By Ogechukwu Agwu
Tiger nuts are small, round, chewy, sweet, milky and nutty tasty traditional food in Nigeria. It can be eaten as a snack or made into a milky beverage which is known as Kunnuaya in Hausa. The milk extracted out of this food is a great choice for those who are gluten intolerant, a wonderful alternative for diary milk. This plant milk is also good for those who suffer from nut allergies.
Cyperuds esculentus as it is botanically referred to are not really nuts, they are actually vegetable, a type of starchy little tubers that grow under the soil’s surface. Also known as yellow nutsedge, Zulu nuts, Chufa or earth almond, tiger nuts have been used for many centuries and remain extremely popular all over the western hemisphere.
In Nigeria, tiger nuts are referred to as Aya in Hausa, Ofio in Yoruba and Akiausa in Ibo where three varieties (black, brown and yellow) are cultivated. Among these, only two varieties, yellow and brown are readily available in the market. The yellow variety is preferred to all other varieties because of its inherent properties like its bigger size, attractive colour and fresher body.
Researchers at Oxford University has discovered that tiger nuts played a key nutritional role on human’s evolution from pre-human to human, what this simply means is that tiger nuts is as old as human.
Tiger nuts are packed with high fiber content – around 33 per cent, which is indeed a considerable amount. In a study conducted in 2009 by the University of Miguel Hernandez, Orihuela, Spain, it was found out that 100g tiger nut flour contains around 60 g dietary fiber, especially the insoluble dietary fiber which is much higher than other popular fiber sources such as rice bran, oats, apple, cabbage, carrots, pears, Chia seeds and jack beans.
This little tubers are allergen free, they probably would be the rarest food allergies ever since they are a tuber they are completely soy, diary, grain, seed or nut so one doesn’t have to worry about allergy.
They are nutritious and can help to fight malnutrition, they are so packed with nutritional goodness that they are being considered as an alternative staple food in some food in some developing countries. A study in Egypt found that these nuts are more nutritious and less expensive than some other staple foods.
The nuts are packed with high energy content; they are rich in minerals such as phosphorus, potassium and vitamins E and C as you may know phosphorus together with calcium constitutes the bulk of the mineral substances of the bones and teeth.
They are a very rich source of dietary fibre. Over 30 per cent of a tiger nut is made of fibre, studies have shown that is more than what is found in oats, bran and most vegetables and fruits. Fibre is important part of balanced diet, it helps the body to prevent heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. It is also important for our digestive health, we need it to keep our digestive system in good working order. Fibre can also be an aid to weight loss, by consuming more of food containing fibre we tend to feel fuller for longer. Aside from its rich content in fibre, tiger nuts are good for controlling blood pressure. Studies have it they are beneficial to those suffering high blood pressure. The nuts are also rich in amino acids.
Tiger nuts are a good source of magnesium, which is needed by the body to help with muscle and nerve function and for the proper functioning of the immune system. Magnesium also helps to regulate the heart beat and maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
Another amazing benefit of tiger nuts is that it is a rich source of protein, protein is a vital ingredient used in the building of muscle, skin and bone. Research has shown that tiger nuts are in fact one the best, non-meat, sources of protein that there is.
Another one of great health benefits of tiger nuts is that they help regulate blood sugar levels. The insoluble fibre found in the nuts can be of great help to diabetics. Insoluble fibre is important to diabetics, because, unlike other carbohydrates, it does not cause peaks and troughs in the blood sugar levels.
The milk gotten from them can be used as a substitute for cow’s milk. Tiger nut milk contains no lactose but plenty of calcium, so it makes a great alternative to cow’s milk, for people who are lactose intolerant.
Tiger nuts are a highly nutritious plant food that contain a large number of antioxidants. Antioxidants protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals that cause the cells in the body to mutate and become cancerous. They have a high content of soluble glucose and oleic acid – which helps lower bad cholesterol and prevent heart attacks. They are also an excellent source of starch, healthy fats, sugars and protein.
As said earlier, tiger nuts are rich in Vitamins such as B1, E, C and minerals such as phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, calcium and iron. Recent studies have shown that they are brimming with vitamins and minerals, vitamins and minerals are essential for bone growth, tissue repair, muscles, body growth and general well-being. Some yoghurt is now being made with added tiger nut milk, to boost their nutritional content.
The nuts are also a good source of antioxidant and vitamin E which helps to protect against the damage caused by free radicals in the body. By protecting the body against free radicals, Vitamin E can help prevent both cancer and coronary diseases, as well as slow down the onset of the signs of ageing. They also contain the healthy fats and a healthy oil, the oils it contains is similar to olive oil. The oil extracted from tiger nuts consists of around 80 per cent unsaturated fats and only 18 per cent of the cholesterol causing saturated fat.
Besides eating them as a whole you can also prepare a traditional beverage known as Horchata. Soaking them over night blended with water and a dash of sweetner to create a creamy and diary free drink and stored in a fridge may be just what you need to calm yourself on a sunny day.