The Support Food
Read the full PDF product profile for Chicory
Chicory is one of among 36,000 plant species worldwide containing a class of compounds called fructooligosaccharides (FOS), or sometimes also called simply fructans or nondigestible oligosaccharides. Other examples of sources of FOS are Jerusalem artichoke, burdock, dandelion, onions, garlic, dahlia, wheat, barley, and bananas. FOS have gained greater attention for their health-promoting benefits as prebiotics, which are substances that are able to reach the colon intact and there ferment as food for beneficial bacteria, what are known as probiotics. Prebiotics are therefore probiotic enhancers.
One FOS compound found naturally in chicory having excellent prebiotic activity, and with wide application in food processing, is inulin. Chicory root is considered a strong source of inulin, with concentrations of 13 - 20%, and is currently its best-known source. Inulin is a non-digestible, water-soluble, short to medium-chain polysaccharide (carbohydrate) fiber with excellent properties as a prebiotic. Inulin is not affected by stomach acids but finds its way intact into the large intestine (colon) where it undergoes bacterial fermentation. In other words, it becomes food for beneficial intestinal flora, primarily of the Bifidus, and to a lesser extent, lactobacillus, species. Inulin literally encourages the growth of the intestinal flora that is essential for proper intestinal health. Chicory is called a support or storage food, that is, because of its containing a high-profile, nondigestible FOS, it comes to break down over time in its fermentation in the colon to provide nutrients to beneficial flora.
It has been said that the foundation of health begins in the colon. Chicory, in its role as a support food, therefore has numerous benefits for health. Increased intestinal fermentation results in better nutrient absorption from the foods we eat, and helps in the production of vitamins, primarily the B vitamins and vitamins K and folic acid, and in the production of enzymes. By encouraging friendly bacteria, FOS fermentation helps to suppress other, harmful bacterial species. Additional health benefits include alleviation of constipation or of diarrhea, and increasing the stool mass for better regularity, protecting the liver from the overwork of cleaning out a colon made toxic by putrefying matter, increasing the bioavailability of minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, zinc, copper, and helping to regulate a balanced cholesterol level. Inulin fermentation increases the production of short-chain fatty acids, such as butyrate, which aid in the mucosal functioning of the intestinal tract, in liver processing, and in general metabolism. Friendly intestinal flora, particularly the bifidobacteria, are also immunomodulators—they help regulate a properly responding immune system.
Chicory, considered also a dietary fiber, is widely versatile—it can be used in desserts, beverages, cereals, nutritional bars, yogurts, bakery goods, and, since it is non-glycemic, as a sugar replacement, therefore safe for diabetics. It nicely enhances the texture of food, which is why it is so commonly used. In addition to, and because of, all the health benefits already mentioned, it is also useful in weight management programs.
We use chicory as an important ingredient in the FOS complex of our probiotic Friendly Colonizer formula, as well as in our superfood Supremely Green. Our chicory is non-GMO, containing no allergens, and having a glycemic index of 0. Chicory’s health benefits, its texture, its natural sweetness, and its versatile contribution to other foods truly makes it an important support food of its own.