I have written quite a bit lately about the health benefits of dandelion greens, mostly because of their rich content of prebiotic fiber, as well as other nutrients. But there’s another member of the dandelion family that deserves attention: chicory.
The root of the chicory plant has long been used as a substitute for coffee. It looks, and to some degree tastes, like coffee, but it is naturally caffeine-free. In fact, ground chicory root is added to certain types of beer to add flavor.
But these days, raw chicory root is best known as a food additive found in a variety of products including cereals, breakfast bars, and even as a nutritional supplement in and of itself.
The main attraction of chicory root, aside from its flavor, is that it is an incredible source of dietary fiber. In fact, nearly 65% of raw chicory root, by weight, is dietary fiber.
What’s more, a significant amount of the fiber found in chicory root is naturally soluble dietary fiber made up of inulin. Chicory root is extremely high in inulin, an important prebiotic fiber that is also found in bananas, jicama and Jerusalem artichoke.
By definition, inulin, being a prebiotic fiber, is a complex, plant-based carbohydrate that we as humans cannot specifically digest. Nevertheless, it represents an important source of fuel for our gut bacteria, allowing them to create life-sustaining chemicals like short chain fatty acids that play so many important roles in keeping us healthy.
Organic chicory root is available in most health food stores and from many online retailers. You can buy it already roasted and ground to use as a coffee substitute, or you can find it raw for use in cooking. It’s a terrific natural source of concentrated prebiotic fiber and, as such, will go a long way in helping you build a more robust microbiome.