Chicory root fibre comes from the pretty blue-flowered herb shown at the top of this post. It grows across the world - throughout North America, China and Europe. It's also sometimes called 'inulin'. The first source of inulin from chicory root fibre came from flowers grown in Northern Europe. For years the roots have been used to make a great caffeine-free coffee substitute, and of course the leaves of the herb make a bitter addition to a tasty salad. It should not be confused with the Belgian endive or radicchio, these types of salad chicory are from the same family but are quite different.
Inulin come from an extract from the roots; a prebiotic fibre sometimes listed as polysaccharides or fructooligosaccharides (FOS) - these are the scientific names for the extract's type of sugar chains. Whilst technically it is a type of sugar and it does add sweetness, it's really different to normal sugar as it isn't easily digested and so it has little to no impact on your blood sugar levels. This has been scientifically proven and approved by the European Food Safety Authority.
When eaten the chicory root fibre moves through the gut to your large intestine pretty much intact and works as a prebiotic feeding the good gut bacteria. You might have heard of probiotics and how important they are - well without prebiotics like chicory root fibre the friendly gut bacteria couldn't flourish. Oats is another fantastic prebiotic - gluten free oats work in harmony with the chicory root fibre to supercharge your gut flora.
Chicory Root Fibre is a key ingredient in Troo Granola and Porridge. When we bake our granola, we mix it with Inulin syrup - this is what makes it all bind together but it also boosts the fibre content in each bowl, with 6g of prebiotic fibre per portion. In our porridge, we use a powder form of Inulin. We also have our own range of inulin syrup for you to try. Our Spoonful of Fibre syrup is available in two flavours - Pure, which tastes like a really mild honey, and Chocolate which is just inulin syrup with the addition of cocoa powder. Spoon it, spread it or stir it into food and drink for a quick fibre boost!
Medicinal use of chicory root dates back to ancient Egyptians and it has been used to treat everything from pulmonary disease or tuberculosis, to cancer, cough, or wounds. Over the past few years there have been lots of new scientific studies to prove the health benefits of chicory root fibre (inulin).
A White Paper by the Beneo Institute is particularly interesting. It is relatively easy to read (aside from a few complicated sections); covering lots of useful context for example describing exactly what a prebiotic is and how the extract is produced from the chicory root. It then goes on to cover the potential health benefits and the scientific support for areas including:
We always recommend talking to a health professional about your nutrition, they are experts in their field. You could google 'inulin' and you will see lots of claims and benefits; but we do advise you to take care to make sure they are based on 'proper' scientific research.
Inulin has also featured on the BBC. Angela Rippon’s ‘How to Stay Young‘ programme shows how it can help reduce visceral fat levels whilst Dr Michael Mosley’s ‘The Truth About Sleep‘ discusses how fibre before bedtime can make you sleep deeper and for longer.