Tiger nut (Cyperus esculentus) is often mistaken to be a nut but it is actually a tuber that has its origins in the subtropical and warm temperature regions of the northern hemisphere. It has been cultivated for several centuries in Egypt and southern Europe. A lot of people are unaware of the health benefits offered by this tuber. That is why although it is cultivated widely in many parts of the world there are places that consider this plant to be a weed.
Nutritional value of tiger nut
Although a tuber, tiger nut also shows characteristics of nuts. It is a good source of energy giving fat, starch, protein and sugar. It is also a rich source of dietary fiber, vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin E and some of the B complex vitamins), and minerals such as potassium, phosphorus, calcium and magnesium. The oil obtained from tiger nut has been found to consist of saturated fatty acids (18%) like stearic and palmitic acids and unsaturated fatty acids (82%) like linoleic and oleic acids. Tiger nut contains high levels of phytosterols which are beneficial in many ways including protection of your skin, prevention of cancer and lowering of cholesterol levels.
Did you know? Tiger nut is used to make milk also called horchata de chufas or Kunun Aya, which is a healthy, nourishing and energy giving drink. In fact, this milk is considered to contain more nutrients than cow’s milk. It is also ideal for people who are lactose intolerant as it does not contain lactose or milk proteins.
Health benefits of tiger nut
Tiger nut is considered to be a super food because of its health benefits and medicinal properties. Consumption of this tuber is beneficial for preventing many kinds of health problems. In Africa, tiger nut is popular for its medicinal properties and known by various local namaes there – Aki Awusa, Aya, Isip Isong, Ofio, Hausa Groundnut and Keegun. Here are a few reasons why you should consider including tiger nuts in your diet:
Tiger nut – rich source of fiber
Tiger nuts have been found to contain a great deal of dietary fiber, especially insoluble fiber. In fact the amount of fiber is higher in this tuber when compared to other major sources like apple, peaches, oat bran etc. The advantage of eating fiber rich foods is that it aids in digestion and makes your bowel movements regular, thus helping in avoiding problems like constipation. It also helps in controlling your appetite by making you feel fuller for long hours. This makes tiger nuts an excellent food choice for people trying to lose weight. Not only does it help in losing weight, but also in maintaining the lost weight. Fiber is also beneficial in lowering cholesterol levels as it binds to cholesterol and removes it from the bloodstream. This helps in preventing the buildup of cholesterol, thus lowering the risks of medical conditions like heart attacks and strokes.
Tigernut has anti-inflammatory properties
Tiger nut has been found to have strong anti-inflammatory properties. It helps in reducing inflammation in the body and is particularly good for people suffering from inflammatory diseases like arthritis or inflammation of the gastro intestinal tract.
Tiger nut is a diuretic
Tiger nut has diuretic properties, which helps in increasing the frequency of urination and in getting rid of excess water in your body. This property helps in preventing water retention and in preventing conditions like urinary tract infection and kidney stones. The removal of excess water from your body is also useful in promoting weight loss.
Tiger nuts – remedy for erectile dysfunction
Tiger Nuts are found to be effective as a remedy for erectile dysfunction (ED) as they have the ability to maintain proper blood flow and to regulate the blood pressure. Although there is no solid evidence on this effect, Tiger nuts have long been used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction in Ghana traditional medicine. As an aphrodisiac, juice of tigernuts soaked overnight along with coconut, dates, cinnamon, ginger, honey and milk is drank in Africa.
Tiger nuts – source of magnesium
Magnesium is an important mineral that plays a vital role in many bodily functions. In fact it has been found that this mineral is involved in more than three hundred chemical processes that take place inside your body. Magnesium helps in maintaining normal heart beat and in promoting the proper functioning of muscles and nerves. It also helps in regulating your blood sugar levels and in strengthening your immune system. Magnesium is a bone building mineral that promotes the growth and development of healthy and strong bones.
Tiger nut – excellent source of potassium
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, potassium is an essential mineral that supports the proper functioning of your organs and cells. Some of the important functions of this mineral include maintaining normal blood pressure, promoting proper digestive functions and regulating muscle contractions. Potassium is also associated with improving the health of your bones. Research suggests that the consumption of foods rich in potassium can make your bones strong and prevent conditions like osteoporosis, a progressive disease affecting the bones which is characterized by decrease in bone mineral density. As the bone mass and density decreases, the bones become susceptible to breakage and fracture.
Protein rich tiger nut
The importance of protein in your daily diet cannot be overemphasized. Proteins provide us with energy and it plays a vital role in the formation of blood, cartilage, bone, muscle, and skin. It is also the building block for hormones, and enzymes in your body. Tiger nut is a rich source of protein and contains many amino acids that are actually the building blocks of proteins.
Tiger nut controls blood pressure levels
High blood pressure is a common medical condition that can cause damage to your blood vessels, heart, kidneys and other organs of your body. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help in maintaining a normal blood pressure. Tiger nut is a great source of many amino acids including arginine, which is considered to be a precursor to nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is a potent vasodilator, which helps in widening your blood vessels, thereby making it easy for the blood to flow freely. Because of this property, Arginine is also helpful in conditions that are often caused by narrow blood vessels, such as clogged arteries, heart diseases, erectile dysfunction, headaches, chest pain and peripheral vascular disease. Plus this tuber is rich in potassium, which also helps in controlling blood pressure by counterbalancing the effects of sodium or salts.
Tiger nut lowers cholesterol
Tiger nut has a high content of oleic acid that helps in lowering the levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. It is also rich in soluble fiber that is beneficial in reducing the LDL or bad cholesterol levels, thus preventing the buildup of cholesterol and hardening of arteries.
Tiger nut contains heart healthy oils
According to the American Heart Association, foods high in trans fat and saturated fats increase the risk of conditions like high cholesterol and cardiovascular diseases. However, this does not mean that you have to avoid all types of fats from your diet. There are unsaturated fats that are healthy for you and does not cause the above mentioned health problems. When you consider cooking oils, olive oil is one of the best. Just like olive oil, tiger nut oil also contains healthy fats that are good for your heart. In fact tiger nut oil contains more healthy fats when compared to olive oil.
Tiger nut reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases and cancer
Tiger nut is a rich source of vitamin E, which has powerful antioxidant properties. Antioxidants protect your body against the oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Oxidation stress can cause cell mutations leading to the development of cancerous cells. Therefore by eliminating the free radicals from your body, the antioxidants in tiger nut help in preventing cancer. Studies have also found out that a combination of vitamin E and oleic acid, both of which are present in high amounts in tiger nut, is helpful in lowering your chances of developing coronary heart diseases.
Tiger nut and diabetes
As mentioned before, tiger nut is a wonderful source of insoluble and soluble fibers. People suffering from diabetes benefit by eating foods rich in fiber because it helps to regulate their blood sugar levels. Fiber is not digested or broken down in your digestive system and hence do not contribute to increase in blood sugar levels.
Tiger nut milk benefits
Tiger nut milk possibly originated in Spain and spread to other parts of Middle East. People having lactose intolerance should consider trying tiger nut milk, because it is not only rich in nutrients but also devoid of casein, lactose and other milk proteins. Tiger nut milk is a great source of calcium and ranks high in protein, unsaturated fat, minerals and oleic acid. It also contains high amounts of antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin E which is not present in cow’s milk. It also contains more iron, magnesium and carbohydrates than cow’s milk Horchata is beverage made from tigernut, water and sugar, flavored by cinnamon. Absence of lactose, casein, milk protein or cholesterol makes it ideal substitute for cow’s milk.
Other benefits of tiger nut
Tigernut is considered as carminative and tonic. It treats flatulence, indigestion, diarrhea and dysentery. It is used traditionally in regulating menstruation.
Where to buy Tiger Nuts
Tiger nuts are readily available in Africa. In Spain, it can be found in any shop selling dry fruits – just ask for chufas. In Europe and US, it can be purchased online or through shops selling African ingredients.
Tiger nut flour – Flour of tiger nut is used as gluten free alternative to wheat flour. It offers distinct sweet taste and common in baking products and confectionery. Flour is prepared from powdering roasted tubers. Try out some tiger nut muffins with lemon and cinnamon flavor.
Tiger nut as fish bait – Skin of tigernut contains lysine and works as effective fish bait.
Tiger nut oil – Tiger nut contain high amount of oil. Oil obtained from tiger nut is stable can be used for cooking. It is often used for salad dressings. It is high in oleic acid, gamma-tocoferol and other nutrients good for skin. The oil is used for waterproofing textile fabrics and has potential to be used as bio diesel.
The high nutritional value, protein content, high starch and calorie levels makes it an ideal food for people suffering from malnutrition in most of the under developed countries of the world. Tiger nut is under-utilized, despite the fact that it is a nutritious and healthy food. This is due to the lack of awareness among people about its properties and benefits.Image Credits: Flickr - Sergi Albir, Flickr - Rich Kaszeta, Flickr- Photocapy, Flickr- Fluffymuppet