By Natasha Ellah
At 100 Naira (£0.32/$0.50) a bag, Tiger Nuts or ‘Aya’ are one of the cheapest African Superfoods I have found while rummaging through the Nigerian market. Normally sold by Hausa mallams, they also have the informal name of ‘Northern Groundnut’. In Nigeria, the Hausas call it “Aya”, Yorubas “imumu”, the igbos “ofio”, “aki Hausa” in southern Nigeria. What is so exciting about this product is that it’s highly nutritious but also very cheap, meaning that its benefits can be enjoyed by everyone. Indeed, it’s been touted by Good Housekeeping magazine as one of the Seven Top Health Food Trends for 2015!
Tiger Nut, which is actually a tuber, has a sweet, milky coconut taste can be eaten dried as a snack or processed into Tiger Nut Milk or Tiger Nut Oil. The drinking of Tiger Nut milk goes back to the Spanish culture; they call it ‘chufa de horchata’. The milk is a rich source of nutrients such as vitamins C and E, and minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, calcium, iron, unsaturated fats, proteins and some enzymes which help in digestion. Studies show that Tiger Nut milk contains more iron, magnesium and carbohydrates than cow milk making it ideal for a lacto-free diet.
Of course we know these minerals are very beneficial to the body. Magnesium is perfect for healthy hair and skin, a great mood enhancer and possesses huge anti-inflammatory benefits. Dr. Mark Hyman, the author of the “10 Day Detox Diet” calls it the most powerful relaxation mineral available. Vitamin E is a great anti-oxidant that slows damage to cells so it has anti-aging properties. The African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development shows consuming Tiger Nuts reduces low density lipoprotein-cholesterol – its high fibre content serves as a mop for the body’s ‘bad cholesterol’, helping the body to dispose of it through waste. The fibre when ingested with water swells in the gut and brings a feeling of fullness, helping to suppress appetite and aid in weight loss for men and women.
The Tiger Nut oil can be paired with a salad or used to drizzle on some bread instead of butter for a healthy alternative. It may also be used for applying on skin and hair. The oil is similar to olive oil and corn oil so it can be used for cooking as well. As it does have quite a nutty flavour, you might want to try it out first on a few meals before cooking for the whole family.
As this wonder nut is available all year round, it is possible to enjoy it as a snack, as a nourishing drink or in its oil form at any time. Next time you pass by a mallam with his wheelbarrow full of Tiger Nuts, make sure you pick up a few to enjoy their benefits.
Natasha Ellah is a freelance writer and healthy living consultant regularly updates her website www.livingandlearning.club