Over the last few years, chicory coffee has assumed a more prominent amount of space on grocery store shelves. Although it’s caffeine-free, many love the nutty, woody flavor of chicory, and just as many mix it with coffee for a special treat. Chicory has been around since the 1800s in France when a shortage forced French coffee lovers to come up with an alternative. The same happened in New Orleans during the Civil War, and both times chicory came through as a satisfactory substitute.
Some claim chicory has health benefits, providing a wide range of vitamins and minerals. However, most nutrition experts believe chicory is no better (and no worse) for your health than regular coffee. They also cite a dire lack of studies on chicory and the root it comes from. Lastly, for some people, chicory coffee could be problematic health-wise (more on that below). For these reasons, we wouldn’t say that chicory coffee is good for you but that it’s not bad for you.
What Vitamins and Minerals Are in Chicory?
Chicory is a root that is 100% natural. When used to make chicory coffee, the root is minced and then roasted. The finished chicory can be used alone or mixed with coffee. Also, chicory is the main ingredient in chicory coffee (not coffee). Chicory contains the following vitamins, minerals, and nutrients:
- Inulin Fiber
- Vitamin B6
- Vitamin C
- Beta Carotene
What Are the Purported Benefits of Chicory?
Although it hasn’t been studied extensively, chicory has been found to provide several health benefits.
Digestive Improvement From Inulin Fiber
Chicory contains a unique type of fiber called inulin fiber which has been shown to provide digestive help. It does this by supporting a healthy gut biome and increasing the strains of “good” bacteria in the gut.
Improves Bowel Function and Reduces Constipation
Researchers found chicory to improve constipation in a 2017 study by softening stools and increasing frequency. Another study concluded that it improved bowel regularity.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Inulin fiber has been found to also lower blood sugar in rats due to changes it makes to the metabolism of carbohydrates. Several small studies have found that chicory improves insulin resistance and blood sugar. It should be noted, however, that many studies were more focused on inulin than chicory.
Researchers and scientists believe chronic inflammation is one of humankind’s worst health threats. It’s believed that chronic inflammation also plays a part in many cancers, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Several animal studies have shown chicory’s ability to decrease inflammation. One study on piglets was very successful in showing a decrease in inflammation due to consuming chicory.
Lower Caffeine Levels
Chicory root has zero caffeine, which is beneficial if you’re looking for a caffeine-free alternative to coffee. It tastes very similar to coffee and can be mixed with coffee (as we’ve seen) to reduce caffeine intake while still getting a small energy boost.
Improved Cholesterol Levels
Some research has suggested that chicory may help lower “bad” cholesterol levels, although further research is needed. In another study, however, the adiponectin level was shown to be improved after drinking chicory. Adiponectin is a hormone that helps protect the arteries from fat buildup.
Chicory and Chicory Coffee Can Cause Problems for Some People
While rare, it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to drinking chicory coffee. Chicory is a root and has similar properties to ragweed and birch pollen, so if you’re allergic to those, you should avoid chicory. Also, if you drink chicory coffee and have a reaction, you should stop drinking and, if it’s a severe reaction, call 911.
Some people might have other reactions to chicory, including gas, bloating, belching, abdominal pain, and stress. No long-term studies have been conducted on chicory to determine the long-term benefits or drawbacks of taking or drinking the root regularly.
Does Chicory Raise Blood Pressure?
Some have said that chicory, like caffeine in coffee, raises blood pressure levels for a short time. In this study, however, researchers found that the group who ingested chicory had no difference in blood pressure levels than the group that used a placebo.
Chicory Is Used as an Alternative Medicine
Chicory has been used for centuries to detoxify the liver and cleanse the skin; the ancient Egyptians used it during the time of the pyramids! It’s a known antibacterial and great for putting on wounds. As we’ve seen, it’s also an anti-inflammatory and has antioxidant properties. People have brewed chicory as a liver tonic for many years, as well as to treat gout, arthritis, and diabetes. Chicory is also a popular root in many alternative health products.
Does Chicory Make You Poop?
As we saw earlier, it’s believed that chicory can help you have more regular and easier bowel movements. It helps to soften your stool and helps you “go” more often, also.
Which Is Better for You: Coffee or Chicory?
When you compare the two, both are filled with vitamins and antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties. Chicory may help digestion and bowel movements, while caffeine is great for quick energy, focus, and cognitive health. Is one better than the other, health-wise? The answer lies with the individual. For some, coffee will be better, and for others, chicory.
Chicory coffee is trendy right now, and that trend doesn’t show any signs of stopping. As to whether chicory coffee is good for you, we would say that yes, it is. It has less (or no) caffeine, tastes great, and chicory offers several other possible health benefits. The combination of the two provides a tasty cup of coffee with extra fiber and a little caffeine to get your motor running every morning. So raise a mug, and enjoy a long, flavorful sip of chicory coffee sometime soon.
Featured Image Credit: 777Anna777, Shutterstock
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