What tastes like a nut, looks like a tiger but is neither of those things? You guessed it: antioxidant-rich, antibacterial tiger nuts.
Tiger nuts have been known by many names, including yellow nutsedge, chufa and nut grass. Despite the nut-centric monikers, they’re not actually part of the nut family and are completely safe for people with any sort of nut allergies.
“Tiger nut” actually refers to the tuber of its larger plant, Cyperus esculentus, which is cultivated widely in Spain but considered a weed in many other countries.
One popular use of tiger nuts is the creation of a sweet, milk-like beverage known as “horchata de chufa,” which is especially popular in Spain.
It’s not just a tasty snack or drink ingredient, though. Tiger nuts are also high-antioxidant foods and may help prevent heart disease, making them a handy addition to your pantry.
What Are Tiger Nuts?
Cyperus esculentus was one of the earliest recorded plants cultivated in ancient Egypt, often boiled in beer, roasted or served with honey. Tiger nuts were also used medicinally, as oral medications and enemas.
Today, the largest producer of tiger nuts is Spain, which was introduced to this crop by an Arab culture in the Valencia region. Tiger nuts are now also found in the U.S., as well as many African countries and Hispanic regions.
Many cultures eat them raw and use them as animal feed, while Hispanic countries use tiger nuts mainly for the creation of horchata de chufa.
In the U.S., the Cyperus esculentus plant has often been thought of as a weed, growing rapidly in various vegetable and cereal crops.
Far from being “just a weed,” though, one interesting use of tiger nuts is their recently researched potential as a new form of biofuel. They’ve also been used as a cosmetic product, helping slow down the aging of skin cells, and as fishing bait.
A one-ounce serving of tiger nuts (about 30 grams) contains approximately:
- Calories: 150
- Total Carbohydrates: 19 g
- Fiber: 10 g
- Sugar: 6 g
- Total Fat: 7 g
- Saturated Fat: 2 g
- Protein: 2 g
- Vitamin E: 2.4 mg (16% DV)
- Iron: 1.8 mg (10% DV)
- Magnesium: 32.1 mg (8% DV)
- Potassium: 275 mg (6% DV)
- Vitamin B6: 0.1 mg (6% DV)
- Zinc: 0.6 mg (5% DV)
*Daily Value: Percentages are based on a diet of 2,000 calories a day.
Tiger nuts also provide some vitamin C, calcium and antioxidants.
1. Contain a High Load of Antioxidants
You probably hear the word “antioxidants” a lot, but do you know what they are and the great things they can do?
In the body, free-flowing oxygen molecules can create free radicals, otherwise known as oxidative damage. This damage can eventually lead to diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.
It’s important to have a diet rich in antioxidants to protect yourself from oxidative damage over time, and tiger nuts are a great source of antioxidants. With high vitamin E and oleic acid content, these “nuts” help you protect your body from disease.
Certain preparation styles change the antioxidant properties of tiger nuts, although they’re all be beneficial to you. For example, when preparing horchata, using germinated tiger nuts helps retain higher antioxidant content than using fresh tiger nuts.
2. Provide a Great Source of Fiber
One serving of tiger nuts has a whopping 10 grams of fiber, providing you with almost half of your daily requirement. Fiber is an important, if misunderstood, part of nutrition.
When it isn’t absorbed by your digestive system, it passes through your system, capturing toxins, waste, fat and cholesterol particles and expelling them from your system.
Fiber helps you consistently feel full, maintain digestive health, prevent heart disease, lose weight and prevent diabetes. That’s good news for tiger nut fans, considering they contain more fiber per serving than many other recommended high-fiber foods, like quinoa or chia seeds.
3. Hold Antibacterial Properties
Another tiger nut benefit is the ability to fight bacteria in the human body. One study published in Ancient Science of Life found extracts of Cyperus esculentus actually had bacteria-fighting effects on several dangerous human pathogens, including salmonella and E coli.
Cyperus esculentus is also on a list of several dietary plants that can be used against common bacterial infections, especially for those who have developed antibiotic resistance in less developed countries.
Wherever you live, it’s important to fill your diet with immune system boosters like tiger nuts. Bacteria-fighting food helps you fight off infections and viruses so don’t neglect this important part of nutrition.
4. Work as a Prebiotic
While tiger nuts help fight bad bacteria in your body, they also assist your digestive tract by acting as a “resistant starch” prebiotic. Prebiotics function by serving as energy sources (a “fuel,” of sorts) for the positive gut bacteria that keep your entire digestive system running smoothly.
Because a rapid shift in gut microflora can temporarily upset your stomach, it’s a good idea to introduce “resistant starch” prebiotics into your diet gradually. This can help you avoid any temporary gas or bloating you could experience otherwise.
Eaten in good, healthy doses, tiger nuts have also been known to relieve flatulence and diarrhea, so you shouldn’t be too worried about brief bloating.
5. May Help Control Diabetes
Are you at risk for diabetes or elevated sugar issues? Tiger nuts may be a great addition to your snack cupboard.
A 2015 study published in the Journal of Pharmacy & Bioallied Sciences looked at the effects of Cyperus rotundus — which has many similar antioxidant capabilities that the tiger nut has — on diabetic mice. After three weeks researchers found that the treatment indicated antidiabetic effects.
In addition, research published in 2022 found that a blend of tiger nut and date palm fruit “mitigates hyperglycemia, insulin resistance and oxidative complications in type-2 diabetes models.” This shows positive signs for the tiger nut working as a diabetes treatment.
6. Lower Bad Cholesterol
Even though there is a lot of misinformation out there about good and bad cholesterol, it’s still important to maintain healthy levels of each. Tiger nuts have been proven to lower levels of LDL cholesterol and balance cholesterol levels by absorbing it better due to the fiber content.
7. May Help Improve Sex Life
A preliminary 2015 study looked at how the consumption of tiger nuts affected the male copulatory behavior in rats. The results of the study showed tiger nuts improved the sex performance of the rats, inferring a possible benefit to human male sexual performance as well.
Among other factors, the rats showed briefer intermission times and heightened testosterone levels. This makes tiger nuts potential aphrodisiac foods.
How to Add to Diet
Adding tiger nuts to your diet can contribute to a well-rounded and nutritious eating plan. Here are some ways to incorporate tiger nuts into your meals:
- Enjoy them as a snack on their own. (They have a sweet, nutty flavor.)
- Drop a few into your favorite smoothie for an extra boost of nutrients and a pleasant nutty flavor. Soak them in water before blending to soften them.
- Create a homemade trail mix by combining tiger nuts with other nuts, seeds and dried fruits. This makes for a convenient and nutritious on-the-go snack.
- Incorporate tiger nut flour into your baking recipes. You can use it as a substitute for regular flour in some recipes, adding a unique flavor and nutritional benefits.
- Sprinkle chopped or whole tiger nuts on your cereal or yogurt for added crunch and nutrition.
- Make your own tiger nut milk by blending soaked tiger nuts with water and straining the mixture. Use the resulting milk as a dairy-free alternative in coffee, tea or recipes.
- Toss chopped tiger nuts into your salads for an extra crunch. They can complement both fruit and vegetable salads.
- Mix tiger nuts into your morning oatmeal or porridge for added texture and flavor.
- Blend tiger nuts with other ingredients to make dips or spreads. For example, you can create a tiger nut hummus or a tiger nut pesto.
- Include tiger nuts in homemade energy bars or bites for a nutritious and portable snack.
- Make or buy tiger nut granola to enjoy with yogurt or milk.
Risks and Side Effects
While it’s extremely rare, there have been a few cases of reported allergies to tiger nuts. If you experience symptoms of an allergic reaction, please consult your physician immediately.
- The tiger nut is not part of the nut family and is completely safe for people with any sort of nut allergies.
- It’s often used to make a sweet, milk-like beverage known as horchata de chufa, especially popular in Spain.
- Tiger nut benefits include containing a high load of antioxidants, providing a great source of fiber, holding antibacterial properties, working as a prebiotic, controlling diabetes, lowering bad cholesterol and improving sex life.
- In the U.S., the Cyperus esculentus plant has often been thought of as a weed, growing rapidly in various vegetable and cereal crops. Far from being “just a weed,” though, one interesting use of tiger nuts is their recently researched potential as a new form of biofuel. They’ve also been used as a cosmetic product, helping slow down the aging of skin cells, and as fishing bait.