Ave Cosgriff Hurley, now 66, dieted all her life with little luck. As health issues pushed her weight ever higher, “I’d watch the show My 600-lb Life and think that’s where I was headed,” she recalls. Then her doctor suggested chicory root powder. Daily doses eased her pain dramatically and triggered huge weight loss. When she ran into a weight surgeon she’d once consulted, he told her, “You don’t need surgery anymore — what you’re doing is working better!” All told, Ave shrunk from a size 32 to a six in 18 months.
What is chicory root powder?
“Let’s do this,” said Ave Cosgriff Hurley, 64, stepping on the exam-room scale. The Pennsylvania grandmother had been eating frozen diet meals for three months, and she was ready for good news. Suddenly, the display flashed: 339. “You gained 15 pounds,” the nurse said softly. No, no, no. This can’t be happening, Ave panicked. Unless she lost 80 pounds, she couldn’t get a much-needed hip replacement. And she had hernias that made her a bad candidate for gastric bypass, so she had to do it on her own. “I can’t lose weight, and I’m in agony every day,” she said as the doctor arrived. “Is it just too late for me to ever feel good again?” The doctor glanced at Ave’s chart. “I have an idea,” she said. “Have you ever heard of chicory root?”
Later that day, Ave struggled to get comfortable in the recliner, where she’d spent most of the past seven years. Despite decades of diets, her health issues — lupus, degenerative disc disease, heart problems, and especially her arthritic hip — had gradually worsened. Forced to retire and on her own after a divorce, her son James, one of her five children, had moved in to help out. Of course, he couldn’t stop things from going steadily downhill: The less Ave moved, the more she gained and the worse things got. Now even sitting hurt.
I need my hip fixed so I can get my life back, and the best they can give me is a supplement? she thought with a scowl, flipping her laptop open. She entered “chicory” in the search bar, and a list of articles popped up with titles like “Nine Amazing Facts About Chicory.” She started reading. It turned out chicory grew as a roadside weed with bright blue flowers; the roasted root could be brewed as an inexpensive coffee substitute. And it was a powerful prebiotic.
That means it feeds bacteria in your GI tract that aid digestion, help control blood sugar, reduce inflammation and much more, Ave read. To her surprise, she felt hope tugging at her skepticism.
Ave used free tools at CarbManager.com to make healthy eating easy. At least once daily, she mixed chicory powder (Buy on Amazon, $21.95) into yogurt, a protein shake, or coffee. Experts say up to four teaspoons daily is safe, but up intake gradually to avoid gas. You’ll get bonus doses of chicory from foods like radicchio, endive, Kashi GoLean cereal, and Fiber One bars. Always consult a doctor before trying a new supplement or diet.
While Ave waited for the chicory to arrive, she decided she was done wasting money on frozen meals. A low-carb diet had worked for her daughter Katy. I’ll do a frugal version, she told herself.
She stocked up on dollar bags of microwave veggies, salad fixings, low-carb condiments, eggs, frozen shrimp, and ground beef. Once she had the chicory, she mixed a teaspoon of it in water. I can’t really even taste it, Ave noticed, drinking it down. The rest of the day she ate bowls of veggies topped with different types of protein and sugar-free sauces or dressings. This feels easier than when I’ve gone low-carb in the past, she thought. Chicory must be killing my hunger.
Ave kept at it. She tried blending the chicory in hot coffee and store-brand caramel protein shakes. Both were tasty. And she was definitely having an easier time staying on track with her simple, lower-carb meals. Days sped by. While Ave was not a fan of the scale, she did finally step on: She’d lost 13 pounds in a single week!
How does it help with weight loss?
By day 14, Ave let her doctor know she was down 21 pounds, her pain noticeably better. “Let’s check your blood work, just to be safe,” said the doctor. The results? “I’m better than fine,” she gushed to her daughter. “It’s like I hit the lottery!” The progress motivating her, Ave discovered chicory root powder was great mixed in yogurt. She also began simmering it with spices like cinnamon, ginger, turmeric, and black pepper. “I’d sip my ‘tea’ and within 20 minutes my joints and muscles would feel warm and any pain would melt away,” she recalls.
Did she ever hit a plateau?
Yes. “But I was still losing inches. I learned to measure and be patient.” In two months she shed 47 pounds. After six months, she had her hip replaced. Her pain and many of her other health issues were gone for good: “I reduced or eliminated all my medications!”
Today, she’s down 206 pounds from her highest weight. “Fifty years of diets didn’t work for me, but using chicory with a lowcarb diet did,” Ave smiles. “When I see other people who are struggling, I just want to scream about how much relief chicory gave me. I want everyone to know it’s never too late to feel a whole lot better!”
This ancient remedy for arthritis and liver disease is often roasted and used to “stretch” ground coffee (a New Orleans’ tradition prompted by Civil War shortages). Modern tests reveal chicory is packed with inulin, a prebiotic fiber that feeds bacteria in our GI tract “critically important to controlling blood pressure, body weight, inflammation and much more,” says nutrition expert and Brain Maker author David Perlmutter, MD. The anti-inflammatory effect is so strong, one study found chicory can give osteoarthritis sufferers dramatic relief in 60 days.
As chicory fiber moves through the GI tract, it releases floods of fatty acids called butyrates that are proven to switch off fat storage, fire up metabolism and improve blood sugar and insulin by up to 300 percent. There’s also exciting early evidence that compounds in chicory like chicoric and chlorogenic acids force our muscles to speed-burn sugar — a trick that prevents and helps reverse diabetes as it slims. No wonder studies show chicory boosts weight loss without dieting. Says Dr. Perlmutter, “When I hear stories like Ave’s, I’m never surprised!
How can you add chicory root powder to your diet?
Here’s a day’s worth of recipes to get started.
BREAKFAST: Mix 1 teaspoon of chicory in yogurt. For a tasty coffee substitute, add two tablespoons roasted and ground chicory to coffee maker for every cup of water.
LUNCH: Make a healthy sandwich with ThinSlim bread and end the meal with optional Halo Top ice cream. Both brands contain chicory fiber.
DINNER: Pair a serving of chicken, salmon, or steak with a radicchio salad and sweet potato or mashed cauliflower.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.