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TIGER NUT - the Fiber-Filled Superfood

My Magazine 2023/04
3 min
 Tiger nuts, one of the hottest superfoods on the market, are not, in fact, nuts. They are tubers of the Cyperus esculentus plant, also called the yellow nutsedge. In Gambia, they are known as Ndirr.

At first glance, tiger nuts might look like wrinkly brown garbanzo beans. But don't let first impressions fool you because they're not beans, either. However, they are a high-fibre vegan and gluten-free snack currently trending in the health food scene. While tiger nuts might have only recently popped onto our radar, the root veggies have existed for 4,000 years. Tiger nuts were such a beloved ingredient in ancient Egypt that they were entombed and discovered with buried Egyptians. Today they are most commonly eaten in parts of Africa, Europe, and the Mediterranean. In Spain, tiger nuts are called chufas. They are the primary ingredient in tiger nut milk, a beverage locals call horchata de chufa. It is a cold, refreshing drink many enjoy during summer.

Tiger nuts are also grown in North and South America, where they are often used in animal feed. The plants have a low-water, low-carbon footprint and grow quickly underground. Though tiger nuts date back centuries, they've come into the limelight only recently in the United States as a health food. Tiger nuts can help people better manage their allergies by replacing food items that contain common allergens. For example, tiger nut flour is a gluten-free alternative to flour containing wheat. Tiger nut milk is an alternative to cow's milk, which contains lactose. Oh, and here's the kicker: although tiger nuts aren't nuts, they do boast a sweet, nutty flavour that's reminiscent of almonds, coconuts and pecans and earn their name from a tiger-striped exterior.

Tiger nuts are super high in resistant starch fibre, which has been getting a lot of buzz for its weight loss benefits. Resistant starch passes through the stomach and small intestine without being digested. It may help you lose weight by reducing blood sugar spikes and keeping you fuller longer than other foods with the same number of calories. It also benefits your gut by acting as a prebiotic, stimulating the growth of good bacteria in the digestive tract. This prebiotic power can also promote an overall happy and healthy gut, which, in turn, can help maintain a range of bodily functions, including immunity, cholesterol regulation, and nerve cell production.

Benefits of tiger nuts include:

  • They contain healthy macronutrients.
  • They offer a healthy dose of critical micronutrients.
  • They are good for your gut microbiome.
  • They have a high fibre content.
  • They are rich in antioxidants.
  • May reduce blood glucose levels.
  • May improve digestive health.
  • May improve heart health.
  • May boost the immune system.
  • It may act as an aphrodisiac.
  • Lowers risk of cancer.
  • Promotes bone health.

Tiger nuts are typically sold in packaged dried form, which you can buy from supermarkets, speciality health food stores, or online retailers. Dried versions are very hard right out of the bag, so you'll need to soak them in hot water for an hour until they're chewy and meaty before eating. As for fresh tiger nuts, you can find them at local health food stores or farmer's markets. In this case, choose those that are brown and free of dark spots, as this might mean they've gone bad. You can find various tiger nut products online and in health food stores. For instance, tiger nut butter, tiger nut flour, and tiger nut hot cereals are all sold at Amazon. Shops like Tiger Nuts USA also have many tiger nut products available online.

Tiger nuts are very versatile in terms of how you can consume them. You could;

  • Eat them whole or raw as a snack.
  • Enjoy them roasted as a snack.
  • Add to salads.
  • Add them to soups.
  • Include soaked tiger nuts in smoothies.
  • Add in your cereal.
  • Make a trail mix.
  • Use tiger nut milk as a dairy milk substitute.
  • Bake with tiger nut flour.
  • Add them to cereal, granola, or trail mix.
  • Enjoy them soaked or cooked.

Although they taste nutty, tiger nuts have more carbohydrates and less protein than most actual nuts. Also, they are not low-sugar or low-fat food. People watching their carb, sugar, or fat intake should be mindful that tiger nuts contain a fair amount of all three. Tiger nuts are also high in magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamins C and E. Some sources suggest they can help to reduce cellular ageing by fighting damaging free radicals, controlling blood pressure, and promoting a healthy digestive system. However, there are very few clinical trials about the effects of tiger nuts on humans, so more studies need to be conducted to make more solid conclusions.

One last note: If tiger nuts land a spot in your weekly menu, you'll want to eat only a few at a time. People with digestive issues such as IBS or sensitivities to high-fibre foods might experience gas, bloating, cramping, or diarrhoea if they eat too many tiger nuts. To avoid these issues, drink plenty of water and increase your intake slowly. Raw tiger nuts are also higher in anti-nutrients that may reduce the amount of vitamins and minerals your gut can absorb. You can soak, boil, or toast them to increase their nutritional value. This way, you can have your tiger nuts and eat them too.

Although not available on the markets in The Gambia throughout the year, with a guide who knows every part of the local markets, you can find, buy and taste local tiger nuts in dried or fresh form in The Gambia. We invite you to take a stroll through Serekunda market with us and buy not only tiger nuts but also many other exotic fruits, of which many have superfruit properties.


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