Chicory fiber (inulin)

  • Our verdict: 1 - all right
  • Origin: It is produced from natural sources that are not further chemically treated.

Chicory fibre, also known as inulin, is a type of soluble fibre obtained from the root of chicory (Cichorium intybus). It has a slightly sweet taste and is often used as a food additive due to its prebiotic properties, which promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Inulin is not digested in the upper digestive tract; instead, it ferments in the colon, where it aids digestive health and increases nutrient absorption.

Origin

Chicory fibre is naturally derived from the chicory root. The extraction process usually involves washing, slicing and drying the chicory root, followed by hot water extraction to isolate the inulin. This inulin is then purified and dried to produce powdered or syrupy chicory pulp.

Characteristics and uses in the food industry

Chicory fiber is used in the food industry for several reasons due to its unique properties:

  • Prebiotic effect: It promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut.
  • Fiber source.
  • Sugar substitute: Acts as a low‑calorie sugar substitute.
  • Fat Replacement: Provides a creamy texture and mouthfeel in fat‑reduced foods.
  • Texture Improvement: Improves the texture and stability of various food products.
  • Moisture retention: Helps retain moisture in baked goods.

Use in ultra‑processed foods

Chicory fiber is used in ultra‑processed foods for several key reasons:

  • Prebiotic and gut health: Chicory fiber promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut, such as bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, which contributes to better gut health, digestion and overall immune function.
  • Calorie reduction: provides fewer calories than sugars and fats. It is metabolized differently, resulting in a lower caloric contribution while maintaining a slightly sweet taste.
  • Fat Replacement: Inulin can mimic the texture and mouthfeel of fat in food products, making it an ideal ingredient for low‑fat or reduced‑fat foods.
  • Improving texture and stability: Chicory fiber can improve the texture, stability and shelf life of various food products. It helps maintain moisture and consistency, especially in baked and processed foods.
  • Source of fibre: Increases the fibre content of processed foods, making them more attractive to health‑conscious consumers.

Effects on human health

While chicory fiber offers many health benefits, there are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Digestive problems: consuming large amounts of inulin can cause gastrointestinal problems, including bloating, gas and diarrhea, especially in individuals with sensitive digestive systems.
  • Allergic reactions: Although rare, some individuals may be allergic to chicory root and may experience symptoms such as itching, swelling, or anaphylaxis.
  • Drug interactions. Individuals taking medications should consult with their healthcare provider before increasing their intake of chicory fiber.

Sources

  1. Roberfroid, M. (2005). Inulin‑type fructans: functional food ingredients. Journal of Nutrition, 135(5), 1258‑1266. doi: 10,1093/jn/135.5.1258
  2. Slavin, J. (2013). fiber and prebiotics: mechanisms and health benefits. Nutrients, 5(4), 1417‑1435. doi: 10,3390/nu5041417
  3. Gibson, G. R., & Roberfroid, M. B. (1995). Dietary modulation of the human colonic microbiota: introducing the concept of prebiotics. Journal of Nutrition, 125(6), 1401‑1412. doi: 10,1093/jn/125.6.1401
  4. Livesey, G., & Tagami, H. (2009). Health benefits of inulin and oligofructose: a systematic review. Journal of Nutrition, 139(11), 1987S‑1998S. doi: 10,3945/jn.109,107577