

Immune Health

Tiger nuts contain phytochemicals that may aid in the treatment of bacterial infections. A study that examined the effects of phytochemicals in various extracts from tiger nuts showed that tiger nuts have the potential to directly inhibit the growth of various types of bacteria. Chloroform extract from tiger nuts has been shown to inhibit S. aureus (4). Petroleum ether extracted from tiger nuts inhibits the growth of Salmonella sp (4). Acetone extract from tiger nuts has an inhibitory effect on S.aureus, I.Lpneumoniae, and P.vulgaris (4).  Overall, tiger nuts have promising effects on the treatment of bacterial infection. However, human trials must be conducted to confirm the antibacterial effects of tiger nuts.

Tiger nuts are high in phytochemicals, making it a good source of antioxidants (1). These antioxidants include alkaloids, flavonoids, phenols, tannins, steroids, terpenoids and glycosides(3). The high antioxidant content may be a factor in reducing the risk of certain cancers such as colon due to their nutritional profile. Interesting point, the antioxidant content is higher among roasted tiger nuts compared to both dried and raw tiger nuts (1). Tiger nuts may have the potential to aid in the prevention of some cancers. Unfortunately, more research must be conducted to confirm the ability of tiger nuts to prevent cancer.

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What’s Next?

There is no single food or ingredient that is a substitute for a healthy lifestyle including fitness, restful sleep and healthy eating. Tiger nuts are very versatile and are nutrient dense. There are numerous claims on the health benefits of tiger nuts. Many online sites identify significant benefits to consuming tiger nuts; however, well designed scientific studies to substantiate these claims are not currently available. Keep your eye on the emerging research. If you have added tiger nuts to your healthy diet, let me know your thoughts about the flavour, texture and how you use it!

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References:

  1. Ogunlade I, Bilikis A, Olanrewaju A. CHEMICAL COMPOSITIONS, ANTIOXIDANT CAPACITY OF TIGERNUT (Cyperus esculentus) AND POTENTIAL HEALTH BENEFITS . European Scientific Journal. 2015.
  2. Pascual B, Maroto JV, LóPez-Galarza Sa, Sanbautista A, Alagarda J. Chufa (Cyperus esculentus L. var. sativus boeck.): An unconventional crop. studies related to applications and cultivation. Econ Bot. 2000 Oct 54(4):439–48.
  3. Sánchez-Zapata E, Fernández-López J, Angel Pérez-Alvarez J. Tiger Nut (Cyperus esculentus) Commercialization: Health Aspects, Composition, Properties, and Food Applications. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2012 Jul 1: 11(4):366–77.
  4. Prakash N, Ragavan B. Phytochemical observation and antibacterial activity of Cyperus esculentus L. Anc Sci Life 2009 Oct 1; 28(4):16–16.

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