Chicory coffee: a healthy alternative to coffee?

Despite being present for more than two centuries, chicory coffee has gained popularity in recent years.

This hot drink tastes like coffee, but it's made from roasted chicory root instead of coffee beans.

It is popular with those who try to reduce their caffeine intake and may be linked to several health benefits, including reducing inflammation, lowering blood sugar and improving digestive health.

However, chicory coffee can also cause adverse side effects.

This article looks in depth at the evidence to determine if chicory coffee is good for you.

What is chicory coffee?

Woman holding a cup of chicory coffee

Chicory coffee is a drink made with the roots of the chicory plant, which is roasted, ground and made into a coffee-like beverage.

Chicory is a plant with flowers in the dandelion family that is characterized by a hard, hairy stem, flowers and light purple leaves that are commonly used in salads.

Chicory coffee tastes similar to coffee, but has a flavor that is often described as slightly woody and nutty.

It is used alone or mixed with coffee to complement its flavor.

Although the history of chicory coffee is not entirely clear, it is believed that it originated in the 19th century in France during a massive coffee shortage.

Desperate for a similar substitute, people began mixing chicory roots in their coffee to get their dose of coffee.

Years later, during the Civil War, it also became popular in New Orleans when the city experienced a shortage of coffee after the Union's naval blockades cut one of its ports.

Nowadays, chicory coffee can still be found in many parts of the world and is often used as a non-caffeine alternative to regular coffee.

Summary Chicory coffee is a beverage made with roasted chicory root, ground and made in coffee. It is believed to have been used for the first time during a coffee shortage in France in the 19th century, but today it is still popular all over the world.

Chicory root contains several nutrients

Chicory root is the main ingredient in chicory coffee.

To do this, the raw root of chicory is crushed, roasted and made into coffee.

Although the amounts may vary, it is generally recommended to use approximately 2 tablespoons (approximately 11 grams) of ground chicory root for 1 cup (235 milliliters) of water.

A root of raw chicory (60 grams) contains the following nutrients (1):

  • Calories: 44

  • Protein: 0.8 grams

  • Carbohydrates: 10.5 grams

  • Grease: 0.1 grams

  • Fiber: 0.9 grams

  • Manganese: 7% of the RDI

  • Vitamin B6: 7% of the RDI

  • Potassium: 5% of the RDI

  • Vitamin C: 5% of the RDI

  • Match: 4% of the RDI

  • Folate 3% of the RDI

Chicory root is a good source of inulin, a type of prebiotic fiber that has been linked to greater weight loss and better intestinal health (2, 3).

It also contains some manganese and vitamin B6, two nutrients related to brain health (4, 5).

Keep in mind that the amounts of these nutrients in chicory coffee are quite low, since only a small amount of chicory root is made in the coffee.

Summary Chicory coffee is made of chopped and roasted chicory root, which contains fiber of inulin, manganese and vitamin B6.

It can improve digestive health

Chicory root is a good source of fiber, which can help improve various aspects of your digestive health.

It can help improve the health of the gut microbiome, which is believed to have a strong influence on health and disease (6).

This is because chicory contains inulin fiber, a type of prebiotic that promotes the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine.

Several studies have shown that inulin supplementation may increase the concentration of certain strains of healthy bacteria in the colon (3, 7).

Studies also show that chicory can help improve bowel function and reduce constipation.

A recent study had 44 people with constipation supplement with chicory inulin. It was found that the frequency and softness of the stool increased, compared with a placebo (8).

In another study, the consumption of chicory decreased defecation difficulties among 25 elderly participants (9).

Summary Some studies have shown that chicory could improve bowel function and reduce constipation. It also contains inulin, which could help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestine.

Chicory coffee may lower blood sugar

Chicory root contains inulin, a type of fiber that has been shown to help control blood sugar levels in human and animal studies.

A recent study treated diabetic rats with chicory inulin for eight weeks. He found that it helped control blood sugar by improving the way carbohydrates are metabolized (10).

Although research on the effect of inulin from chicory on blood sugar is limited, several other studies have shown that inulin can have a beneficial effect on blood sugar and insulin resistance.

Insulin is the hormone that carries blood sugar to muscles and tissues, where it can be used as fuel. Insulin resistance, which occurs with high levels of insulin for long periods, can decrease the effectiveness of this hormone and cause a high level of blood sugar.

In a small study, inulin reduced insulin resistance in 40 people with prediabetes (11).

In another study, supplementation with 10 grams of inulin a day helped lower fasting blood sugar levels by almost 8.5% among 49 women with diabetes (12).

However, most studies focus on inulin instead of chicory. More research is needed to determine the effects that chicory coffee itself can have on blood sugar.

Summary Studies show that inulin can decrease insulin resistance and lower blood sugar.

It can help decrease inflammation

Although inflammation is a normal response of the immune system, it is believed that chronic inflammation contributes to diseases such as heart disease, diabetes and cancer (13).

Some studies in animals have found that chicory root can have anti-inflammatory properties.

In an animal study, it was found that chicory root reduces several markers of inflammation (14).

Another study also showed that the feeding of dry piglets of chicory root decreased the levels of inflammation (15).

Most of the current research is limited to animal studies. More studies are needed to determine how chicory root can affect inflammation in humans.

Summary Some animal studies have found that chicory root can reduce several markers of inflammation.

Chicory coffee is naturally caffeine free

Chicory coffee can be an excellent way to help reduce your caffeine intake.

Regular coffee is made of roasted coffee beans, ground and made in coffee.

A typical cup of coffee contains approximately 95 milligrams of caffeine, although this may vary according to several factors (16).

These include the type of coffee beans used, the size of the portion and the type of roasted coffee.

The consumption of large amounts of caffeine has been associated with side effects such as nausea, anxiety, palpitations, restlessness and insomnia (17).

On the other hand, the root of chicory is naturally free of caffeine. For this reason, chicory coffee is an excellent substitute for coffee for those seeking to reduce their caffeine intake.

Some people add chicory root to hot water to obtain a totally caffeine-free beverage, while others mix it in a small amount of regular coffee to enjoy a low-caffeine drink.

Summary Excessive caffeine consumption has been linked to several adverse side effects. Chicory coffee does not contain caffeine and can be used as an effective substitute for coffee.

It may not be for everyone

While chicory coffee has been associated with several health benefits, it is not for everyone.

Chicory can trigger an allergic reaction in some people, causing symptoms such as pain, swelling and tingling in the mouth (18).

In addition, people with allergies to ragweed or birch pollen should avoid chicory to limit negative side effects (19).

If you experience any negative symptoms after consuming chicory coffee, stop using it immediately and consult your doctor.

In addition, chicory coffee is not recommended for pregnant women, since chicory has been shown to trigger spontaneous abortion and menstrual bleeding (20).

Finally, research on the safety of chicory root for breastfeeding women is limited. Check with your doctor before consuming it to prevent adverse symptoms.

Summary Some people may be allergic to chicory coffee. It is also not recommended for pregnant women, as it can cause miscarriage and menstrual bleeding.

You should try it?

Chicory coffee can be associated with several health benefits, and it can be a good substitute for coffee if you are looking to reduce your caffeine intake.

However, there is limited research on the effects of chicory coffee and no evidence shows that it is better than regular coffee.

However, if you like the taste and can tolerate it, feel free to add it to your diet and enjoy.

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