functional nutritionMany of us are feeling the pressure of taking better care of our digestive health— or, as some people call it, “gut health.” (Both terms are correct!) Gut health is not something to be overlooked. While eating plenty of fiber-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, can help, our bodies need a little extra: and this can be found in an incredible plant food called chicory root, which has many shocking functional nutrition benefits.

What do our digestive systems need be healthy? What makes a food good for the gut? How does something like chicory root meet so many of these requirements? Let’s take a look at all this, and more, when it comes to chicory root and gut health.

The digestive system – fun facts

Why should we take care of the digestive system? Because all health starts there: the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients our bodies need to be healthy are all absorbed right there in the gut. There’s no better argument for why digestive health care is important, and why the gut should be in tip-top shape. The gut needs it’s own functional nutrition: all the other systems in the body depend on it!

Facts on the digestive system:

  • The gut is responsible for producing important neurotransmitters that regulate brain health and mood, such as serotonin.
  • There are about 100 trillion probiotic bacteria found in the gut, which is more than there are stars in our galaxy.
  • The full length of your gut (small and large intestines) is almost 30 feet long when unraveled— and thus a very major organ in the body!

Health benefits of chicory root

The digestive system is one of the most powerful systems in our bodies— and chicory root may in turn be one of the best natural and functional nutrition supports for these organs. Here are some of the herb’s top benefits.

Chicory root has prebiotic benefits

Nowadays, chicory root is especially popular for its prebiotic benefits— and particularly because chicory contains inulin, a fiber prebiotic that is very good for gut health.

What is the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Probiotics are supplements that contain the actual beneficial bacteria, while prebiotics (technically a type of plant fiber) are the “food” that help feed the bacteria to thrive in your gut. Many people recommend taking prebiotics (like chicory root) and probiotics at the same time, or one right after the other, for the greatest benefit.

Benefits of prebiotic foods include:

Chicory root has antioxidant benefits


foods for healthy gut | Dried Chicory Root

Credit: Adrian White | Dried chicory root for making coffee

One study on chicory root flour (which is not unlike chicory root supplement powder— or even chicory root coffee!) shows that chicory root contains some very healthy antioxidants, not all that different from popular antioxidant foods like cacao, acai, or goji berries.

Indeed, chicory root protects against free radicals and oxidation just as well as the rest of them. The study showed chicory may help reduce risk of cancer (but can’t completely protect against it or treat it, of course) while also boosting the production of enzymes that aid digestion.

Chicory is nutrient rich

Besides antioxidants and prebiotics like inulin, chicory is generally quite a nutritious food. Nutrition fact sources say that chicory is rich in the following vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients:

  • B vitamins
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Magnesium
  • …and more

Notably, chicory is a good low sugar source of potassium, and a healthier alternative to bananas (which tend to have too much sugar). Why potassium is important: you need this mineral to have a healthy functioning heart. That’s right: chicory’s potassium (in addition to its fiber) makes it a heart healthy plant food, too!

Chicory has digestive and metabolic benefits

There is more to be said about chicory and its benefits for helping with the digestive process, and far beyond its prebiotic content. Metabolism, which is often influenced by digestion, can be supported by chicory. The study on chicory flour showed that consumption helped boost metabolism of both fats and sugars— poor absorption of these could lead to a digestion problem, but also much worse issues.

For one, poor metabolism of sugars can lead to conditions like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other life-threatening health conditions. Via its powers of keeping the digestive system in order, chicory root could thus also give powerful healing and prevention for diabetes and weight gain (along with following doctor’s recommendations and following other health and lifestyle changes that reduce diabetes risk).

Chicory root may support the gall bladder

digestion problemChicory, along with its close relative dandelion, were long used as traditional healing herbs for liver and gallbladder problems. Gallbladder function in the digestive system is important: it fills with bile from the liver, which enters the intestines during digestion in order to help break down and absorb food. Without it, the food and nutrients we eat would go to waste!

To support traditional use, modern studies support that chicory root can help the gallbladder function better in cases when it otherwise wouldn’t— such as when it is unhealthy, under-functioning, connected to liver problems, or even stomach acid problems. While chicory root cannot cure or treat gallbladder issues (it’s safest to talk to your doctor about these), it could be a great supplement for supporting your treatment plan.

Chicory root may support brain health

How could this be possible? Thanks to the gut to brain connection, chicory root may indeed have good indirect impacts on our mental health: including issues with cognition, mood, anxiety, and depression. That’s because many important neurotransmitters that help us feel good, happy, safe, and content are produced right in our guts: thanks to the probiotic bacteria that help create them! (Serotonin, the happiness hormone, is a major one here).

Again, this does not make chicory root a supplement that could cure or even treat anxiety or depression. But if you’re dealing with mild issues and symptoms related to mental health, and you know your gut might need a helping hand, taking probiotics with prebiotic chicory root could be a healing form of self-care for the brain, and make the most of our powerful gut to brain connection.

Other foods for healthy gut

Why take only chicory root to boost digestion and gut health? There are many more fiber vegetables, herbs, and supplements that could help get your gut back into high gear— and possibly support your body’s health when it comes to the gallbladder, mental health, diabetes, and metabolism, too.

digestive process | Harvested Chicory Greens

Photo Credit: Adrian White

Some notably powerful foods and supplements for healthy gut are:

  • Beets
  • Black pepper
  • Chaga
  • Cinnamon
  • Cucumber
  • Dandelion
  • Lemon
  • Lemon balm
  • Ginger
  • Hops
  • Mango
  • Papaya
  • Parsley
  • Passionflower
  • Pineapple
  • Shiitake
  • Supplemental fiber
  • Turkey tail
  • Turmeric
  • …and more

There’s good reason chicory root has long been used as a healthy herbal beverage, tea, vegetable, and supplement for thousands of years. Now today, it’s considered one of the best whole prebiotic and fiber-rich supplements you can use. The benefits for probiotic health, the gut microbiome, and overall digestion can’t be overestimated! The beneficial chain reaction it also brings to the rest of the body through supporting the gut— for metabolism, blood sugars, and more— make it a first-rate gut healer you have to try.

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