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What are tiger nuts?
The tiger nut (Cyperus esculentus) is a herbaceous plant from which the tuber is harvested for use. The cultivation of tiger nuts can be traced back to the distant past and it seems to have been a very popular foodstuff with the Ancient Egyptians. The tiger nut then spread to the Iberian Peninsula where it is still grown today.
Nowadays, Valencian tiger nuts are renowned as a traditional crop in this area of the Mediterranean from which the refreshing drink widely known as horchata is produced.
Tiger nuts have been recognized by several European studies as a healthy foodstuff with a wide variety of beneficial properties for the human body. Their consumption has been associated with the prevention of cardiovascular and circulatory diseases as well as reducing the risk of cancers thanks to their high oleic acid and polyunsaturated fat content along with vitamins E and C. The tiger nut is an excellent source of energy thanks to its starch and complex sugar content, and it is rich in essential amino acids. Its composition also means it has antidiarrheal action, promotes healthy digestion and increases the body’s immune system defences.
Ways of consuming tiger nuts
While in Spain tiger nuts are farmed primarily to produce the drink known as horchata, in other countries they are used more widely either raw, roasted or dried as a snack, and also in the form of flour for artisan baking and bread-making.
Suitable for diabetics
Thanks to its high complex sugar content (sucrose and starch) rather than simple sugars (glucose), the tiger nut is highly suitable for diabetics. Similarly, the beverage horchata de chufa, provided that no sugar is added during processing, is also recommended for consumption by diabetics.
Both tiger nuts and horchata are:
- Lactose- and fructose-free
Ak, E. T. (2009). Some physicochemical properties of flour obtained from fermentation of tiger nut (Cyperus esculentus) sourced from a market in Ogbomoso, Nigeria. African Journal of Food Science, 3(2), 051-055.
Arafat, S. M., Gaafar, A. M., Basuny, A. M., & Nassef, S. L. (2009). Chufa tubers (Cyperus esculentus L.): As a new source of food. World Applied Sciences Journal, 7(2), 151-156.
Belewu, M. A., & Belewu, K. Y. (2007). Comparative physico-chemical evaluation of tiger-nut, soybean and coconut milk sources. Int. J. Agric. Biol, 5, 785-787.
Regulatory Board of the Valencia Designation of Origin of Valencia Tiger Nuts (www.chufadevalencia.org)
Farré, R. and Alegría, A. Horchata and Health – nutritional and dietary aspects. University of Valencia.
Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment (2002). The tiger nut – a typically Valencian crop.