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Chicory Root: A Prebiotic Coffee Alternative - Blog Image

Chicory Root: A Prebiotic Coffee Alternative

BY: Andrea Nakayama

DATE: 2019-08-16


I sure hope you’ve had some gut loving fun during the dog days of summer. Here at the Functional Nutrition Alliance we love to spend the season honoring our intestines with a variety of flavors that tickle the taste buds and support great gut function.

Curb your coffee craving with chicory root!

Chicory root has been used throughout history as a coffee substitute. Find out how to make your own to complement or kick that morning cup of joe with one of our favorite recipes below. In fact, you may have consumed chicory root if you’ve tried to kick your coffee habit with a modern alternative (like Teechino or Dandy Blend) where chicory root is a key ingredient.

Fun fact and coffee aside, there’s another reason you might know chicory. Have you ever eaten endive? It’s that elegant edible that’s so delicate it’s sometimes wrapped in paper at the market. Endive and chicory are one in the same! The dainty leaves that you’ll find shelved with the salad greens are what you’ll find above ground while, surprise, the gnarly chicory root is what grows below.

Now, let’s explore why chicory root is not just tasty when served up as a satisfying summer latte, but is also good for our gut…

A coffee alternative for gut health

Chicory root contains inulin. Inulin is a form of soluble fiber and a prebiotic food. This means that chicory root is not just food for you, but also food for your good gut bacteria (which ultimately makes it good for you too!).

When you feed the good bacteria in your gut the food they need, they produce by-products called short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Research shows that increased SCFA’s help reduce the risk of colon cancer and may help manage the symptoms of IBD and IBS. 

Inulin is also liver loving in that it increases the flow of bile which helps break down fats more quickly and efficiently. As with our other soluble fiber favorites, it helps bulk stool and relieves constipation. *Sigh of gratitude* Some studies also support chicory root’s ability to destroy harmful organisms like fungus and bacteria.

Other plants like onions, asparagus, bananas, onions, and garlic also contain inulin (so eat those too!), but chicory root (along with Jerusalem artichokes) contain the highest concentrations of this precious prebiotic food.

Before you go crazy with chicory, take note that it’s often called “the stealth fiber” because it doesn’t have the usual fiber taste or texture. It can be easy to consume too much too quickly, leading to digestive distress like gas, bloating, and cramps. As always, start low and go slow when you increase ingested consumption.

Last but not least, chicory root is related to ragweed, marigolds, and daisies. If you have a known allergy to these plants, use caution, or check with your dedicated healthcare provider before experimenting with this root remedy.

Life-Changing Chicory Coffee

This recipe was shared by Caroline on the Functional Nutrition Alliance team. While I won’t promise this is a perfect replication of your morning cup of coffee, chicory root paired with dandelion creates a close comparison. Don’t tell ‘joe’ but you just might like it more. I find it has the bitter taste we often crave from coffee but with more sweet undertones. The carob chips or cocoa nibs are optional, but they do make this mug even more magnificent!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water

  • 1 Tbsp roasted chicory root

  • 1 Tbsp roasted dandelion root

  • 1 tsp roasted carob chips or cacao nibs, optional

  • sprinkle of cinnamon or 1 cinnamon stick

  • full fat coconut milk

  • stevia or honey, to taste

Preparation

  1. Place water, chicory root, dandelion root, carob chips, and cinnamon in a small pot and bring to a boil. 

  2. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer for 5 -7 minutes.

  3. Pour the liquid through a mesh strainer into a mug and serve with coconut milk and sweetener of choice.

  4. Drink warm or chilled over ice!

You can compost the roots or make a second a brew. A second brew won’t be as strong, but will still pack a punch. You can also make a larger batch, store it in the fridge in a mason jar and re-heat it whenever you’re ready for that cup of warming goodness.

As always, remember that we’re each unique and we all respond differently to new ingredients. While introducing more prebiotics to your diet, be sure to start low and go slow. If you have a delicate gastrointestinal tract and have any concerns, please consult your dedicated healthcare provider.

References

Petronilho S, Navega J, Pereira C, et al. Bioactive Properties of Instant Chicory Melanoidins and Their Relevance as Health Promoting Food Ingredients. Foods. 2022;12(1):134. Published 2022 Dec 27. doi:10.3390/foods12010134

Puhlmann ML, de Vos WM. Back to the Roots: Revisiting the Use of the Fiber-Rich Cichorium intybusL. Taproots [published correction appears in Adv Nutr. 2021 Jul 30;12(4):1598]. Adv Nutr. 2020;11(4):878-889. doi:10.1093/advances/nmaa025

Pouille CL, Ouaza S, Roels E, et al. Chicory: Understanding the Effects and Effectors of This Functional Food. Nutrients. 2022;14(5):957. Published 2022 Feb 23. doi:10.3390/nu14050957

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Andrea Nakayama

By: Andrea Nakayama, FxNA Founder & Functional Medicine Nutritionist

Functional Nutrition Alliance provides the comprehensive online Functional Nutrition training in the Science & Art of the Functional Nutrition practice. Learn to address the roots of your clients’ suffering with client education, diet & lifestyle modifications.

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