Chicory root is a natural alternative to coffee that helps manage blood sugar and regularity.

Growing widely in Europe, predominantly in the northwest of that continent, chicory, or Cichorium intybus to give it its Latin name, is a rich source of inulin. If you are unfamiliar with this term, inulin is a natural sugar fiber found in the roots of the chicory plant. Though soluble, inulin cannot be digested but is instead used as a substitute for sugar, or fat, that are typically found in processed foods.

Replacing these sugars and fats with chicory root can lead to a lower intake of calories.

In France, for example, and also in Japan, chicory is widely used as a coffee replacement. It tastes bitter but is attracting a following in certain parts of the United States.

Benefits for health

  • Boost food by adding extra fiber
  • Improve digestion healthily
  • Increased levels of fiber to aid regularity
  • Prebiotics
  • Halt early-onset diabetes
  • Regulate bowel movements
  • Prevent uterine cancer and tumors
  • Anti-inflammatory treatment
  • Treat or prevent cancer
  • Brain health

Chicory root, in addition to its significant sugar replacement properties, also can boost food by adding extra fiber. And added fiber is a great way to improve digestion healthily. Therefore, foods containing chicory root have increased levels of fiber to aid regularity and may also have lower calorie counts than other foodstuffs without inulin.

Another added health benefit of chicory root of which you will probably be aware is prebiotics. These are compounds that feed beneficial bacteria in your intestines.

These health benefits of chicory root are the ones that are best known. Recent research into inulin found in chicory root has uncovered other health benefits too.

One interesting study, for example, has concluded that inulin could halt early-onset diabetes and regulate bowel movements. The study was looking into the impact of chicory root on blood sugar, metabolism of fat, and regularity. While the researchers could definitively say that inulin could not alter fat metabolism, hopes were raised on its effects on diabetes and bowel movements.

A separate study, meanwhile, has explored the medical uses of chicory root as a treatment to prevent uterine cancer and tumors. The research also investigated chicory tea as a treatment for jaundice and as a supplement for babies.

An animal study has produced some impressive results too. Evidence was found that chicory root can play a role as an anti-inflammatory treatment. And because it is a natural substance, chicory root could prove useful for cancer patients in managing pain. There were indications as well that chicory root may well help to treat or prevent cancer. Further, because chicory root includes vitamin B6 and manganese, there could very well be a beneficial use of chicory root for brain health.

What all this research has proven beyond doubt is the need for further studies to establish the full health benefits of chicory root. The studies to date have lent support to some of the health claims made about chicory root. But more extensive research on humans is needed to determine all the health benefits accruing from the chicory root.

Meanwhile, hopes are also being raised for chicory root concerning osteoarthritis. Chicory is applied topically to relieve swelling and inflammation. However, an industry-financed study has shown signs that chicory root may also play a part in the treatment of osteoarthritis. But a lot more work and evidence-gathering is required before this can be confirmed for sure.

Chicory Root Side Effects?

  • Increasing menstrual flow
  • For pregnant women as these side effects could lead to miscarriage
  • Cause allergy symptoms in people who are allergic to daisies, marigolds, or ragweed
  • Experience a range of gastric symptoms

Inulin has gained Food and Drug Administration approval in the United States. This status means that chicory root is generally safe to use.

Consumed in the amounts found in foodstuffs, chicory root is most likely safe to ingest. However, consumed in larger volumes, chicory root can have side effects and is not recommended for pregnant women as these side effects could lead to miscarriage. Chicory root has also been implicated in increasing menstrual flow.

Furthermore, the chicory root could cause allergy symptoms in people who are allergic to daisies, marigolds, or ragweed.

In general, chicory root is well tolerated when ingested by mouth, according to the Medicines Comprehensive Database. Some people will experience a range of gastric symptoms, from flatulence to abdominal pain and bloating.

Chicory Root Health Benefits & Side Effects
Chicory Root Health Benefits & Side Effects

Preparing Chicory Root

Chicory root is easy to prepare. The roots, leaves, and buds can be boiled in the same way as you would cook other vegetables.

Other people roast the chicory root like coffee beans to drink as a substitute for regular coffee. In contrast, others purchase ground and roasted chicory to add to coffee or as a replacement for coffee.

The majority of brands recommend adding two spoons of ground chicory root to hot water as a substitute for coffee or adding smaller amounts of chicory root to regular coffee.

Chicory root coffee contains no caffeine and has a distinctive taste reminiscent of wood or earth. If you want to drop your coffee intake, chicory root is one avenue to consider.

Chicory coffee is widely available in grocery stores and online. Labeling will inform you of the contents, whether it is a blend of chicory and coffee, or solely ground chicory. In either case, they are made the same way you would make regular ground coffee.

Where to Buy Chicory

For most people, they will consume inulin as an added fiber in processed foods. Chicory root is commonly added to low-sugar breakfast cereals, protein powder, and low-fat snack bars as it promotes a feeling of fullness after eating.

However, you are unlikely to find whole chicory roots in mainstream US supermarkets. The closest you will see if you are lucky is chicory endive (leaves) in the veg section. Chicory endives can be used as a bitter green similar to radicchio or escarole.

Does Chicory Stimulate You Like Coffee?

No, because no caffeine is present in chicory. The widespread popularity of chicory as a substitute for coffee stems from its taste, not the caffeine effects.

Will chicory roots give me gas?

Yes. As chicory contains both fiber and is prebiotic, it can cause gastric disturbances such as gas, stomach ache, and bloating.

People who suffer from IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) may experience increased symptoms. And chicory root is not recommended if you are on a low FODMAP diet.