Tigernuts have been around for thousands of years. In fact, according to research published by Oxford University, they made up 80 per cent of the diet of ‘Nutcracker Man’, who lived two million years ago. They’ve hung around a fair while too - a popular choice at the local sweet shop as recently as the 1960’s, where you could buy them by the ounce. Now these mighty ‘nuts’ are making a comeback as a so-called superfood.
Confusingly, tigernuts are not actually nuts. Although they are affectionately referred to as earth almonds, they’re actually a tuber from the yellow nutsedge plant. Tigernuts do have a nutty mouth feel though, similar to a chestnut. If you’re allergic to nuts but miss their addition to salads or snacks, youʼve come to a safe place!
Naturally harvested straight from the ground up, tigernuts are dried with the skin left untouched, so they look like a shrivelled sultana. While they don’t win any prizes in the beauty department, they taste sweet with a subtle hint of coconut, and have a deliciously chewy texture.
The healthy stuff: this ancient root veggie is known to be high in iron, potassium, magnesium and Vitamins C and E - which make them a great addition to your snacking routine.
You can eat them just like regular nuts, or you can find tigernut flour in most health food stores. Whole tigernuts can also be soaked in water and added to smoothies or enjoyed in your morning cereals. The flour is a great baking alternative to wheat flour for gluten-intolerant tummies, and adds a delicious nuttiness to your dishes (minus the potential allergy scares!). You can use it for cookies, brownies, cakes – even pizza dough.
According to the African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development, “Tigernuts have long been recognised for their health benefits as they have a high content of soluble glucose and oleic acid, along with high energy content (starch, fats, sugars and proteins), they are rich in minerals such as phosphorous and potassium, calcium, magnesium and iron necessary for bones, tissue repair, muscles, the blood stream and for body growth and development and rich in vitamins E and C”.
There are so many upsides to this small, chewy snack. Here are some of the top things you need to know:
They satisfy a sweet tooth
The high fibre content in tiger nuts act as a great blood sugar regulator by slowing the rate of sugar absorbed into the bloodstream. Tigernuts contain natural sugars, so you can add less to your recipes too!
Great for Guts
The resistant starch found in tigernuts act as a prebiotic, which helps our bodies to naturally develop probiotic (friendly) bacteria to ensure a strong immune system and healthy gut.
It suits most diets
Itʼs not easy to find a snack these days without multiple ingredients with some sort of additive or allergen hidden inside. The tigernut is a diverse food source that can be used to replace traditional ʻglutenʼ in recipes. Its also a great replacement if you have a nut allergy, or want to send traditionally ‘nutty’ snacks to school with the kids.
If you’re Paleo, it ticks all the boxes too - no gluten, grains, dairy or legumes to be seen here. It’s also FODMAP and allergen friendly!
Assists with weight control
Just one handful of tigernuts equals 30-40% of your daily fibre needs which helps you feel fuller for longer and maintains a health blood sugar level. One study regarding weight and diabetes found that, “daily consumption of tigernut has been shown to contribute to effective weight loss and improvement of the metabolic disorders among obese diabetic patients’.
Ideal post-workout fuel
Tigernuts are the perfect snack for those who like to get their heart rate pumping. They’re rich in potassium - more than beans, yoghurt, bananas, avocados, fish and coconuts! Potassium is a key mineral for switching on nerve cells to respond to the stimulation of muscles to contract. Potassium also contains electrolytes, which is crucial for restoring hydration levels after heavy exercise.
Contains more iron than red meat
Incredibly, tigernuts contain more iron than red meat, making them an amazing addition to a vegans or vegetarian diet. Iron is essential for producing energy to sustain our daily activities - without a sufficient amount you can be left feeling lethargic and run down.
Packed with healthy fats
Unlike other starchy vegetable tubers, tigernuts are a good source of healthy fats comparative to olive oil. The fat composition is approximately 73% monounsaturated fat, 18% saturated fat and 9% polyunsaturated fat. Polyunsaturated fat can be highly inflammatory, so a low percentage is great. In contrast, the monounsaturated and saturated fats (both nourishing, non-inflammatory types of fat) make a for it’s healthy fat profile. This fat can help increase satiety of meals and snacks, and is essential for brain health.
How To Eat
Deliciously crunchy, earthy and sweet just as they are, tigernuts can also be soaked in water to soften before adding to cereal, smoothies and salads. Alternatively, tigernuts can be roasted in coconut oil and spices for a moreish snack. Use tigernut flour in baking and adjust any additional sweetener to taste - the flour has a sweetness all of it’s own!
One thing to keep in mind, however, is that introducing resistant starch for the first time may produce some symptoms of a shift in gut flora. You may wish to introduce tigernuts gradually and see if you experience symptoms such as gas or bloating. If you do, slowly but consistently increase the amount of tigernuts starting at just one or two a day.