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Chicory: Nutritional Value, Health Benefits and Recipes

Chicory root fibre is a type of vegetable fibre. As the name suggests, it comes from the roots of chicory plants. The plant is part of the dandelion family. The plant has been in cultivation since ancient ages. It was initially grown by the ancient Egyptians as a medicinal plant. It has served as a coffee substitute since the 17th century. 

Chicory is grown for ages. Various preparations of this plant treat multiple symptoms and disorders. For example, the leaf extract is a remedy for uterine cancer and tumours in alternative medicine. Across Africa, the chicory plant is widespread as a weed. Therefore, chicory leaves, stems, and roots find their usage countless ways. For example, prominent ones are as a decoction for jaundice, chicory extract tonic and purifier syrup for newborns and infants. It has a slightly nutty and woody, and intriguing taste. 

Nutritional Properties of Chicory Root Fibre

Chicory Root fibre is low in calories and has no cholesterol. In addition, it has mild traces of saturated fats. Nonetheless, it contains multiple beneficial compounds, minerals, and vitamins.

One chicory root (100 grams) contains the following nutrients:

Calories: 72
Protein: 1.4 grams
Carbs: 18 grams
Fat: 0.2 grams
Fibre: 1.5 gram
Potassium: 290 mg 
Calcium : 41 mg 
Iron : 0.8 mg

Chicory Root Fibre: Health Benefits 

The good part is that inulin and fructan in chicory root have prebiotic properties. They promote the growth of essential bacteria in the stomach. It also prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. The fibre may also help improve digestion, relieve constipation, aid blood sugar control, improve cholesterol, and even help lose weight. In addition, gut bacteria help prevent inflammatory diseases and strengthen the immune system. 

1. Chicory Keeps Your Gut Healthy

Chicory is the natural source of dietary fibres like inulin, which is prebiotic. That means it feeds the good bacteria in the gut. Those good gut bacteria release enzymes. As a result, it helps to improve your bowel movement and movement of food through your digestive tract. Additionally, these bacteria are essential in combating harmful bacteria and improving mineral absorption.

The intake of inulin in chicory regulates bowel movements. In addition, it alters the consistency and frequency of the stools by changing the composition of gut bacteria. Therefore, it benefits patients with irritable bowel syndrome primarily.

2. Supports the Immune System

Chicory roots are rich in fibre and bioactive compounds. It enhances anti-inflammatory functions by inhibiting inflammatory cytokines. In addition, fibre provides fuel to the gut bacteria to survive. As a result, it may prevent health disorders.

3. Reduces Cholesterol Levels in the Blood

Regular intake of chicory root fibre at recommended doses may help to reduce high cholesterol. Dietary fibres and inulin in root chicory limit bad cholesterol or LDL-lipoproteins and cholesterol from the food. Therefore, it reduces the high cholesterol levels in the blood. Elevated levels of cholesterol may cause cardiac diseases. Therefore, chicory roots help to prevent cardiovascular diseases. 

4. Keeps the Heart Healthy

Chicory root also contains several micronutrients, including potassium. These minerals and nutrients help to maintain a steady heart rhythm. It also helps muscles to recover from intense workouts. For this reason, it is an ingredient in health drinks. 

Potassium also helps to balance the sodium levels in your body. In addition, dietary fibres and inulin in chicory limit the absorption of bad cholesterol or from the food. Therefore, it prevents the accumulation of fat deposits along the arteries. Therefore, this can prevent any risks of arterial or cardiovascular diseases.

5. Improves Bone Health

Chicory has calcium. It helps in the healthy growth of strong teeth and bones. As a result, calcium also strengthens the skeletal structure. 

The deficiency of calcium may cause bone disorders like osteoporosis. In addition, it causes pain and issues with your posture. Moreover, it makes your bones fragile and prone to fractures. Therefore, the right amount of chicory may help to improve calcium intake. 

6. Blood Sugar Management

Chicory root contains inulin, a type of fibre that helps to limit sugar absorption and regulate blood sugar levels. Inulin significantly reduces the glucose concentrations in the blood. Therefore, the low glycaemic index of inulin makes it safer for people with diabetes. The glycaemic index indicates the pace at which any food may spike your blood glucose levels. It may also help lower blood sugar levels in diabetes.

7. Chicory Improves Brain Health

Chicory root fibre contains manganese and vitamin B6, equally important for brain health. Vitamin B6 enhances neurotransmitters’ synthesis. To simplify, they regulate energy use in the nerve cells. 

Vitamin B6 deficiency may initiate cognitive decline symptoms. Therefore, it may lead to dementia and Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, brain health gets affected due to ageing. As a result, it may result in memory loss. 

8. Assists with Weight Loss

Foods with inulin have a lower calorie and fat content. Thus, they are safer for your weight loss journey. Moreover, chicory also has high fibre. It makes you feel fuller and satiated for a longer time. It may prevent you from unhealthy bingeing on snacks or overeating. 

9. Coffee Substitute 

Regular coffee comes from coffee beans which are full of caffeine. Therefore, excess caffeine intake can result in headaches, migraine and blood pressure variations in some people. In addition, high amounts of caffeine can have side effects like nausea, anxiety, heart palpitations, restlessness, and insomnia. 

Chicory root does not contain caffeine. Chicory root fibre is naturally caffeine-free. So, it may be the best coffee substitute. That helps to limit your caffeine consumption.

Chicory is added to regular coffee to limit the amount of caffeine in coffee. Regular intake of chicory has better benefits than regular coffee.

10. Antioxidants

In addition to vitamins, minerals, and fibre, chicory root has many antioxidants. They may help reduce oxidative stress to prevent radical cell injury. Unfortunately, radical cell injury induces multiple inflammatory, cardiac disorders and infections. 

Studies show that chicory antioxidants have flavonoids and curcumin. In addition, it may help in detoxification. The liver is a detoxifying organ, and chicory helps to maintain liver health and protects against liver disease.

11. Muscle Relaxant 

Chicory root fibre has antioxidants like Sesquiterpene lactone and lactucopicrin. They may have a relaxant effect on the central nervous system. In addition, Lactucin and lactucopicrin can provide some soothing action. Thus, it finds usage as a relaxant against the stimulating effects of caffeine.

12. Medicinal Properties of Chicory

Chicory root fibre comes loaded with medicinal phytochemicals like inulin, sesquiterpene lactones and polyphenol. It also has sterols, saponins, and tannins. Therefore, the consumption of pure chicory infusion may help as aperient to relieve constipation and detoxifier to detoxify the blood.

Root chicory is one of the richest sources of sesquiterpene lactones.

Inulin enhances the absorption of minerals (zinc, calcium, and iron) and vitamins from the diet. It has minerals like iron, manganese, phosphorus, etc., and vitamins like pyridoxine. Consumption of chicory tea is advised in traditional medicines to stimulate bile secretion and improve digestion.

13. Prevents Kidney Stones 

Chicory is an anti-hyperuricemia agent. It can promote renal excretion of urate by stopping urate reabsorption. Accumulation of urate in the blood may result in kidney stones and gout.

14. Skin Health of Chicory

Chicory root is an anti-inflammatory herb. In addition, it has properties to boost the synthesis of your skin’s collagen. Collagen imparts elasticity and firmness to the skin. Therefore, it rejuvenates and makes your skin wrinkle-free. As a result, chicory finds its usage in many cosmetic products.

15. Prevents Bone Disorders

Calcium and magnesium protect bone health. Calcium promotes bone growth and prevents fracture. In addition, the anti-inflammatory properties in chicory inhibit various cytokines and the free radical scavenging activity. Therefore, it prevents inflammatory diseases like arthritis, osteoporosis etc.

16. Anti-Parasitic Properties

The chicory root extract has anti-parasitic or anthelmintic properties. The sequestrone lactones in chicory root fibre are effective against GI parasites. They are an active ingredient in cattle feed to prevent eradicate worm infestation.

17. Anticancer Properties

Chicory contains high alkaloids, which have anticancer, antitumour and immunomodulatory properties. Moreover, the antioxidants prevent oxidative stress that triggers several disorders, including cancer. Chicory root fibre has a significant role in reducing the toxic metabolites to prevent colonic cancer. It also reduces colonic cancer risk by decreasing the content of toxic metabolites like ammonia in humans.

Uses of Chicory Root Fibre

Chicory root has an earthy or woody taste similar to coffee. However, it does not contain caffeine. It’s the beverage of choice for some people trying to eliminate or reduce their coffee intake. Apart from the root chicory leaves may be eaten like celery, roots and leaves are boiled and added to various recipes. One can use it as a cooking spice to flavour food and drinks.

How to Include Chicory Root in your diet?

Chicory roots may be dried and ground for coffee and tea and as a coffee substitute. You may also boil it to include in salads. In addition, you may use the leaves, buds like a vegetable. Please put them in wraps and sandwiches like any vegetable.

1. Chicory Cinnamon Tea

Serving:  1

Preparation time:5 minutes

Calorie: 10 kcal

Ingredients:

Chicory root ground-2 teaspoon
Cinnamon-1 stick
Coconut oil-1 teaspoon
Water-1 cup

Instructions:

Add a cup of water to a pan
Bring it to a rolling boil
Add ground chicory and cinnamon stick
Let it simmer for 2 minutes
Allow it to steep for another minute
Strain the tea 
Remove the cinnamon stick 
Add the brewed tea into a blender
Add the coconut oil 
Blend for 10-15 seconds. 
Serve hot

2. Chicory Root Coffee

Servings: 2

Calories: 5 kcal

Ingredients:

Chicory root roasted and ground-1 tablespoon
Water-2 cups
Raw organic honey/ jaggery-1 teaspoon

Instructions:

Boil water in a saucepan 
Bring it to a rolling boil
Add chicory to water
Simmer for another 2 minutes 
Allow the chicory root to steep for more than 1-2 minutes
Pour through strainer
Add raw organic honey/ jaggery and mix well
Serve hot

Possible Side Effects

Chicory root has high fibre content. You may have to introduce it into your routine only gradually. When you eat it in high amounts, you may feel gastric reflux, bloating, or abdominal pain. Begin with a small amount. Increase over gradually in the recommended dose, depending on how your body responds. 

Here are a few possible side effects of eating an excessive amount of a high-fibre diet:

Abdominal pain
Flatulence 
Bloating
Diarrhoea
Nausea vomiting

Precautions 

Chicory root is often used as a fibre supplement and is safe for consumption. However, there are certain health conditions and disorders where chicory may be unsafe for some individuals. Therefore, you take the necessary precautions before including chicory in your diet. Here are a few of them.

1. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Chicory has high nutritional value. Nonetheless, excess consumption may cause adverse effects. Inulin may precipitate symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Inulin has fibre, fructan, that is hard to digest. Depending on your tolerance, inulin may result in abdominal discomfort.

2. Pregnancy 

Dietary intake of excess chicory may be unsafe in pregnancy. It may initiate uterine contractions. Therefore, this may result in bleeding and miscarriage. In addition, in some cases, pregnant women have reported abdominal cramps, flatulence, constipation, and discomforts after eating chicory. Consult your doctor before altering your dietary habits during pregnancy.

3. Allergic Reactions

Chicory may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to pollen. It can cause oral allergy syndrome. It happens when proteins similar to pollens are present in a fruit or vegetable. Mostly these allergens are in ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies. If you are allergic, rule out any risks or side effects with your doctor. If you are allergic to birch pollen, you may be allergic to chicory too.

4. Gallstones 

Chicory may stimulate bile synthesis. Therefore, this may be harmful to patients suffering from gallstones. In addition, gallstones disorder is due to the hardened deposits of bile. So chicory may precipitate or worsen the symptoms.

The majority of fibre intake proves more effective in its natural state than processed form. Chicory root fibre is nothing different. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Is chicory root fibre healthy?

A. Yes, it is healthy. It is a good source of inulin which is a prebiotic fibre. It may help in weight loss and gut health. However, this is because it has antioxidants and other essential nutrients, which are necessary for the overall health of your body.

Q. What does chicory fibre do?

A. It acts as a prebiotic. That is, it feeds the essential bacteria in your gut. These helpful bacteria play a role in reducing inflammation, fighting harmful bacteria, and improving mineral absorption.

Q. Is chicory good for kidneys?

A. Yes, chicory is one of the best natural anti-hyperuricemia agents. It promotes the excretion of excess urate content from your body.

Q. What are the side effects of chicory fibre?

A. Excess intake of chicory fibre may lead to gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhoea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal discomforts.

Q. Is chicory fibre good for IBS?

A. Yes, the digestive fibre inulin is beneficial in IBS if taken in moderation under the guidance of an expert. The intake of inulin in chicory regulates bowel movements. In addition, it alters the consistency and frequency of the stools by changing the composition of gut bacteria. Therefore, it benefits patients with irritable bowel syndrome primarily. But excess consumption may cause adverse effects such as excess inulin, which may be hard to digest. Depending on individual tolerance, inulin may benefit or may result in abdominal discomfort.

Q. Does chicory raise blood pressure?

A. No, instead, it is beneficial in hypertension. Chicory has potassium. Potassium also helps to balance the sodium levels in your body. And inulin prevents the accumulation of fat deposits along the arteries and thus it may maintain steady blood pressure. 

Q. What food contains chicory?

A. Energy and protein bars, protein shakes and smoothies, high-fibre breakfast cereals etc., contain chicory as an ingredient.

Q. Is chicory anti-inflammatory?

A. Yes, chicory contains anti-inflammatory properties. Chicory roots are rich in fibre and bioactive compounds. It enhances anti-inflammatory functions by inhibiting inflammatory cytokines and free radical scavenging activity. Therefore, it prevents inflammatory diseases like arthritis, osteoporosis etc.

Q. Does chicory give you energy?

A. Chicory doesn’t give you instant energy like a stimulant. But it improves immunity, digestive function and overall health. The good part is that inulin and fructan in chicory root have prebiotic properties. As a result, they promote the growth of essential bacteria in the stomach. It also prevents the growth of harmful bacteria. 

Q. Is chicory good for the liver?

A. Yes, it is a good detoxifier. The consumption of pure chicory infusion may help as aperient to relieve constipation and detoxifier to detoxify the blood. Root chicory is one of the richest sources of sesquiterpene lactones. Consumption of chicory tea is advised in traditional medicines to stimulate bile secretion and improve digestion.

Q. Is chicory good for skin?

A. Yes, chicory root is an anti-inflammatory herb. In addition, it has properties to boost the synthesis of your skin’s collagen. Collagen imparts elasticity and firmness to the skin. Therefore, it rejuvenates and makes your skin wrinkle-free. 

Q. Does chicory lower triglycerides?

A. Yes, dietary fibres and inulin in chicory limit the absorption of bad cholesterol or excess fats from the food. Therefore, it prevents the accumulation of fat deposits along the arteries. Therefore, this can prevent arterial or cardiovascular diseases and lower triglyceride levels. 

Q. Does chicory raise cholesterol?

A. No, instead, they help eliminate cholesterol. Regular intake of chicory root fibre at recommended doses may help reduce high cholesterol.

Q. Can you add chicory root to coffee?

A. Yes, you may mix chicory with coffee. For that matter, readymade coffee mixes are available with chicory added. It reduces caffeine in the mixture. 

Q. Is chicory good for arthritis?

A. Yes, calcium and magnesium in chicory protect bone health. Calcium promotes bone growth and prevents fracture. In addition, the anti-inflammatory properties in chicory inhibit various cytokines and the free radical scavenging activity. Therefore, it prevents inflammatory diseases like arthritis, osteoporosis etc.

Q. Does chicory cause acid reflux?

A. Yes, some people have certain GI disorders like acidity and are allergic to chicory. Chicory root has high fibre content. You may have to introduce it into your routine only gradually. When you eat it in high amounts, you may feel gastric reflux, bloating, or abdominal pain. 

Q. Is chicory acidic or alkaline?

A. Chicory is comparatively less acidic.

Q. Is chicory oxalate?

A. Roasting chicory may increase the oxalate content.

Tags: Chicory RootsHealth Benefits of Chicory rootshealthifymeNutritional value of chicory roots

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