Despite this this natural superfood’s popularity in Africa and southern Europe, tiger nuts and their byproducts are still considered specialty foods throughout the Americas. Also known as chufa, yellow nutsedge, nut grass, water grass, nookon or earth almonds, these “nuts” are not nuts at all but instead small, edible tubers. Here we’ll discuss the health benefits of this crunchy snack and explain why it’s perfect for weight loss!
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What are tiger nuts?
Tiger nuts are marble-sized, brown, wrinkly tubers that taste like nuts and can be consumed raw, toasted, boiled or as a milk or flour.
These snacks get their name from the distinctive stripes that decorate their natural exterior. The “nuts” provide a sweet, nutty flavor and, due to their pleasant taste and plethora of health benefits, prove a popular base for plant milk, gluten-free flour and more!
More specifically, tiger nuts come from the root of a grass-like plant called yellow nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus). The plant itself is in the same family as water chestnuts and papyrus plants. Yellow nutsedge grows around the world, but cultivation and consumption remains most widespread in the Iberian peninsula, Africa, the Middle East and India. In fact, first records of tiger nut use date back to ancient Egypt and the Spaniards have been making chufa milk (horchata de chufa) since the 1700s.
Tiger Nuts Nutrition
Tiger nuts have proven themselves a popular snack food over the centuries, but are they healthy? These striped tubers’ have emerged as a superfood in the last few years largely due to their wide range of nutritional and health benefits.
Tiger nuts are a good source of:
🌾 Resistant starch (fiber)
🥜 Plant-based protein
🥑 Healthy fats
🥛 Magnesium, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin E
Plus, tiger nuts are much lower in calories than other nuts, which makes them an ideal snack for weight loss.
How many tiger nuts should I eat?
You should eat about one-ounce, or 50 tiger nuts, in a sitting. This reasonable portion contains 120 calories, 10 grams of fiber, 7 grams of healthy fat, 2 grams of protein and several beneficial vitamins and minerals.
Tiger Nuts for Weight Loss
These small, striped tubers make the ideal snack for weight because they are:
1. High in Fiber
Tiger nuts contain an impressive 10 grams of fiber per one ounce serving. That’s nearly 40% of your recommended daily intake! Fiber proves critical for weight loss given that it increases feelings of satiety and helps keep you satisfied between meals. This hard-to-digest starch also helps level-out blood sugar to minimize cravings and promotes digestive regularity to keep your GI tract healthy and happy.
2. Full of Lean Protein & Healthy Fats
Much like fiber, protein and healthy fats also facilitate weight loss by giving your body a sustainable fuel source to keep you strong between meals. In fact, research shows that people who eat a high protein breakfast lose weight faster than their peers who eat less protein. These tubers are an excellent source of lean, plant-based protein and healthy, monounsaturated fats. Each one-ounce serving of tiger nuts has about 2 grams of protein and 7 grams of fat, most of which is monounsaturated.
3. Low in Calories
Tiger nuts have about one-forth fewer calories than other nuts, which makes them a great snack for people trying to eat less and lose weight. One ounce of tiger nuts (about 50 pieces) contains just 120 calories, compared to around 160 calories per ounce (about 23 pieces) of almonds and other nuts.
4. Allergy- and Diet-Friendly
Given the fact that these natural snacks come from the root of a grass-like plant, they are naturally nut-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and paleo. This makes them an easy snack or topping to incorporate into a wide range of diets and lifestyles.
Other Health Benefits of Tiger Nuts
Given these tubers’ impressive nutritional profile, it’s no surprise that they are associated with some impressive health outcomes. Potential benefits of tiger nuts include:
Tiger nuts’ high insoluble fiber content helps keep things moving through the GI tract and promotes fullness to reduce unnecessary snacking. Plus, some evidence suggests that chufa may also contain digestive enzymes that help break down food to reduce gas and bloating.
Better Heart Health
Regular consumption of tiger nuts is also associated with better circulation and lower risk of blood clots. Together with the tubers’ high content of healthy, monosaturated fat, this makes tiger nuts an easy, heart-healthy snacking option.
Lower Blood Sugar
Worried about diabetes, or just trying to get a better handle on blood glucose? Studies with tiger nut extract indicate that this plant has potential benefits for controlling blood sugar and boosting immunity as well. Animal studies indicate that tiger nut extract may decrease blood sugar. Still, more research is needed to determine whether humans experience a similar benefit from regular chufa consumption.
Finally, test tube studies show that tiger nut extract can fight some common bacteria. Scientists remain uncertain about similar benefits in-vivo, but the results nonetheless present a promising potential benefit of tiger nuts!
How to Eat Tiger Nuts
Tiger nuts have a plethora of potential health benefits and, once prepared, they’re an easy, portable snack. However, in their original form, some people find the tubers’ tough, outer layer off-putting. To overcome this barrier, many companies sell pre-peeled tiger nuts that are ready-to-eat straight out of the bag. If you’re preparing horchata, however, soaking the tubers at home may be worthwhile if you want to make tiger nut milk (horchata de chufa) because the soaking water adds extra flavor to the drink.
Soaking Tiger Nuts
Some people prefer to soak their tiger nuts before eating them, which gives the snack a more water-logged crunch (like a water chestnut) as opposed to the dry crunch of a nut. To try this at home, simply soak tiger nuts in water for 3-4 hours before snacking!
Tiger Nut Milk
Tiger nut milk, also known as horchata de chufa, is a popular drink in some parts of Spain and its popularity has recently been spreading around the world. To make simple tiger nut milk, soak a tiger nuts overnight and then blend with water in a ratio of two parts water to one part tiger nuts (e.g. 2 cups water to 1 cup tiger nuts). After the liquid is thoroughly blended, strain through a cheesecloth to remove pulp. Chill before drinking or serve over ice.
To make horchata de chufa – the sweetened tiger nut milk drink popular in Valencia, Spain – add white sugar (or another sweetener) and cinnamon to fresh tiger nut milk. Some people also add vanilla. When sweetened and spiced to your liking, stir well to combine and chill thoroughly before serving.
Tiger Nut Butter
Tiger nut butter is a popular, allergen-free “nut” butter. Given the nutty, sweet taste of these tubers, spreads made from tiger nuts prove a popular alternative for peanut, almond or cashew butter. The simplest tiger nut butter recipe is simply a blend of ground tiger nuts and a plant-based oil such as coconut oil or tiger nut oil. More exciting spreads may also contain cinnamon, vanilla or other flavors.
In addition to serving as an nut-free alternative for individuals with allergies, tiger nut butter has also grown increasingly popular for those who follow Paleo, AIP or raw vegan diets.
Where to Buy Tiger Nuts
Tiger nuts are available both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. Whole nuts, flours and milks are common in health food markets, as well as in large stores such as Walmart and Amazon.
In terms of price, tiger nuts on Amazon are generally cheaper than tiger nuts at Walmart or other physical stores. Amazon also offers a wider variety of chufa products, including whole, sliced and chopped tiger nuts, plus tiger nut flour and tiger nut milk.
Have you ever tried tiger nuts? What’s your favorite way to eat (or drink!) them? Let us know in the comments section below!