Tigernuts: The Must-Have Superfood You’ll Really Love
July 2nd, 2020
Imagine a kitchen where you can reach into the pantry and pull out the perfect food. One that’s ideal for The Myers Way®, AIP approved, paleo friendly, and fun for the whole family. That can be a reality and I’m going to tell you how it’s done: with tigernuts.
You might be thinking, “Wait. A nut? Those aren’t even AIP!” You’re right. Nuts such as almonds, cashews, and hazelnuts are not autoimmune diet approved, nor are they included in the 30-day protocol of The Myers Way®. Despite this, tigernuts are a great addition to your diet because they’re not really nuts! Tigernuts are a tuber that grows below the ground,1 however they resemble a nut in size, shape, and flavor. The grooves on the peel give them a striped appearance, which is how they got their name. Tigernuts are gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, paleo, and they are a fantastic tool for maintaining a healthy weight, or even when you want to lose some weight.
People have been eating this sweet and nutty tuber for over 6,000 years.2 The hardy crop was brought to Spain from the Sudan and Egypt during the middle ages. Tigernuts can also be found here in the United States, where their plant is occasionally considered a pesky weed.3 Despite that, the plant, also known as yellow nutsedge, is a very serviceable crop that can be utilized in many diet plans. You may have seen them in my recipes, and now I want to tell you why they are the ideal food for you and your family.
Different Ways to Use Tigernuts
As with nuts and starchy tubers such as cassava, tigernuts can be enjoyed in many ways. Raw, dried tigernuts are a tasty, gluten-free snack on their own. This ancient food can also be made into a delicious beverage or used as an ingredient in AIP baking and cooking.
Raw Tigernut Snack
Tigernuts, available peeled and unpeeled, are great for when you’re craving something crunchy. Although the whole, unpeeled form has more fiber (about 10% more), chewing them can take some serious jaw work. You can soak the raw tigernuts for about four hours to make them softer on the outside and crunchy on the inside. Tigernuts are also an excellent snack when you want to lose some stubborn weight. They reduce blood sugar spikes and keep you full longer than many other snacks. They make a great healthy snack for kids and adults alike.
Spanish horchata, or horchata de chufa, is a delicious drink made with tigernuts and water, lightly sweetened, and spiced up with a dash of cinnamon.4 A popular treat along the Mediterranean coast,5 it’s high in calcium, vitamins C and E, completely dairy-free.6 and easy to make with a few simple ingredients. Additionally, tigernut milk, free of added sugars and artificial sweeteners, contains more iron and magnesium than cow’s milk and can be a quick way to get more of these nutrients in your diet.
Conventional white wheat flour puts stress on your immune system and can result in chronic inflammation from gluten.7 Fortunately, tigernut flour, a gluten-free flour, can replace wheat flours at a 1:1 ratio in the foods you love to make and eat. It’s one of the flours I recommend in the essential foods to swap for AIP-friendly cooking and it’s featured in many recipes in The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook.
Because tigernut flour is naturally sweet, you can reduce the amount of honey, maple syrup, or other natural sweeteners in the recipe. On top of all that, tigernut flour has more protein, vitamins, and minerals than wheat flour because its source, the tigernut, is also rich with these healthy components. So it’s great for baking AIP snacks, paleo snacks, and all your baked goods.
This byproduct of the allergen-free tuber is a flavorful oil that can be compared to olive oil. As an added bonus, the high levels of oleic acid, a monounsaturated healthy fat, make tigernuts a great addition to your skincare routine as a way to increase skin elasticity and promote a smooth, youthful appearance.8 Compared to the price of some natural skin oils, this is an affordable alternative that can be used to nourish your body inside and out.
Packed with Nutrients
Tigernuts are small, however, one serving packs in A LOT of nutrients. They’re not just an allergen-free snack that’s easy to take on the go, they’re also a great energy booster. A 1 oz (30g) serving of about 25 tigernuts contains:9
- 120 calories
- 7g of fat (82% of which are unsaturated fats)10
- 9g of carbohydrates
- 10g of fiber
- 2g of protein
Tigernuts outshine tree nuts such as almonds and cashews as a healthy snack for dieters and wellness enthusiasts in more areas than calorie count. Their nutrient profile holds an impressive percentage of the vitamins and minerals necessary to improve your overall health.
If you’re not meeting the daily recommendations for dietary fiber, tigernuts could be the food you need. Fiber stimulates your digestion and helps prevent gut-related afflictions such as constipation. Unfortunately, most Americans are not getting enough fiber in their diet.11 a single ounce of tigernuts contains 10 grams of fiber, which is almost 40% of your daily recommended fiber12 (that’s almost as much as my Coconut Joy Fiber Bars!). For those of you who struggle with stubborn weight linked to an underactive thyroid, slower metabolism, or chronic stress-related weight gain, munching on raw tigernuts will keep your blood sugar levels stable, support your digestion, and improve cholesterol levels (in more ways than one!).13
Vitamins C & E
The Vitamin C and E present in tigernuts help support your body’s immune response and protect your cells from damage. The 1.8 mg of vitamin C in one serving of tigernuts is used by our bodies to make skin cells, blood vessels, ligaments, and tendons, as well as support your body’s response to wounds.14 Tigernuts are recommended for healthy skin, weight management, and fertility—all because of vitamin E.15,16,17 Vitamin E is also important for eye and skin health due to its antioxidant properties.18 The incredible 3 mg of vitamin E in one serving of tigernuts is about 278% of the daily recommended value.
Magnesium plays an important role in supporting digestive, heart, and brain health, and the absorption of nutrients such as calcium and potassium. Inflammation from gluten, soy, yeast, and dairy irritate the digestive tract and result in reduced magnesium absorption and then an even greater need for it. Luckily, 100 grams of tigernuts provides 13-17% of the daily recommended dose of magnesium19 to help you get off this merry-go-round of inflammation and magnesium deficiency.
Eating 100 grams of tigernuts will provide you with more potassium than 100 grams of banana. Your body needs potassium for proper kidney and heart function, muscle contraction, and nerve transmission.20 Getting ready to head to your next workout and need a quick pick-me-up? Grab a few tigernuts to fuel your body with the nutrients it deserves.
Amino acids are the building blocks used to help the body process food and repair tissue.21 Some of the most abundant amino acids found in tigernuts are Glutamic acid and arginine. These amino acids promote cognitive ability, combat fatigue, and stimulate the immune system. Arginine also boosts the production of nitric oxide to increase blood flow and lower blood pressure.22,23 You can drink tigernut milk to get a concentrated amount of amino acids, including the essential amino acids your body cannot produce on its own.24
Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)
Tigernuts are a delicious way to include a satisfying, low-calorie, high-fat food in your diet for smart, allergen-free snacking. Monounsaturated fatty acids are a healthy type of fat, and replacing some of the nasty trans fats from processed oils with MUFAs may offer various health benefits.25 In fact, just one ounce of tigernuts has 16 grams of monounsaturated fats and 2 grams of polyunsaturated fats (both are good!).
So What Are Tigernuts Missing?
That’s easy. Just two items that I advise everyone to avoid: Gluten and dairy.
Tigernuts are a gluten-free food that eliminates your risk of an inflammatory response brought on by gluten proteins. Gluten causes your immune system to become overly stressed to the point that it begins attacking your body’s own tissues to try and combat the source of inflammation. This state of chronic inflammation can lead to leaky gut and leave your body open to gastrointestinal distress, seasonal allergies, and autoimmune disease.
Sometimes I turn over a bag in the store and see that there is “whey,” “whey powder,” or “casein,” on the list of ingredients. These are names for the proteins found in milk and can result in inflammation. The natural process of tigernut harvesting leaves no room for contamination by dairy.
In fact, tigernuts actually promote a healthy response to the bloating and digestive distress brought on by these inflammatory foods. The tubers contain digestive enzymes such as catalase, lipase and amylase, which help alleviate indigestion and gas.26 It’s hard to believe—a gluten-free and dairy-free food that also combats uncomfortable symptoms associated with constipation, belly bloat, and gut infections such as SIBO and Candida overgrowth.
They’re Not A Common Allergen
In many of my articles, I recommend avoiding grains and legumes, tree nuts, and seeds due to their high lectin content, phytates, and phytic acid. Tree nuts are notorious in the world of food allergies and food sensitivities. One in every 13 children has a food allergy27 that could trigger an allergic reaction, leading to inflammation, swelling, and in extreme cases anaphylactic shock.28,29 Luckily, tigernuts are not actually a nut and tigernut allergies are uncommon, so they can be sent in a lunch bag to your child’s “peanut and tree nut-free” school. Their lectin content is also significantly lower than tree nuts, similar to other tubers such as sweet potato, yucca (cassava), and taro.30,31 For a kid-friendly snack that will not lead to an inflammatory response, make some tigernut butter at home, and double the prebiotic benefits by pairing it with apples, bananas, or celery.
Although your best bet for getting your hands on this superfood is to buy them from reliable online sellers such as Thrive Market, or directly from Organic Gemini, tigernuts are becoming more readily available in health food stores and mainstream markets.
There are so many creative ways to incorporate this versatile tuber into your healthy diet. Give snack time a boost, use the flour to bake one of your family favorites, or whip up a version of the classic beverage, horchata. Food is medicine! I have found that optimal nutrition is your best defense against chronic illness and autoimmune disease. Eating foods like tigernuts helps you maximize your diet, avoid inflammation, and take back your health. Enjoy!
- Oa, O. Determination of amino acids and physico-chemical properties of juice samples produced from five varieties of tigernut (Cyperus esculentus). Chem. Res. J. 2016, 1, 1–6