What are the health benefits of chicory root fiber? To begin with, the chicory root is sourced from a plant that has characteristic bright blue flowers. The plant belongs to the dandelion family.
Chicory root fiber has been used for hundreds of years as traditional medicine and as a cooking ingredient. It also serves as an alternative to coffee, as it shares a similar color and taste.
Chicory root fiber is purported to have numerous health benefits and often used as a food supplement or additive. Here are some of the emerging evidence-based benefits of chicory root fiber.
IT IS LOADED WITH INULIN, A PREBIOTIC FIBER
68% of the dry weight of fresh chicory root is composed of inulin (1).
Inulin is a fructooligosaccharide or fructan fiber. It is a carbohydrate made from a not-so-long chain of fructose molecules that are not digested by the body.
Inulin serves as a prebiotic, meaning that it acts as a source of nutrients to the good bacteria in your gut. This means that it helps the bacteria to fight inflammation, fight harmful bacteria, and improve the absorption of minerals (2, 3, 4, 5).
Thus, one of the health benefits of chicory root fiber is that it promotes good gut health.
IT ENHANCES BOWEL MOVEMENTS
Because your body does not digest inulin, and your gut bacteria feed on it, it may boost healthy digestion.
A one-month study involving 44 constipated adults found that administering 12 grams of chicory inulin daily helped soften stool and also caused a significant increase in the frequency of bowel movements compared with a placebo (6).
In another study involving 16 subjects with low stool frequency, a daily intake of 10 grams of chicory inulin caused an increase in the number of bowel movements from 4-5 weekly, on average (7).
It is worth noting that most of these studies focused on the supplementary form of inulin, so there is a need for more research on its fiber as an additive.
IT IMPROVES BLOOD SUGAR REGULATION
One of the many health benefits of chicory root fiber is that it boosts blood sugar regulation, especially in diabetic patients.
This function may be due to its inulin content, which encourages the growth of beneficial bacteria involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates – which degrades carbs into sugars – and improves insulin sensitivity, the hormone that facilitates absorption of sugar from the blood (8, 9, 10).
A 2-month study involving 42 diabetic women found that a daily administration of 10 grams of inulin caused a significant decrease in hemoglobin A1c and blood sugar levels, compared with taking a placebo (13).
It is worth noting that the inulin used in this study is high-performance inulin and often used as a sugar substitute in drinks and baked goods. It’s chemical composition is slightly different from that of other types of inulin (13).
Thus, there is a need for more research on chicory root fiber.
ENHANCES WEIGHT LOSS
Another health benefit of chicory root fiber is that it regulates appetite and decreases calorie intake, resulting in weight loss.
A 12-week study involving 48 adults with large weight determined that a daily intake of 21 grams of chicory-derived oligofructose which bears great similarity to inulin, led to a 2.2-pound average reduction in body weight compared to the placebo group which gained weight (14).
The study also found that oligofructose facilitated a decrease in ghrelin levels, a hormone that triggers hunger feelings (14).
IT CAN EASILY BE INCORPORATED INTO THE DIET
It is very easy to incorporate chicory root fiber into your diet. There are chances that you may already be eating it without knowing, as it may be used as an additive in packaged foods.
It is common to see inulin processed from chicory root. The inulin increases fiber content or serves as a substitute for fat or sugar due to its slightly sweet flavor and gelling properties (17).
Chicory root fiber can also be used as an ingredient for home cooking. Some grocery stores and specialty shops sell the root whole, which is often boiled and consumed as a vegetable.
Also, if you are looking to cutting down on your caffeine consumption, you can use roasted and ground chicory as a substitute for coffee. Here’s how to prepare this beverage: add 2 tablespoons of ground chicory root in a cup of water (240 ml).
Finally, the inulin present in chicory root can be extracted and made into supplements. You can purchase these supplements online or at health stores.
DOSAGE AND POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS OF CHICORY ROOT FIBER
Chicory root has been used for medicinal and culinary purposes for centuries and is considered safe for many.
However, you may stand a risk of bloating and gas when you consume the fiber in excess.
Research has shown that native inulin is more easily tolerated and leads to fewer bloating and gas episodes (18).
Nevertheless, no official dosage for chicory root fiber has been recommended. If you intend using it as a supplement, consult your doctor ahead of time.
Breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women should also consult their doctors before trying chicory, after all, there’s limited research on its safety in pregnant women and breastfeeding moms (20).
We have outlined some of the emerging health benefits of chicory root fiber. We have established that it belongs to the dandelion family and composed primarily of inulin.
It also improves digestive health and blood sugar control, among many other health benefits.
While chicory root is widely used as a food additive and as a supplement, it also works well as a coffee substitute.
If you’d like to reap the benefits of this fiber, boil the whole root to eat with a meal or brew chicory root coffee for a hot beverage.