Plants naturally produce inulin and use it as an energy source. Today, it’s being added to more and more food products because of its benefits and adaptability. Read on to find out more about this fiber source and how can it benefit you.
Inulin can be found naturally in foods, such as:
- chicory root
- wild yams
With its creamy consistency, inulin functions as a fat substitute in margarine and salad dressings. It’s also used to replace some of the flour in baked goods.
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 a 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 between 15,000 and 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.
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.
Some research suggests these properties make inulin a good weight management aid.
It could potentially lower your colon cancer risk
Studies show that a high intake of dietary fiber, like inulin, is associated with a reduced risk of cancer. Researchers are actively exploring the use of inulin to prevent cancer.
As an immune system booster, it may also be a good preventive supplement against cancers of the digestive system. More studies are needed before any strong claims can be made about the effects of inulin on colon cancer.
Supplemental inulin is available in capsule and powder forms. A typical dose is 3.1 grams per day. 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.
A 2015 study tested the powder form of inulin to determine whether it contributed to feelings of health and well-being. People who took the inulin were happier, less hungry, and felt fuller over a period of time than people who received a placebo.
Any amount of inulin is considered safe for human consumption. It’s extremely unlikely to trigger any kind of allergic reaction.
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 to your doctor before taking any supplemental product, including inulin.