In an effort to help close the fiber gap, one fibrous food has popped up in an increasing number of healthy food products: chicory root fiber. Chicory root fiber is a type of inulin (soluble fiber) sourced from the roots of chicory plants. Its slightly nutty and woody taste often works well in a wide range of both foods and drinks, including in coffee, tea, baked goods, and protein bars.
Quick health lesson on the difference between insoluble fiber and soluble fiber—insoluble fiber helps bulk up stool and is found in the roughage in fruits and veggies. Soluble fiber absorbs water to create a gel-like substance during digestion, which works to keep bowels moving. It also helps to absorb fatty acids, which is good for your heart. Chicory root fiber, as mentioned, is the latter type of fiber.
Watch the video below to learn more about the benefits of soluble and insoluble fiber:
There's a whole host of reasons why chicory root fiber is so good for your body. Here, registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, RD, gets into them. Plus, see easy ways to integrate chicory root fiber into your life.
What are the health benefits of chicory root fiber?
1. It keeps your gut healthy and constipation-free
If you need some support with keeping a regular poop schedule, chicory root fiber can help in that department. Rifkin explains that's because the inulin in chicory root fiber is a prebiotic, which means it feeds the good bacteria in the gut. Those good gut bacteria release substances that help you better digest food and increase your gut motility, aka the speed at which things move through your digestive tract.
2. Chicory root fiber also supports the immune system
Because so much of the immune system actually lies in the gut, Rifkin points out that whenever you consume food that supports the gut, you're also boosting your immunity. Scientific studies back this up, even saying that gut health can be protective against allergic conditions like eczema.
3. It could help reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels
Rifkin also says that eating chicory root fiber regularly could help lower high cholesterol. Because it's effective in reducing high-density lipoprotein (the "bad" LDL cholesterol), consumption is linked to mitigating type two diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other lifestyle-related diseases.
4. Chicory root fiber has potassium
Chicory root fiber also has several micronutrients, including potassium, which can help muscles recover from intense workouts. This is one reason why it's starting to pop up more in protein powders like Fuel and It's Just. Potassium also helps balance out sodium in the body, which is another reason why it's good for the cardiovascular system.
5. It also contains calcium
It also has trace amounts of calcium, which supports strong teeth and bones, and also helps with nerve function.
However, as with any fibrous food, Rifkin recommends upping your intake of chicory root fiber slowly. Otherwise, you could experience constipation or diarrhea. "When increasing the amount of fiber in your diet, make sure you are increasing your total fluid intake at the same time to aid in the processing and digestion of fiber," she says. In other words: Make sure you have a glass of water nearby. "You can also reduce negative digestive symptoms by spreading fiber across the day rather than consuming large amounts all at once," she says.
If, for any reason, your MD has told you to pump the brakes on fiber and stick to a low-fiber diet (typically for people with serious GI issues or who are recovering from certain medical procedures), this ingredient likely isn't for you. Similarly, if you have or are recovering from any gastrointestinal disorders, talk to your MD before giving it a try.
While you'll find chicory root fiber as an ingredient in many snack bars, prebiotic powders, and baked goods, you can also buy it as a loose powder and integrate it into your own food and drinks. Keep reading for some ideas to get you started.
Foods and drink recipes using chicory root fiber
The earthy, woodsy flavory profile of chicory makes it pair exceptionally well in coffee, providing an added richness. Or, you can use it in place of coffee altogether as a low-caffeine swap. Here, it's used to make a creamy latte.
Get the recipe: Chicory root latte
More of a tea drinker? Follow this recipe instead, that simply blends it with water, cinnamon, and a tablespoon of coconut oil. It just takes three minutes to make!
Get the recipe: Chicory root tea
For a savory sip you can enjoy any time of day, try incorporating the powder into a golden milk latte. Made with turmeric, you'll be benefitting your entire body as it works to reduce inflammation while the inulin in the chicory does its job of supporting the gut.
Get the recipe: Chicory root golden milk latte
For a way to incorporate your chicory powder into a yummy treat, try this vegan pudding. Made with cashew milk, the texture is super creamy. The chicory root fiber powder is blended with cornflour (for binding and texture) and a touch of maple syrup for sweetness.
Get the recipe: Vegan coffee chicory pudding
Just like other nutrient-rich powders, you can work this one right into your smoothie bowl. There's a lot of healthy ingredients in this recipe: spinach, banana, blackberries, pineapple, cacao, goji berries, almonds, and chia seeds. That's in addition to the chicory root fiber and a scoop of protein powder. This is one smoothie bowl that will definitely keep you full and satisfied.
Get the recipe: Chocolate banana smoothie bowl
Want the hard work done for you? Here are products with chicory root fiber you can buy:
These bars are a sweet way to get some quick fiber, whether you enjoy one for breakfast or an afternoon snack. One bar has 12 grams—almost half of what you need for the entire day. And you can definitely thank the chicory root fiber for that.
Buy it: NuGO Cinnamon Raisin Fiber Bar ($25 for 16)
Besides the gut-healthy fiber, this dessert is made with coconut, almonds, hazelnuts, cinnamon, vanilla, and monk fruit extract. The all-natural ingredient list makes it vegan, Paleo, and keto-approved.
Buy it: Revol Snax Snickerdoodle Keto Bites ($28 for 3)
Lily's is a chocolate line that uses all-natural sweeteners in place of sugar in their products, and chicory root fiber is one ingredient they used in these peanut butter cups to help amp up the flavor. As if you can't tell by now, chicory root fiber pairs really well with chocolate. Then again, what doesn't?
Buy it: Lily's Chocolate Peanut Butter Cups ($10)
Chicory root fiber is an easy way to up your daily fiber intake and feed the good bacteria in your gut more prebiotics. Just stick with Rifkin's advice and up your intake slowly and you'll be doing your digestive system a, er, solid.
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