By Registered Dietitian Mia Syn, MS, RD, scientific advisory board member, PanTheryx
If you are familiar with chicory, then you may know that it’s been used for its health benefits for centuries, that it makes a great-tasting caffeine-free “New Orleans-style” coffee substitute, and that the leaves and flowers can be tossed into a salad. But did you know that much of its benefits are attributed to its roots? Here is everything you need to know about chicory root.
What is chicory root?
Chicory root comes from a bright blue daisy-like flower that grows perennially throughout the country. It is particularly rich in a unique fiber called inulin (about 68 percent) which can be extracted and isolated for use as a dietary fiber ingredient in foods and supplements such as TruBiotics’ new probiotic gummies.(1) Not only that, but it can also serve as a sugar and fat substitute in products due to its subtle sweetness and gelling properties.(2, 3) Besides chicory root, inulin is naturally found in bananas, onions, garlic and artichokes.
What are the benefits of chicory root?
The 2020–2025 USDA Dietary Guidelines estimate that a shocking 97 percent of men and 90 percent of women do not meet their daily recommended intakes for dietary fiber, which is about 22-28 grams per day for adult women and 28-34 grams per day for adult men. Fiber is important for maintaining bowel, blood sugar, and cholesterol health, and aiding in weight management.
Chicory root can help contribute to your daily needs. The inulin fiber that chicory root contains, is one of the few fibers that can act as a prebiotic, meaning it helps selectively stimulate the growth and activity of beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, in the gut. Once ingested, fiber passes intact through the gastrointestinal tract and into the large intestine where it helps feed the good bacteria. Not only that, but this process also produces short-chain fatty acids (SCFA), which research suggests may play a key role in gut and immune function.(4) The combination of pre- and probiotics have a synergistic effect to support digestion and the 70 percent of the immune system in the gut.(5)
What is FOS inulin found in TruBiotics?
The type of chicory root used in TruBiotics Sugar-Free Gummies differs from what you would find in a nutritional bar. TruBiotics uses a highly-purified component of inulin called fructooligosaccharides (FOS) prebiotic fiber. I know it sounds like a scary word, but it really is healthy! (6) FOS are shorter chain molecules linear in structure while inulin is slightly longer with more cross-links. While both inulin and FOS are effective prebiotics, some research suggests that inulin is fermented more slowly in the gut by bacterial enzymes due to its interlaced cross-linked structure.
Is chicory root safe?
Chicory root is generally regarded as safe for consumption. However, because it is rich in fiber, it can act in a similar way to fibrous vegetables by causing gas and bloating when consumed in excess or if your body isn’t used to consuming fiber-rich foods regularly. A person can help relieve this discomfort by increasing their fluid intake. Additionally, adding fiber-containing foods slowly to the diet may help alleviate some of the distress.
Ultimately, fiber can be of great benefit to digestion and bowel regularity—and that includes FOS found in chicory root. (7)
Next time you see chicory root on the ingredient label of your nutrition bar or supplement, know that this fiber-rich ingredient not only adds subtle sweetness and mouthfeel, it’s ultimately supporting your gut health, digestion and immunity as well.