Sick of kale? Meh about mushrooms? Over apple cider vinegar? If you answered yes to any (or all) of these, it might be time to try chicory root — particularly if you’re trying to drop a few pounds and improve your overall body composition. Studies show that chicory root, which is packed with prebiotics and rich in soluble fiber, supports healthy weight loss. But that’s not the only benefit this healing plant provides. Read on to learn all about this tasty coffee substitute, including how it can help support your weight and fitness goals.
What is chicory?
Chicory (a.k.a. Cichorium intybus) is a perennial purple flowering plant that is a member of the dandelion family. It contains both edible leaves and roots. The latter is what’s used most in the kitchen. Although there are many ways one can prepare chicory root, it’s often roasted or ground for brewing purposes.
What’s so special about chicory root?
The leafy plant is made up of almost 70 percent inulin, which is an oligosaccharide (a fancy name for carbohydrate fiber). While inulin fiber is found naturally in many foods — like bananas, wheat, and asparagus— chicory root’s high inulin concentration makes it a favorite among manufacturers looking to amplify the fiber in packaged foods.
Ever wonder how cookies, brownies, and granola bars can have more dietary fiber than a cup of raw veggies? Chicory root is the answer. Because of the many well-known advantages to a diet rich in fiber, food manufacturers started adding the popular root to their packaged foods as a means of bumping up their products’ fiber content — and, in turn, the perceived health benefits of said products.
Can chicory root support weight loss?
Losing weight is hard work; it takes time, motivation, and dedication. There’s no magic bullet for weight loss, so don’t fall victim to the gimmicks that promise otherwise. That said, improving your overall body composition goes hand in hand with weight loss, and depending on its application, chicory root can help with the former.
It’s full of prebiotics.
As earlier mentioned, chicory root contains inulin — a powerful prebiotic fiber that nourishes the probiotic bacteria in the gut. Strengthening good gut bacteria is important for preventing “bad” bacteria from creating an imbalance in your gut. Imbalances negatively affect everything from sleep and energy levels to cognitive function, mood, and metabolism, which in turn, increase the likelihood of making unhealthy choices — such as opting for fast food during lunch or skipping the gym after work. These choices then sabotage our weight loss efforts.
While prebiotics won’t turn your body into a fat-burning machine, this beneficial fiber does support overall health and wellness. And when you’re feeling good, you’re more likely to make smart choices and, thus, lose weight.
It’s rich in soluble fiber.
There are two types of dietary fiber: insoluble and soluble. Both play important roles in promoting good health. Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve in water and, therefore, cannot be digested by the body. This means that it’s left intact as food travels through the gastrointestinal tract. Soluble fiber, on the other hand, dissolves in water and breaks down into a thick, gel-like substance in the gut. Once this gelatinous fiber makes it to the colon, it feeds your good gut bacteria. It’s this type of fiber that’s found in the chicory plant.
In addition to nourishing healthy gut flora, evidence-based studies show that soluble fiber slows digestion, controlling how and when certain nutrients — like carbs — are absorbed in the body. This can help prevent large amounts of glucose from entering the bloodstream and modulate the resulting blood sugar spikes. So, how does this support weight loss? In short, blood sugar control helps to keep hunger in check. This translates to a smaller appetite, and thus, fewer calories consumed.
Any other benefits?
You might start taking chicory root as a tool to lose weight, but even after you’ve reached your fitness goals, you should keep taking it. Why? Because chicory root offers much more than just weight loss benefits. Here are just a few.
It promotes healthy digestion.
Believe it or not, inulin has been used as a holistic gut health helper since the dawn of time. As a natural fiber, inulin promotes a smooth and regular digestive process. Additionally, those with gastrointestinal issues typically find it easier to tolerate than other fibers, making it a smart choice for anyone struggling to achieve healthy digestion. Better digestive health means fewer indigestion symptoms and side effects, such as bloating and gas.
It combats constipation.
Thanks in large part to the high-fiber plant’s inulin content, chicory root has been shown to help ease symptoms of constipation. A 2016 clinical trial of 44 participants found that chicory root fiber significantly increased bowel movement frequency and helped soften hard stools.
It boosts cognitive function.
Chicory root contains a ton of essential nutrients, such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, and manganese— all of which play a role in brain health. This is part of why ground chicory root coffee is considered a caffeine-free coffee alternative.
Healthy cognitive function is important for everyone, but it’s especially important for older people with concentration and memory issues. The nutrients in chicory root can help with both. Be sure, however, to consult with your doctor before adding it to your nutrition plan.
It protects the liver.
While more research is needed, some experts believe chicory root helps support liver health by protecting against free radicals. A 2015 review published in the National Library of Medicine found that treatment with chicory significantly blocked cell damage and reduced oxidative stress — both of which support a healthy liver.
It may support you against cancer.
More research is needed, but several scientific studies have shown that chicory root helps to protect against certain cancers, among them breast and colon cancer. Given cancer is the second leading cause of death, following heart disease, these preliminary findings are cause for optimism.
The Bottom Line
If you’re trying to lose weight, go easy on yourself: Weight loss doesn’t happen overnight. But while there’s no “quick fix” for weight loss, there are actions you can take to kick-start your journey. Adding chicory root to your nutrition regimen is one of them. That said, consult with your healthcare provider or dietitian before taking chicory root extract, especially if you have an underlying medical condition or are taking prescription medications. Once you get the green light from a healthcare professional, go forth with chicory and practice consistency for best results.