Nowadays, various varieties of chicory are being cultivated in different parts of the world. While the leaves of some varieties are used as a vegetable (radicchio); some others yield roots, that are baked and ground, to be used as a substitute for coffee. Ground chicory root powder is also used as an additive in coffee powder. In some regions, chicory roots are used for brewing beer. Studies show that these roots contain various compounds, that are beneficial for human health. The extract prepared from these roots is rich in soluble fiber.
What is Chicory Root Fiber?
Chicory roots contain high levels of inulin, which is a polysaccharide that has been used as a sweetener as well as a probiotic (which promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine). Nowadays, inulin is also promoted as dietary fiber. While fresh chicory roots contain around 20 to 25% of inulin by total weight, dried chicory root extract contains 98% of inulin. So chicory root extract is now widely used as a dietary supplement and as an additive. In order to prepare chicory root extract, fresh roots are dried, ground and mixed with water. This solution is filtered to remove the insoluble parts. The resultant extract is used for various purposes. In short, both chicory roots and their extract contain inulin, which is a soluble fiber, that has various health benefits, especially for the digestive system.
You may come across various food products and supplements that contain chicory root fiber as an ingredient. Unlike other types of dietary fiber, inulin promotes the health and growth of the gut flora (beneficial bacteria in the intestine). It is said to be beneficial for promoting digestion, preventing constipation and to lower high blood sugar levels. It is also said to be useful for reducing fat levels in the body, and for achieving weight loss.
Even though, dietary supplements and foods with chicory root fiber are claimed to be free of side effects; chicory root extract may cause drug interactions, allergic reactions, flatulence, and skin problems. Those with gallstones must avoid use of chicory. According to some reports, chicory root fiber may cause abortion. So it is advisable to avoid consumption of chicory during pregnancy. The FDA has given the 'Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS)' status to chicory root extract.