Tiger nuts: What are they, and are they good for you?

If you haven’t heard of tiger nuts, get ready: the superfood is gaining popularity in North America.

Tiger nuts, also known as chufa nuts, are chickpea-sized and lauded for their health benefits. They’ve been eaten for centuries; researchers at Oxford University found ancient ancestors in East Africa, between 2.4 million and 1.4 million years ago, survived primarily on a diet of tiger nuts.

Tiger nuts are also used in horchata, a creamy drink popular in Spain.

So what are they and why are they called a superfood?

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What are tiger nuts?

Despite their name, tiger nuts are not actually nuts. They’re tubers, much like sweet potatoes, and grow in the ground. Tiger nuts come from a plant called yellow nutsedge, and their taste is often compared to almonds.

Their name comes from their striped exterior.

According to Amanda Li, a registered dietitian at Wellness Simplified, a healthy serving of tiger nuts is about one ounce, the same portion size as tree nuts like cashews or almonds.  An ounce of tiger nuts is roughly 150 calories, Li said.

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Why are tiger nuts considered a superfood?

Tiger nuts are high in resistant starch fibre, which is known to have benefits like promoting digestive health and preventing bowel inflammatory diseases. Resistant starch fibre is also thought to help with weight loss.

“Eating a diet high in fibre can help keep you regular, control blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol levels,” Li told Global News. “Just a one-ounce serving provides about 10 grams of fibre.”

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Tiger nuts are also a decent source of protein for those on plant-based diets. Iron, zinc, copper and magnesium are found in tiger nuts.

“A one-ounce serving provides 15 per cent daily value of vitamin E, which is a very potent antioxidant,” Li said.

Since they’re not actually nuts, tiger nuts are safe for those with nut allergies. People who are on gluten-free, lactose-free or vegan diets can also enjoy them.

How can you eat tiger nuts?

There’s plenty of ways to eat tiger nuts. You can eat them raw, although they are a bit chewy. They are often sold unpeeled or peeled in pre-portioned bags.

You can soak tiger nuts, softening their texture, roast or boil them. Tiger nuts are also used in baking, as tiger nut flour is gluten- and nut-free.

“ great chopped into brownies or muffins… because they have a natural sweetness to them.”

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You can even make tiger nut “milk” as a dairy-free alternative, just like almond or cashew milk, Li said.

“The flavour… imparts a nice and sweet note, and is very creamy, without the need to strain over a cheese cloth — which is necessary for when making homemade nut milks.”

Laura.Hensley@globalnews.ca

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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