Tiger Nuts: A Gluten-Free, Nutritious Tuber

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

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Tiger nuts are an important culinary and nutritive crop in various parts of the world and have been throughout history, but there are many surprising benefits of this popular tuber. Let’s find out more!

What are Tiger Nuts?

Tiger nuts, also commonly known as chufa, are the edible tubers of the Cyperus esculentus (nutsedge) plant, which has been cultivated for at least 9,000 years for its nutrient density and oils. These nuts aren’t actually nuts, although they are commonly referred to as earth almonds. They taste a bit sweet and nutty just like pecans and almonds. While these plants are considered weeds in certain places, the dense nutrient profile of these tubers makes them an important source of resistant starch fibers.

Tiger nuts can be eaten raw; however, they are more flavorful when they are soaked and softened. Try adding them to your salad or soup; you can also grate them. Tiger nut flour and granola are gluten-free options and you can buy them in select health food stores as well as online. You can also make your own trail mix by mixing the tubers with nuts, toasted rolled oats, chocolate, and dried fruit.

Horchata de chufa (tiger nut milk) is a popular sweet Spanish drink made from tiger nuts and this milk has now become popular as plant-based, nut-free, and gluten-free milk. You can make your own tiger nut milk by blending pre-soaked nuts with water. If it is bland to taste, you can add dates, cinnamon, or honey to sweeten it.

A wooden pot of tiger nuts on a white cloth

Nutrition

According to the USDA, 1 ounce of tiger nuts (30g) is 120 calories. It is high in dietary fiber and carbohydrates with almost 10 grams and 19 grams respectively in one serving. It also contains vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc.

A report published in the European Journal of Lipid Science and Technology suggested that tiger nut oil is high in monosaturated fatty acid and is a stable oil for frying. However, more research needs to be conducted as, despite its high nutritional value, it is not as popular as olive or peanut oil.

Health Benefits

Traditionally, tiger nuts have been used in treating gastrointestinal problems such as flatulence, dysentery, indigestion, diarrhea, dyspepsia, and colitis. While there are anecdotal reports of it being a food that can aid weight loss, there has been no clinical studies to prove it. It is commonly used by men in the Middle East as an aphrodisiac and is locally known as“Hab Al-zulom”, which translates to “the seeds of men”, according to a report published in the BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. A rat model revealed that an aqueous extract of the nuts did significantly increase serum testosterone levels. However, this has yet to be verified in human studies.

Since it is a tuber and not technically a nut, tiger nut milk is a great option for people with nut allergies. The nut meal can also be used as a gluten-free, nut-free flour.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, and publisher who earned his English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign, Urbana (USA). He is the co-founder of a literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and calls the most beautiful places in the world his office. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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