Tiger nuts scientifically known as Cyperus esculentus is a plant tuber, though sharing some properties of nuts. History has it that Africans especially Nigerians and Egyptians have been using tiger nuts for centuries. Tiger nut is used in these countries for many purposes. A unique preparation of tiger nuts called ‘horchata’ is the milk produced by blending or pressing tiger nuts. Horchata originated from Spain.
Tiger nuts were found very useful in the 18th century. However between 19th and 20th century, its use declined obviously due to lack of information on the usefulness of tiger nuts. The 21st century has promising outlook on the use of tiger nuts for a range of purposes. Several studies have evaluated the health benefits of tiger nuts – in the management of obesity, in heart problem, in boosting the body’s immunity, in its use as an aphrodisiac, in its metabolic function and in the management of diabetes.
Tiger nuts’ use in the management of weight
Tigernuts have fibres and these fibres help in the digestion of food. The presence of fibre in tiger nuts also lowers the accumulation of fats, especially the bad cholesterol – LDL (low density lipoprotein).
Adequate intake of foods rich in fibre such as tiger nuts reduces the risk of developing a myriad of diseases such as coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, obesity and gastrointestinal disorders (Sachez-Zapata et al; 2010).
The use of tiger nuts in the management of weight is closely linked to its beneficial role in metabolism of food. Tiger nut aids metabolism of food because of the vital role its fibres play in digestion. Digestive enzymes such as lipases, amylases and catalases are present in tiger nuts (Bixquert-Jimenez, 2003; Adejuyitan, 2011) and are very important in digestion: amylases aid digestion of carbohydrates while lipases aid digestion of fats. As such, people suffering constipation should introduce tiger nuts adequately in their daily diet.
Tiger nut is used in the management of diabetes
Diabetic patients should make tiger nuts part of their diet. The high fibre content of tiger nuts helps in slowing down the absorption of glucose in the body. Also tiger nuts contain arginine which stimulates insulin – a body apparatus responsible for controlling sugar. Additionally, arginine facilitates the production of nitric oxide which is important for controlling blood pressure and blood sugar.
Tiger nuts boost libido
From ancient time, men have used tiger nuts to enhance libido and sexual performance. African men in particular have consumed tiger nuts to improve sperm count and sperm morphology. Tiger nuts are also employed in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
Tiger nuts boost the body’s immune system
According to the study conducted in 2009 by Prakash and Ragavan, tiger nuts extract has antibacterial activity against common human pathogens including E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumonia, Proteus vulgaris, Salmonella spp, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Citrobacter freudii.
When tiger nuts are blended, two co-products are derived – the solid co –product which is high in dietary fibre has good technological properties; is a good carrier of bioactive compounds and has good antioxidant properties. The liquid co-product which is the tiger nut milk (horchata) has prebiotic properties and also antioxidant properties (Sanchez –Zapata et al; 2010).
According to Sanchez –Zapata et al; 2009, the proximate composition of tiger nut fibre is as follows:
Moisture: 61.23, Protein: 1.75, Fat: 8.85, Ash: 0.99, soluble dietary fibre: 0.105, insoluble dietary fibre: 59.61.
In another study conducted in 2010 by Sanchez-Zapata et al; the proximate composition of tiger nut liquid co-product is:
Moisture: 94.44, protein: 16.90. Fat: 8.27, Ash:7.37
Prakash N, Ragavan, B (2009). Phytochemical observation and antibacterial activity of Cyperus esculentus. Ancient Science Life, US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health. 28(4): 16-20
Bixquert-Jimenez, M (2003). Horchata y Saludi:Propiedades Saludables y de prevencion de efermedades digestives In: Fundacion Valenciana de Estudios Avanzados, editor. Journada Chufa y Horchata: Tradicion y Salud. Valencia, Spain: onselleria de Agricultura, Pesca y Alimentacion p.71-85
Adejuyitan. J.A (2011). Tiger nut processing: its food uses and health benefits. Am. J. Food Technol 6(3):197-201
Sanchez-Zapata E, Feuntes – Zaragoza E, Fernandez- Lopez J, Sendra E, Navarro C, Perez-Alvarez JA (2009). Preparation of dietary fibre powder from tiger nuts (Cyperus esculentus) milk (‘horchata’) byproducts and its physicochemical properties. J. Agric. Food Chem 57: 7719-7725
Sanchez-Zapata E, Feuntes – Zaragoza E, Fernandez- Lopez J, Sendra E, Sayas E, Navarro C, Perez-Alvarez JA (2010). Effects of tiger nut fibre on quality characteristics of pork burger. Meat Sci 85: 70 -76