Getting to Know Chicory
Belonging to the dandelion family, chicory is a type of somewhat woody plant usually witnessed with bright blue flowers. Its roots are generally used for medicinal purposes although its upper parts may also serve purpose. Specifically, the roots are boiled and added into products while the leaves are consumed like celery. So what makes chicory seem so appealing? The fact that it is low in calories, high in fiber, and cost-effective are just a few enticements. For these reasons, food producers and manufacturers add chicory to common commercial products - including coffee, ice cream, yogurt, protein bars, and cereals. And since these products offer fiber bulk without accelerating calories, they are certainly attractive to health-conscious individuals.
Chicory Root Health Benefits
Chicory is claimed to provide a wide-variety of benefits to the body - relieve constipation, combat loss of appetite, alleviate an upset stomach, protect against disease, along with other roles. Though sound evidence currently lacks to fully back up any of the claims, research shows chicory may:
Chicory contains inulin, a type of fiber found in plants. Like all fibers, inulin remains primarily intact within the digestive system and helps to bulk up the stool. In conjunction with constipation relief, chicory may also mitigate gas and bloating. When increasing fiber, it is important to also increase water intake to reduce the risk of further constipation.
Promotes Gut Health
In addition to constipation relief, inulin also serves as a prebiotic. Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that undergo fermentation in the colon. During this process, prebiotics further promote the growth of helpful probiotics. Both pre- and probiotics are shown to optimize gut health.
A diet high in fiber can reduce cholesterol levels, specifically low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol. Soluble fiber essentially binds with cholesterol and hinders its absorption into the bloodstream. The bonded cholesterol and fiber may ultimately be excreted from the body.
One of the best ways to prevent diabetes is through diet, especially to keep weight within a healthy range. Running parallel, high fiber diets have been shown to promote weight loss or maintenance. Since chicory offers fiber and fiber may keep weight at bay, diabetes risk is predictably reduced. Additionally, supplementing with chicory may actually have a positive effect on maintaining normal blood glucose levels.
Chicory contains polyphenols, compounds naturally found in plants that exhibit antioxidant properties. Antioxidants have a large role in combatting against oxidative stress, a developing factor of cancer and other chronic diseases. Reducing inflammation within the body may reduce the risk of developing such health conditions.
Chicory Root Side Effects
Though chicory is generally considered safe for use, there are identified precautions and warnings to be aware of. Pregnant and breast-feeding women should use with caution and deviate from large amounts of consumption. If allergic to chicory, avoid handling or ingestion, as it may trigger irritation or an allergic reaction. Individuals with gallstones should also use chicory with caution, as it may stimulate bile production from the gallbladder and exacerbate symptoms. An appropriate dosage has yet to be established so follow directions as provided. A healthcare provider can further guide chicory's use prior to using.
Chicory. WebMD. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-92-chicory.aspx?activeingredientid=92&.