Tiger nuts also known as chufa, 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.
They’re rich in a variety of nutrients and have been linked to several health benefits ranging from better digestion to a reduced risk of heart disease.
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, yellow
On average, 1 ounce (28 grams) of Tiger Nuts provides: Calories: 143, Fiber: 9 grams, Carbs: 19 grams, Protein: 1 gram, Fat: 7 grams, Iron: 1–2% of the Daily Value (DV), Phosphorus: 5–6% 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.
Germinating or roasting the tubers prior to eating reduces their antinutrient levels, making it easier for your body to absorb and use the many nutrients they contain.
May improve digestion
Tiger nuts may promote healthy digestion in various ways.
For starters, they’re 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.
Keep in mind that the high fiber content of tiger nuts may initially cause unpleasant gas or bloating. Those interested in trying them should increase their portions gradually.
May reduce blood sugar levels
Tiger nuts may help keep your blood sugar levels in check.
Animal studies show that tiger nut extract may help reduce blood sugar levels. This may, in large part, be due to the high fiber content of the tubers, which may slow down the absorption of sugar in the gut.
The protein in tiger nuts also contains a high proportion of the amino acid arginine, which may increase insulin production and sensitivity, both of which are important for blood sugar management.
It should be noted, however, that the amount of arginine used in the cited human study (9 grams) is much higher than the amount you’ll find in a single serving of tiger nuts, which contains 1 gram of protein.
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.
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 LDL (bad) cholesterol and higher levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. They are also associated with a lower risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from heart disease.
Research also links tiger nuts to better blood circulation and a lower likelihood of blood clots — both of which can reduce your risk of heart disease.
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 cause an infection in 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.
However, more studies are needed before strong conclusions can be drawn.
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.
One mouse study showed that tiger nuts helped preserve testicular weight and sperm production following heavy metal poisoning.
In a rat study, eating a large number of tiger nuts for 30 days increased testosterone levels, boosted sexual activity, and reduced intromission time between mating sessions.
However, there are no studies on using tiger nuts as an aphrodisiac in humans, so more research is needed before any conclusions can be made.
How to add them to your diet
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.
In Spain, tiger nuts are used to make a popular plant milk known as horchata de chufa. They can also be turned into dairy-free yogurts and ice cream.
The bottom line
Although not technically a nut, tiger nuts are an interesting addition to a health-promoting diet.
They’re rich in many nutrients, contribute to good digestion, and may protect against infections and health conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.
Keep in mind that these tubers are rich in fiber, so those interested in adding them to their diet should do so gradually to avoid any potential and unpleasant bloating or gas.