Chicory Root: The Facts, Nutrition, Benefits, and Uses

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Chicory rootMany people wake up in the morning with a cup of coffee. However, chicory root may be the perfect substitute for those looking to avoid caffeine. But, chicory root does more than replace coffee. It is also a nutrient-dense, high-fiber food that promotes digestion and overall good health.

Unlike coffee, in moderation, chicory root can also help combat stress issues, protects the liver, manages osteoarthritis, and it may prevent diabetes. Basically, chicory can benefit your everyday routine, whereas coffee can lead to caffeine addiction symptoms like confusion, digestive issues, fever, fatigue, nervousness, insomnia, and crashes throughout the day.

Facts and History about Chicory Root

What’s the story of chicory root? The chicory root comes from the perennial herbaceous plant called Cichorium Intybus, and it is part of the dandelion family, Asteraceae. The plant often has bright blue flowers, and many varieties of the leaves are used for salad. The primary name for these leaves is chicons or endive. On the other hand, it is its roots that are used as the coffee substitute and for baking. Chicory root can be described as wood-like and fibrous.

Since the 19th century, chicory root has been a popular addition to coffee in France. That being said, coffee combined with chicory is thought to have begun in Holland. It then became popular in Europe around 1801. Chicory root has been used traditionally in medicinal remedies and tea as treatments for gout, rheumatism, liver enlargement, and jaundice.

Chicory root was often used in times of coffee shortages, especially during the Great Depression and during the Civil War. When shipments of coffee had stopped, residents from New Orleans would get creative by using chicory as a coffee substitute. After all, it had a similar flavor, and it was much cheaper. Chicory has become a rich part of New Orleans’ history, and chicory coffee with hot milk is considered a must-have beverage while visiting the city.

Chicory Root Nutrition

What nutrition facts do you need to know? One piece of raw chicory root contains 10.5 grams of carbs, 0.1 grams of fat, 0.8 grams of protein, and 0.9 grams of fiber. Also, chicory roots’ best micronutrient content comes from manganese, vitamin B6, potassium, and vitamin C. It also contains small amounts of vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, vitamin B5, folate, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, and selenium.

The following is a comprehensive chicory nutrition chart with information for one chicory root, or 60 grams of the root.

Nutrient Amount Daily Value
Calories 43.8 2.00%
Carbohydrates 10.5 g 4.00%
Protein 0.8 g 2.00%
Fiber 0.9 g N/A
Total Fat 0.1 g N/A
Iron 0.5 mg 3.00%
Manganese 0.1 mg 7.00%
Copper 0.01 mg 2.00%
Calcium 24.6 mg 2.00%
Magnesium 13.2 mg 3.00%
Phosphorus 36.6 mg 4.00%
Potassium 174 mg 5.00%
Selenium 0.4 mcg 1.00%
Zinc 0.2 mg 1.00%
Folate 13.8 mcg 3.00%
Vitamin B1 0.01 mg 2.00%
Vitamin B2 0.01 mg 1.00%
Vitamin B3 0.2 mg 1.00%
Vitamin B5 0.2 mg 2.00%
Vitamin B6 0.1 mg 7.00%
Vitamin A 3.6 IU N/A
Vitamin C 3.0 mg 5.00%

* N/A—Not Applicable

5 Health Benefits of Chicory Root

There are many important health benefits of chicory root. Many of these benefits are due to its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, as well as its prebiotic fructan carbohydrate known as an oligofructose inulin. The high-fiber content helps chicory promote digestion and relieve constipation. The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of chicory root help combat inflammation, which can help treat many conditions like arthritis.

The following is a detailed synopsis of the top five chicory root benefits that make it a great addition to your daily routine.

1. Protects the liver and kidneys

Chicory root extract is a common diuretic treatment that can increase urination. Frequent urination is necessary to help eliminate toxins that the body will store in the kidneys and liver. Therefore, chicory root can prevent liver and kidney-related diseases. A review published in PLOS One in 2015 found that the antioxidants in chicory extract has a promising role for stopping oxidative stress and boosts the body while it cleanses the liver.

2. Decreases stress

Caffeine can definitely exacerbate stress, but consuming less caffeine can help reduce cortisol and epinephrine levels during sleep and stressful periods. Studies have found that regular caffeine consumption and stress can cause significantly high cortisol levels. Since chicory is caffeine-free, it can reduce stress and cortisol levels as an excellent coffee or caffeine substitute.

3. May prevent and delay diabetes

Chicory root may help prevent and treat diabetes. A study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine in 2015 suggested that chicory root extract could prevent or delay the early onset of diabetes, while also improving bowel movements. For the study, the researchers would examine the effects of roasted chicory root extract on lipid metabolism, blood sugar, and fecal properties in 47 adult participants. The people that were given the chicory root had significantly improved levels of a protein called adiponectin, which regulates blood sugar levels.

4. Manages osteoarthritis

A study published in the BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders journal in 2010 suggested that chicory root extract has anti-inflammatory properties that may help manage osteoarthritis symptoms. For the study, individuals over age 50 with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip were treated with chicory, as the research team measured vital signs with routine lab tests during the entirety of the test period. Patients from the experiment showed a 20% improvement from stiffness and pain. The results showcase chicory root’s ability to treat osteoarthritic joint pain.

5. Promotes digestion 

Inulin is a prebiotic fiber in chicory root that is highly fermentable by the healthy gut bacteria. Inulin is a plant-based carb and soluble fiber that is not digested in the digestive tract. Instead, it maintains its form as it travels to the large intestine or colon.

Prebiotics promote the growth of the friendly probiotics in the digestive system, while also assisting calcium absorption. This is the main reason why chicory root fiber, or inulin, is found in probiotic supplements. Research also has found that the inulin in chicory root relieves constipation. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition in 2011 found that daily supplementation with 15 grams of inulin improves constipation and the quality of life elderly individuals with constipation.

What Are the Uses of Chicory Root?

The inulin is often pulled from chicory root to produce chicory root extract. The soluble fiber in chicory root adds bulk to foods because it can thicken, gel up, or hold water. Inulin is often seen in ice cream, ready-to-drink protein shakes, and low-fat or dairy-free yogurt. It may also replace gluten in baked goods and breads.

Chicory provides a creamy and bulky texture, and boosts the fiber content in products without adding calories. Chicory root is found in yogurt, ice cream, energy bars, protein shakes, granola products, and breads. You can also find it as a flavoring in certain types of beer.

Want to know how to use chicory root? Chicory root has also long been used as a coffee substitute, and to some degree it tastes and even looks like coffee, except it contains no caffeine. Chicory root coffee is especially popular in New Orleans. Organic chicory root is available online or in most health food stores as a supplement. It comes roasted and ground for a coffee substitute in the coffee aisle of the grocery store. You may also find it raw, and use it for baking.

In summary, evidence shows that chicory root can aid gut health and relieve constipation, help in the management of osteoarthritis, prevent or possibly delay the onset of diabetes, protect the liver, and decrease stress. However, if you’re pregnant, have diseases that run in the family, or have any disease at all, it is best to consult your doctor before using chicory root.

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