Chicory coffee is a great alternative to regular coffee not just because it has the coffee taste, but also because it’s full of benefits for health. Chicory coffee, also called chicory root coffee, is a herbal coffee or coffee substitute made from the taproots of root chicory. It’s less acidic than coffee and milder, and naturally caffeine free. While not as stimulating for the mind, chicory coffee is good for blood pressure, weight loss, bowel health and lowers risks of blood clots and diabetes.
What is chicory coffee?
Chicory coffee is not real coffee, but a coffee substitute made from roasted and finely ground chicory root belonging to the species Cichorium intybus sativum, commonly called root chicory. Chicory root can be brewed like coffee and tastes similar, albeit not as strong, and less bitter and more earthy. While regular coffee is stronger than chicory coffee and has an unmistakable taste and flavor profile, chicory is a good alternative for anyone who can’t or no longer can drink coffee. Find out more about what is chicory coffee.
What are the benefits of chicory coffee?
Good for high blood pressure
Does chicory coffee raise blood pressure like regular coffee? No, chicory coffee does not raise blood pressure. In fact, chicory coffee is good for high blood pressure because it doesn’t have any caffeine. Caffeine is a natural stimulant of the nervous and cardiovascular systems which raises alertness, heart rate and blood pressure.
Chicory root, from which chicory coffee is made, is high in a dietary fiber called inulin. Inulin is a type of soluble dietary fiber which dissolves in water. By absorbing water in the gastrointestinal tract, inulin bulks up stools, but also helps soften them, promoting more easy and regular bowel movements and better bowel function.
However, the laxative effects of coffee are stronger than those of chicory coffee – regular coffee relieves constipation via caffeine which is a stimulant that somewhat irritated the gastrointestinal tract, producing a sort of premature bowel evacuation.
Good for liver protection
Studies show inulin in chicory root induces ‘increased expression of proteins involved in hepatocyte protection against oxidative stress’ (source). That is, inulin in chicory root and byproducts such as chicory root coffee or supplements exert an antioxidant effect and protect liver cells from oxidative stress damage. Also, the byproducts of the prebiotic fermentation of inulin, which are short-chain fatty acids, ‘may also influence the expression of genes encoding liver enzymes’.
Modulates gut bacteria
Chicory root has been shown to modulate gut bacteria populations, favoring the growth of beneficial gut bacteria which promote bowel health. The prebiotic fiber inulin in chicory root, chicory root supplements and chicory root coffee is soluble, resists enzymatic digestion in the upper gastrointestinal tract and reaches the colon almost intact.
In the colon, inulin is then fermented by colon-residing microflora exerting bifidogenic effects, that is, stimulating the growth of Bifidobacteria species that are beneficial for gut health (source). Also, ‘Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes ratio and gut bacterial groups, such as Alloprevotella, Blautia, Alistipes, and Oscillibacter, were found to be modulated by chicory’ as well (source).
Improves bowel function and bowel health
Chicory coffee helps improve bowel function and bowel health in several ways:
- It improves bowel function by increasing bowel movement frequency and quality via the soluble dietary fiber called inulin which adds bulk to and softens stools.
- It regulates bowel function and bowel health by exerting prebiotic, bifidogenic effects, stimulating the growth of Bifidobacteria species in the gut environment.
- It boosts bowel health via the production of short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), especially butyrate, in the gut microbiome which is required for optimal health (source). ‘Broadly, the colonic microbiota contributes to the maintenance of health and onset of disease’ (source).
- Byproducts of inulin fermentation ‘increase the tightness of the gut barrier’ as well as significantly increase mucus production, and ‘may have promising potential to induce specific gut health benefits’ (source).
According to research, ‘chicory root extract could delay or prevent the early onset of diabetes mellitus’. In a study on the effects of roasted chicory root containing inulin-type fructans on blood glucose and lipid metabolism, it was shown that roasted chicory root, which is the main ingredient in chicory coffee, ‘has favorable effects including antihyperglycemic and antidyslipidemic effects’ (source). That is, it lowers blood sugar levels and normalizes blood lipid profiles.
The study showed ingesting roasted chicory root lowered hemoglobin A1c. Hemoglobin A1c is also called glycated hemoglobin and is a form of hemoglobin that sugar binds to. High levels indicate high blood sugar levels. By reducing hemoglobin A1c levels, roasted chicory root demonstrates blood sugar lowering benefits.
Roasted chicory root has also been shown to improve the level of adiponectin which is a protein hormone involved in regulating glucose levels and fatty acid breakdown and oxidation. Improving levels is believed to help improve insulin control, blood glucose and triglyceride levels.
Also, short-chain fatty acids produced by the fermentation of inulin from chicory root by bacteria in the colon have been associated with additional metabolic benefits (source). Chicory coffee has also been shown to have benefits such as the reduction of cholesterol (LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides) and glycemic response by pectins (source).
Anticlotting and anti-inflammatory effects
Did you that chicory coffee is good for you if you have a predisposition for blood clots? In a clinical study, consumption of 300 ml of chicory coffee daily for 1 week showed decreased whole blood viscosity and blood plasma viscosity, and improved deformities in red blood cells. Moreover, chicory coffee reduced levels of MIF (macrophage migration inhibitory factor) in blood serum which is a marker for inflammation and autoimmune diseases, connected to acute heart injury, and also brain injury. Caffeic acid and other phenolic antioxidants in chicory coffee were indicated as the source of antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory benefits (source).
Chicory root has potent anti-parasitic activity against intestinal parasites and worms such as ‘the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans and the pig nematode Ascaris suum’. Chicory root was the most potent against C. elegans, and induced paralysis in >95% of worms. In the A. suum assays, chicory root was also the most potent in inhibiting worm motility. The anthelmintic effects of chicory root are selective (source).
Benefits for weight loss
Did you know that chicory coffee is good for weight loss? Chicory coffee has only 3 calories (kilocalories) per 100 g, making it virtually calorie-free. In addition to the very low energetic value, compounds occurring naturally in chicory root may also potentially hold benefits for weight loss via prebiotic effects, by modulating gut microbiota, and regulating appetite by increasing satiety hormones (source). Other types of chicory and endives are also good for weight loss because they are very low in calories.
Is chicory coffee a diuretic? Yes, chicory coffee is a diuretic. What makes chicory coffee diuretic is the very fact that it’s mostly water – water is naturally diuretic as it promotes the increase the elimination of urine, supporting normal kidney function and kidney health. Chicory coffee has the same diuretic effects as tea.
Good for the kidneys
Is chicory coffee good for kidneys? Yes, actually. Chicory coffee is both safe to drink, and has diuretic properties that help support kidney function and kidney health. Chicory root is also non-toxic.
Chicory coffee is less acidic
What does less acidic mean? Well, for one, chicory coffee doesn’t have as low a pH as regular coffee from coffee beans. Secondly, chicory coffee doesn’t trigger acidity of the stomach, at least not to the same extent as regular coffee. This makes it a good alternative for anyone with acid reflux disease who is looking to reduce stomach acidity and heartburn, or gastritis or peptic ulcer.
However, it’s important to read the label carefully because a lot of chicory coffee options are actually coffee with chicory, meaning a blend of both coffee and chicory. While blending chicory root and coffee will tone down the acidity of the coffee, and reduce its negative effects, coffee with chicory is still coffee, and stronger than just chicory.
Chicory coffee is less strong than coffee
Is chicory coffee stronger than coffee? Despite being called ‘coffee’, chicory root is not real coffee, but a coffee substitute. What this means is that it’s milder, not stronger than actual coffee. Even dark roast options are milder than coffee, and that is a good thing because anyone looking for an alternative to actual coffee is looking for a milder brew that has less of a stimulating effect on the body and mind.
Chicory coffee is non-toxic
It’s a well known fact that coffee has mutagenic effects, and may contain toxic carcinogenic byproducts as a result of various processing techniques. Even so, it’s safe to use, not to mention full of benefits for health. But chicory coffee is even safer. Existing research shows chicory root has no toxic effects even when supplemented in large doses, and showed no mutagenic activity (source).
Animal studies on the physiological effects of different chicory root preparations showed chicory root ‘increased the production of volatile fatty acids and acidification of digestion (…). In blood serum, the total cholesterol concentration was reduced and, simultaneously, the proportion of HDL in the total cholesterol concentration was increased.’ There was also ‘a significant increase in the total antioxidative status in blood serum’ (source).
Inulin in chicory root and preparations such as chicory coffee has been shown to modulate colonic microbiota via the production of short-chain fatty acids, advancing the health of the gut environment and bowel health. Moreover, the byproducts of inulin fibers fermentation are absorbed into the bloodstream, resulting in system benefits for the immune system and metabolism.
This post was updated on Tuesday / February 23rd, 2021 at 1:05 AM