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May 3, 2013, last updated June 11, 2015
By O. Amter, Contributing Columnist
Have you ever heard of tiger nuts? Although called a nut, tiger nuts are
is actually a small tuber (like a potato) that is treated as a weed in
many places due to their fast growth. Until recently, no one really
knew much about the potential health benefits of this ancient food.
Tiger nuts are primarily found in West Africa. In Europe, this food has
been around since 4,000 BC, when it was cultivated in Egypt. Over time
tiger nuts have been called various names ---the scientific name
"cyperus esculentus", Zulu nut, aya, yellow grass nut, ground almond,
edible rush, rush nut and, of course, tiger nut. The nut became popular
in Spain, known there as "chufa".
There are two varieties of tiger nuts --- yellow and brown --- and both
can be eaten raw, dried and ground into flour, pressed to make a juice,
squeezed for its heart healthy oils and used as food for hogs. Tiger
nuts are generally known for having a sweet, nutty flavor which is used
to flavor sweets and even ice cream!
Although not well known in many countries, tiger nuts have a historical
presence in some cultures. In Egypt, tiger nuts were an important crop,
even depicted in hieroglyphics and found in tombs dating back to 4000
BC. The tuber was supposedly used to make sweets, roasted or boiled
Tiger nuts were also used medicinally and as an air freshener or
perfume to make homes and clothes smell nice. In Spain, tiger nuts are
still used in a drink known as "horchata de chufa". Food historians
believe tiger nuts may have arrived to the Valencia region in Spain via
the Arab or North African invasion.
Nowadays, tiger nuts can also been found in Chile, Brazil, USA, Ghana,
Sierra Leon, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Northern Cameroon and Mali. In
some of these countries it is used only as a simple side dish and hogs
feed. In others it is an integral part of the culture. In Ghana it is made
into a popular drink called “atadwe milk”. Ghanaians also make into a
paste and use it to flavor ice cream and in place of almonds for baking.
In China the juice extracted from tiger nuts is used as a liver
strengthening medicine, a heart stimulant, to cure stomach pains,
medicine to regulate menstruation in women, a cure for mouth and
gum sores and even as an aphrodisiac to promote sexual function!
Here are the Top 10 proven health benefits of Tiger Nuts:
1. Tiger Nuts’ High Fiber Content Keeps Your Whole Body Healthy
Tiger nuts have been shown to be high in dietary fiber. In a 2009 study
conducted by the University of Miguel Hernández in Orihuela, Spain,
published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Sciences and
presented at the International Conference on Food Innovation
researchers reported that 100 g of tiger nut flour has 57.91 g of
dietary fiber, especially insoluble dietary fiber.
This fiber content is higher than other often-suggested sources of
fiber, such as oat bran, rice bran, peaches, cabbage, pears, apple,
carrots, jack beans and chia seeds.
The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research reports that
fiber helps your body by providing simple relief (and prevention) of
constipation and also keeps you fuller, longer, aiding in weight loss and
weight maintenance. It also names fiber as a great way to lower
cholesterol. In a 1994 study on the health benefits of fiber by the
American Society of Clinical Nutrition in Bethesda, Maryland,
researchers found that a high fiber diet can help prevent colon cancer,
coronary heart disease, obesity, diabetes and gastrointestinal disorders.
But, be careful, these studies linking fiber intake to decreases in death
from various diseases do not all apply across the board to all types of
fiber. For example, a 2011 study from the National Institutes of Health
(the National Cancer Institute, particularly) examined medical records
of over 388,000 people (219,123 men and 168,999 women) to reach a
conclusion that eating fiber lowers your overall risk of dying. However,
only fiber from grain sources did the trick, lowering your risk for dying
from all causes.
2. Tiger Nut Milk (also known as Horchata de Chufas) is a Great
Substitute for Cow’s Milk
Individuals struggling with lactose intolerance might want to look into
drinking tiger nut milk instead. Tiger nuts do not contain lactose,
meaning people with lactose intolerance can also eat or drink the milk
from this ground nut. It is also high in calcium, which the Office of
Dietary Supplements of the National Institute of Health defines as a
bone building and growth supporting mineral. In a 2006 study from
the University of Llorin, Nigeria, published in the International Journal
of Agriculture and Biology, researchers compared tiger nut milk with
cow and soybean milk. Tiger nuts showed themselves to be a serious
nutritional contender with other non-milk substitutes, ranking among
the highest in fat content, protein levels, calcium, phosphorus, oleic
acid and calories (6). In addition to being a great source of calcium,
tiger nut milk also has some health benefit that milk lacks, namely
Vitamin C and Vitamin E.
Another study found that mixing tiger milk with cow’s milk in yogurt
production raises the nutritional value of the yogurt while still
maintaining its diet status as lactose-free and having no adverse effects
on taste or texture. Yogurts made with this combination were given to
subjects in a blind taste testing in a 2009 study performed by the Cape
Coast Polytechnic School in Cape Coast, Ghana and published in the
Pakistani Journal of Nutrition.
3. Tiger Nuts are a Solid Source of Magnesium
Magnesium keeps our whole body ticking. The Office of Dietary
Supplements of the National Institute of Health lists magnesium as
being integral in normal body function, involving more than 300
biochemical reactions in the body.
Magnesium helps promote normal muscle and nerve function, keep the
heart beat steady, support our immune functions that keep us from
getting sick, regulate blood sugar, strengthen bones, keep blood
pressure at healthy levels, and help us process protein. Studies have
shown that 100 g of tiger nut flour contains between 13% (female)
and 17% (male) of your daily magnesium needs, depending on your
4. Tiger Nuts Can Help Control Your Blood Pressure
As we already touched on, tiger nuts are high in amino acids. Although
there are various types of amino acids present in tiger nuts, arginine is
the most plentiful.
The Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research names
arginine as a precursor to nitric oxide, which keeps our blood vessels
wide enough to keep blood flow normal.
Arginine has been shown to aid in conditions that are caused or made
worse by restricted blood vessels, such as chest pain, clogged arteries,
heart failure or disease, erectile dysfunction, muscle cramps, artery
diseases not affecting the heart or the brain (peripheral vascular
disease) and headaches induced by swollen blood vessels.
A 2004 study from the Istituto Scientifico San Raffaele in Milan, Italy
published in the American Journal of Cardiology showed that orally
administered arginine significantly improved the conditions of thirteen
hypertensive patients with micro vascular angina, which is a symptom
of cardiovascular disease .
5. Tiger Nuts May Help Protect You from Cancer and Cardiovascular
Tiger nuts are rich in Vitamin E. According to the Office of Dietary
Supplements of the National Institute of Health, "Vitamin E" actually is a
catch-all reference to a group of fat-soluble compounds with distinctive
Antioxidants help the body protect itself from free radicals, molecules
that have an unshared electron. The unshared electron can react with
oxygen to form reactive oxygen species, which are damaging to our
Vitamin E protects us by inhibiting the creation of these reactive oxygen
species . Vitamin E combined with high levels of oleic acid, two
components of tiger nuts, has also been shown to reduce the risk of
coronary heart disease. A 1993 study published in the New England
Journal of medicine in Massachusetts showed that more vitamin E in
men’s diets was linked to lower risk of coronary heart disease .
6. Tiger Nuts Give You a Potassium Boost
One of the minerals most present in tiger nuts is potassium. The
University of Maryland Medical Center names potassium as one of the
minerals that contributes to proper cell and organ function, especially
heart function. It also regulates muscle contractions, meaning it aids in
digestive functions and has even been said to lower blood pressure.
Potassium has also been shown to be integral in bone health. In a 1994
study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in
Massachusetts, researchers found that potassium rich diets strengthen
bones and prevent osteoporosis, especially in older women (14).
Unfortunately, with the increase of processed foods, researchers have
noticed a reduction in potassium intake as a result of eating less fruits
and vegetables. Adding tiger nuts into your daily diet can help stave off
bone degeneration and keep the rest of the body functioning well at
the same time.
7. Can Tiger Nuts Cure Erectile Dysfunction?
Continue reading page 1 page 2
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