Chicory is classified as an herbaceous and woody plant. Discover 10 health benefits and uses of chicory roots now.
What is chicory root?
Are you one of those people who loves a cup of coffee anytime during the day, but worries about the additional caffeine load or caffeine overdose? Then you need not worry about it since chicory root can solve the problem. Chicory root is a very popular substitute for coffee and has a lot of benefits. Chicory is classified as an herbaceous and woody plant, which is loaded with health benefits.
Chicory is known to grow in many different countries, but it is commonly found on European roadsides, where it first originated. But now, the scenario is different, as it can be found everywhere. Each and every part of the plant is beneficial as its buds, roots, and leaves have certain qualities in them. In certain places, the leaves of chicory are used in the same manner as the spinach leaves. Chicory roots are grounded in powder form, which has been used as a remedy since many years back for the treatment of many diseases. Today, it continues to prove its worth.
Chicory root is known to add fiber to foods. It also has a smooth and creamy feeling in the mouth, which is very much similar to fats. Hence, it is considered as one of the excellent fat replacements of margarine, ice cream, and dressings. Chicory roots can be moderately made part of the everyday diet.
Some of the health benefits provided by chicory root include:
- The ability to ease down any digestive-related problems
- Promotes a strong immune system
- Reduces the risk of heart disease
- Detoxification of the liver
- Prevents instances of heartburn
- Reduces the risk of bacterial infections
- Reduces pain due to arthritis
Chicory root is also regarded as a natural sedative and an herb against kidney stones. It also helps individuals who are trying to lose weight.
Nutritional Value of Chicory Root
When it comes to the nutritive value of chicory, it is considered to be a great source of various vitamins and minerals, which would include calcium, zinc, iron, potassium, folate, manganese, and magnesium. In terms of vitamins, chicory is known to contain vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin B6. These essential nutrients are responsible for chicory's immense health benefits.
Health Benefits of Chicory Root
1. Reduces stress levels and anxiety attacks
Caffeine is usually found in coffee and tea. Small traces of caffeine are also found in decaffeinated beverages. Although too much caffeine intake is not good for the health, the consumption of smaller amounts of caffeine would help lower the levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine while the person is sleeping or is in a stressful condition.
Instead of going for coffee or tea, you can gradually switch to chicory since it does not contain caffeine. It is also considered as a good substitute to reduce your caffeine consumption along with getting the levels of cortisol in check to effectively reduce stress levels.
The sedative properties of chicory are known to reduce the levels of anxiety and promote peace of mind, thereby leading to lower levels of stress in the body. Moreover, taking chicory can also help in reducing other dangerous side effects it can have on the body. The root extract of chicory is also one of the best remedies to use for sleep problems since it possesses sedative qualities. It is considered as a healthier option than conventional synthetic sleeping pills.
A reduction of stress and anxiety in the body leads to the prevention of certain health problems, such as the lack of sleep or insomnia, premature signs of aging, heart disease, and hormonal imbalance.
2. Promotes good liver health
In one of the studies conducted in 2015, the ability of the chicory root extract to protect the liver against toxicity and chemically induced free radicals was reviewed. It was shown that chicory extract contains natural antioxidants. It was also found that the extract has the ability to hunt for reactive free radicals.
Due to these properties, chicory is known to boost the body's defense system along with liver detoxification. It has been used as a medicinal herb since ancient times as Egyptians would use chicory as a means to detoxify the blood and liver. Chicory has shown positive results in the prevention of oxidative stress and reduction in liver damage.
3. Improves gut problems
One of the major reasons for making chicory part of the daily diet is to improve the various functioning of the digestive system. Chicory contains inulin, which is a powerful prebiotic. A prebiotic is a plant fiber that nourishes good bacteria in the gut.
There are various digestive and intestinal concerns that can be addressed with the help of inulin. Inulin is known to combat heartburn, acid reflux, and indigestion since inulin tends to actively lower the acidity level of the body's various systems.
4. Reduces the risk of heart disease
The inulin present in chicory is not only seen as beneficial for the digestive system since it also promotes a reduction in the levels of bad cholesterol, which is harmful to the body. High levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol is known to be the main cause of atherosclerosis and high blood pressure levels. This bad cholesterol is the culprit behind blocking the flow of blood when it binds to the arteries and veins. Increased LDL cholesterol levels can also lead to an increased risk of stroke or heart attack. Chicory is loaded with plant phenols, which are known to be antithrombotic and antiarrhythmic agents.
Studies have shown that consuming chicory coffee instead of regular coffee would lead to a significant improvement in the plasma and blood levels of the body, leading to a reduced risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
5. Helps prevent cancer
There is still ongoing research when it comes to cancer prevention. According to certain studies, chicory extracts have been linked to tumor growth reduction. Certain reports had mentioned that the fructans present in chicory may help reduce the growth of tumors.
Fructans are known to possess antioxidants and antitumor qualities. Chicory also has phytochemicals and polyphenols, which help in the prevention of breast cancer or colorectal cancer.
6. Promotes weight loss
Oligofructose is found in chicory. Moreover, inulin in itself is a natural dietary fiber. Both dietary fibers are known to help individuals in losing weight. At the same time, it is also good for those who are looking to maintain an ideal weight. Oligofructose and inulin aid in the regulation of the hormone called ghrelin.
Ghrelin is an amino acid peptide hormone that is associated with feelings of hunger and other types of behavior related to seeking food. Chicory would help in the reduction of hunger pangs and overeating problems. It also promotes satiety or a feeling of fullness. Overall, taking chicory would be an effective way of naturally losing weight.
7. Relieves pain due to arthritis
Pain due to arthritis is often unbearable in some individuals. Chicory has been used as natural remedy for treating arthritis. According to studies, chicory has immense anti-inflammatory properties, which is the reason why it is often used as a pain reliever for arthritis and osteoarthritis.
In one of the studies, certain individuals were given chicory treatment for their pain. It was reported that those individuals have achieved great pain relief from arthritis. Chicory has also other benefits, wherein it can be used as an anti-inflammatory agent for usual muscle and joint pain.
8. Boosts the immune system
Chicory helps boost the immune system through its antibacterial properties, which have an effect on the various bacterial strains that can harm the body. Chicory also contains phytochemicals, which can help destroy free radicals in the bloodstream. This, in turn, would lead to fewer chances of contracting any kind of diseases such as cancer or any heart conditions.
9. Provides relief from constipation
Chicory root is a rich source of vitamin K, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and choline. The inulin fiber present in chicory root helps promote peristaltic motion and gastric juice secretion for regular and improved bowel movements. What would this mean for our body?
It would reflect an improved digestive process, thereby reducing constipation problems. A number of gastrointestinal disorders can be treated when there is a proper and smooth maintenance of the digestive system. The intake of chicory may also decrease the risk of developing serious health conditions such as colon cancer or stomach cancer.
10. Improves kidney function
The root extract of chicory is most often used as a diuretic to increase urine output. When urine frequency is consistent and healthy, it would lead to the elimination of toxins, which the body tends to store in the liver and kidneys.
Another benefit of a normal urine output is linked with the reduction of overall fat and the elimination of excess water weight. Around 4 percent of urine is mostly in the form of fat deposits, which would have otherwise been stored elsewhere in the body.
The inulin pulled from chicory roots is known to produce chicory root extracts. Moreover, the soluble fiber present in the roots adds more bulk to the foods since it can thicken up or hold water. Inulin can be found in ice cream or certain ready-to-drink protein shakes. It is also seen in low-fat yogurt. In certain baked items, chicory root can also work as a replacement for gluten.
The texture of chicory is very creamy and bulky. It helps boost the fiber content of various products without the addition of calories. Thus, it is considered very good for the overall health. Various food items such as yogurt, granola products, bread, protein shakes, and energy bars usually contain chicory. As mentioned earlier, chicory root has been used as a substitute for coffee since it tastes and even looks similar to coffee.