The Tiger Nut: An AIP-Friendly Food You Never Dreamed You'd Eat

The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) has been gaining a lot of attention in the last few years, and for good reason. An AIP diet is designed to help those individuals with autoimmune-related conditions identify which foods they're sensitive to, and from there construct a diet that heals their gut and puts them on the road to wellness. As a result, the rules of the AIP can be overwhelming at first glance. But recently, the AIP community has embraced the tiger nut, which brings so many health and nutrition benefits to the table. Read on to learn more about the tiger nut -- an AIP-friendly food you never dreamed you'd eat.

A word about the AIP diet

Originating from the paleo diet, the Autoimmune Protocol is an elimination diet designed to identify foods which contribute to leaky gut syndrome and other inflammation-related digestive disorders. While the paleo diet limits the consumption of foods to those that were available during the Paleolithic Age, excluding legumes, grains, dairy, and added sweeteners, the AIP is even more restrictive. The AIP also excludes the nightshade vegetables (including eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, and bell peppers), all alcohol, and natural sweeteners such as honey and maple syrup. Nonetheless, there are many nutritious, grain-free, gluten-free foods available to followers of the AIP diet, and the tiger nut is one of them.

What is the tiger nut?

The tiger nut is particularly valuable to the AIP diet because it is neither a grain, pseudo grain, legume, nor member of the nightshade family. Just as the peanut is actually a legume, the tiger nut in reality is an edible tuber about the size of a chickpea that grows from the nutsedge plant. It has a wrinkled appearance, a chewy texture, and a sweet, nutty flavor. It also provides a lot of flexibility for followers of the AIP because it's highly nutritious, has numerous health benefits, and can be ground up and used as a gluten-free flour to make delicious desserts.  


A myth restated

The tiger nut dates all the way back to Neolithic Egypt, where it was used as both medicine and food. Nowadays, some believe the tiger nut once comprised 80% of paleo man's diet, but commentators like Paleo Leap modify this claim. They point to Mary Leakey's 1959 discovery of Paranthropus boisei, otherwise known as "Nutcracker Man," who existed during part of the Paleolithic Era and roamed regions where tiger nuts would have been available. Paleo Leap speculates that this was one species of hominids which received 80% of its nutrients from a group of fruits, nuts and tubers that included the tiger nut.  

Tiger nuts arrive in Spain

Tiger nuts were brought to Spain from the Sudan during the Middle Ages. In Spanish, tiger nuts are called chufas, and are used to make one of Spain's most famous traditional beverages, horchata. Versions of the milky drink are found throughout Latin America, and ingredients may vary according to location. 

Benefits of the tiger nut

Researchers are still finding out more about this superfood. But so far, they report that it has several health benefits:

1. It may reduce risk of heart disease

Sources like Healthline say that a diet that includes tiger nuts may contribute to better heart health. Much like olive oil, tiger nuts contain high amounts of monounsaturated fats. Foods loaded with monounsaturated fats help improve vein and artery flexibility and blood circulation, lowering your risk of heart disease.

2. It's a good source of prebiotic fiber.

Tiger nuts, along with garlic, chicory, artichokes, onions, berries, and other common foods, are a type of fiber called prebiotics. Because of the tiger nut's prebiotic qualities, it is a food source for good bacteria in the body's gut biome. And a balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut biome, studies now show, leads to better physical, psychological, and emotional health. 

3. It improves digestive health.

The tiger nut is type of resistant starch. If you've ever had a Spanish horchata, you've seen the starchy consistency produced by the tiger nut when it's used to make the milky drink. Resistant starches function like a type of fiber, improving digestion and colon health. Other resistant starches include legumes, grains, and seeds, certain starchy foods when they are cooked, and unripened starchy foods (like bananas). 

4. It may help you lose weight and protect you against diabetes.

The tiger nut may also contribute to weight loss. Because the superfood is high in resistant starch, it passes through the small intestine without being digested and reduces sugar spikes. As a result, it may help you feel fuller longer and avoid snacking when you're trying to eat less and lose weight. Studies are also suggest that tiger nuts in your diet reduce the risk of diabetes.

5. It's rich in antioxidants. 

Tiger nuts are full of phytonutrients, a type of antioxidant, and phytochemicals, naturally occurring compounds that protect the cell from damage. Phytonutrients and phytochemicals help fight conditions such as obesity, high blood sugar, heart disease, gastointestinal diseases, inflammation, and some forms of cancers. 

6.  May boost the immune system

Healthline also reports that the antioxidants and other beneficial compounds in tiger nuts may give the human immune system an extra boost. The article reported a study where an extract from tiger nuts was effectively used against E.coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus bacteria. Other studies are finding similar results, said Healthline, and there are also indications that tiger nut extracts may even help fight bacterial infections that are resistant to antibiotics. 

Final words in tiger nuts

Tiger nuts are a naturally gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free food that can be added to a number of AIP recipes.Although more studies need to be completed, the tiger nut is packed with benefits. Whether you use the AIP or you just want to explore a healthier lifestyle, this AIP-friendly superfood is something you'll want to include in your diet. 

At Paleo Angel, we're excited about all things paleo and seek to educate the public on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP). For that purpose, we've created Paleo Power Balls, paleo and AIP-friendly snacks for on the go. To learn more about our Power Balls or to place an order, please contact us.