Inulin is a soluble dietary fiber with positive effects on the gut microbiome. It is thought to help with regulating fat metabolism and blood sugar, as well as easing constipation and depression, for example.

Plants naturally produce inulin and use it as an energy source, and it’s found in 36,000 different plant species.

It’s considered a prebiotic and is often added to more and more food products because of its benefits and adaptability.

Read on to learn more about this fiber source and how it can benefit you.

Inulin can be found naturally in foods such as:

  • Jerusalem artichoke
  • chicory root
  • onion
  • garlic
  • barley
  • dahlia

With its creamy consistency, inulin can work as a fat substitute in margarine and salad dressings.

It’s also used to replace some of the flour in baked goods and is often sourced from chicory root and Jerusalem artichoke in particular.

Inulin is high in fiber and low in calories. It also has other health benefits.

It keeps you full (of fiber)

Fiber is any type of carbohydrate the body can’t digest. It moves through the intestines intact and continues into the colon to serve as food for the bacteria there. Fiber has low caloric value, but it’s essential to good health.

The fiber in inulin is soluble, which means it dissolves in water. It dissolves in the stomach and then forms a gelatinous substance that:

  • slows digestion
  • increases fullness
  • reduces cholesterol absorption as it passes through the digestive tract

It promotes digestive health

Your gut contains 15,000-36,000 species of bacteria. Only a small portion of the bacteria in the body has the potential to be harmful. Good bacteria provide many health benefits. Inulin stimulates some of these bacteria to grow.

Inulin aids digestion by increasing the number of good bacteria in the gut, particularly Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli.

These bacteria help:

  • fend off unwanted pathogens (bad bacteria)
  • prevent infection
  • stimulate your immune system

Inulin also adds bulk to your stool and increases the frequency of your bowel movements. You may have more bowel movements, but inulin slows overall digestion. This enables your body to better absorb nutrients from the food you eat.

Research suggests inulin can also enable the body to better absorb calcium. Calcium creates a stronger skeletal system.

It controls blood sugar

Inulin slows digestion, including the digestion of carbohydrates. This allows sugar to be released slowly without spiking, which promotes healthy blood sugar levels.

A 2019 study found that inulin supplements can improve insulin resistance in people with type 2 diabetes and obesity. It can act as a potential blood sugar stabilizer when present in your diet over a long period of time. That said, more research is needed to understand this effect in people living with obesity.

Research suggests these properties make inulin a good weight management aid.

It could potentially lower your colon cancer risk

Research shows that consuming certain prebiotics, including inulin, has an inverse relationship with colon cancer risk.

This suggests that taking inulin might help reduce your chance of developing this cancer and may even work as a preventive measure.

That said, more studies are needed before any strong claims can be made about the effects of inulin on colon cancer.

May improve depression symptoms

According to 2023 research, certain probiotics – including inulin – may help reduce the severity of depression and may even help prevent it from developing.

A 2021 randomized controlled trial study also found that inulin intake can help improve mood in people with obesity who have the Coprococcus bacteria in their gut.

Supplemental inulin is available in capsule and powder forms. A typical dose suggested by commercial supplement brands is around 3 grams (g) per day.

However, a 2020 study on the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) with constipation found that taking at least 12 g a day led to much higher stool frequency.

For this reason, the dosage might differ depending on the problem you’re looking to address, and it’s a good idea to consult your doctor to determine how much you should take,

You may prefer to get your inulin by eating foods it naturally occurs in.

Consider using inulin supplements to further promote digestive health if you’re on a probiotic regimen or currently using antibiotics to treat a bacterial illness.

What are the negative side effects of inulin?

Research has found inulin to be safe for human consumption. It’s extremely unlikely to trigger any kind of allergic reaction.

That said, when you begin using inulin, you may experience digestive discomfort, such as excessive flatulence or loose stools.

Drink plenty of water when incorporating it into your diet, and make sure to start with low doses. This will help prevent digestive problems like bloating, diarrhea, or constipation.

If you’re pregnant, you should talk with your doctor before taking any supplemental product, including inulin.

Is inulin hard on the liver?

At moderate doses, inulin isn’t likely to cause any liver damage. There is research indicating that doses of 30 g a day were associated with liver inflammation. That said, most people are unlikely to consume such a high dose. Speak with your doctor if you’re unsure about the best dose for you.

Is inulin a healthy sweetener?

Inulin is often added to sweetened baked goods. Research has found that adding inulin biscuits while reducing their sugar content by 30% didn’t result in a noticeable reduction in sweetness.

Found naturally in many plant species, inulin is a soluble dietary fiber that positively impacts the gut microbiome. You can also consume it as a supplement.

It is believed to regulate fat metabolism, manage weight loss and blood sugar levels, reduce the chance of colon cancer, and even diminish symptoms of constipation and depression.

Drinking plenty of water and building up your intake gradually can help you avoid any digestive issues like bloating, diarrhea, or constipation.