AUTHORITY NUTRITION

Chicory Coffee: A Healthy Alternative to Coffee?

Written by Rachael Link, MS, RD on January 27, 2018

Despite being around for over two centuries, chicory coffee has gained popularity in recent years.

This hot beverage tastes like coffee but is made of roasted chicory root instead of coffee beans.

It is popular among those trying to reduce their caffeine intake and may be linked to several health benefits, including reduced inflammation, decreased blood sugar and improved digestive health.

However, chicory coffee may also cause adverse side effects.

This article takes an in-depth look at the evidence to determine if chicory coffee is good for you.

Woman Holding Cup of Chicory Coffee

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

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

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

It’s used either on its own or mixed with coffee to complement its flavor.

Although the history of chicory coffee is not entirely clear, it’s believed to have originated in the 1800s in France during a massive coffee shortage.

Desperate for a similar substitute, people began mixing chicory roots into their coffee to get their coffee fix.

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

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

Summary Chicory coffee is a beverage made using chicory root that has been roasted, ground and brewed into coffee. It is believed to have first been used during a coffee shortage in France in the 1800s, but it remains popular around the world today.

Chicory root is the primary ingredient in chicory coffee.

To make it, raw chicory root is minced, roasted and brewed into coffee.

Although the amounts can vary, it’s generally recommended to use about 2 tablespoons (about 11 grams) of ground chicory root per 1 cup (235 milliliters) of water.

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

  • Calories: 44
  • Protein: 0.8 grams
  • Carbs: 10.5 grams
  • Fat: 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
  • Phosphorus: 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 increased weight loss and improved gut health (2, 3).

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

Keep in mind that the amounts of these nutrients in chicory coffee are fairly low, as only a small amount of chicory root is brewed into the coffee.

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

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

It may 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 gut.

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

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

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

In another study, consuming 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 gut.

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

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

Although research on chicory inulin’s effect on blood sugar is limited, several other studies have shown that inulin may have a beneficial effect on blood sugar and insulin resistance.

Insulin is the hormone that transports sugar from the blood to muscles and tissues, where it can be used as fuel. Insulin resistance, which occurs with high levels of insulin over long periods, can decrease the effectiveness of this hormone and lead to high blood sugar.

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

In another study, supplementing with 10 grams of inulin daily helped drop fasting blood sugar levels by nearly 8.5% among 49 women with diabetes (12).

However, most studies are focused on inulin rather than chicory. Further research is needed to determine the effects that chicory coffee itself may have on blood sugar.

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

Although inflammation is a normal immune system response, chronic inflammation is thought to contribute to conditions like heart disease, diabetes and cancer (13).

Some animal studies have found that chicory root may possess anti-inflammatory properties.

In one animal study, chicory root was found to reduce several markers of inflammation (14).

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

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

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

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

Regular coffee is made of coffee beans that are roasted, ground and brewed into coffee.

A typical cup of coffee contains about 95 milligrams of caffeine, although this can vary based on a number of factors (16).

These include the kind of coffee beans used, serving size and type of coffee roast.

Consuming high amounts of caffeine has been associated with side effects like nausea, anxiety, heart palpitations, restlessness and insomnia (17).

On the other hand, chicory root is naturally caffeine-free. For this reason, chicory coffee makes an excellent coffee substitute for those looking to cut down on their caffeine intake.

Some people add chicory root to hot water for a totally caffeine-free beverage, while others mix it into a small amount of regular coffee to enjoy a lower-caffeine beverage.

Summary Excess caffeine consumption has been linked to several adverse side effects. Chicory coffee is caffeine-free and can be used as an effective coffee substitute.

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

Chicory may trigger an allergic reaction in some people, causing symptoms like pain, swelling and tingling of the mouth (18).

Also, people with an allergy to ragweed or birch pollen should avoid chicory to limit negative side effects (19).

If you experience any negative symptoms after consuming chicory coffee, discontinue use immediately and consult your doctor.

Furthermore, chicory coffee is not recommended for pregnant women, as chicory has been shown to trigger miscarriage and menstrual bleeding (20).

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

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

Chicory coffee may be associated with several health benefits, and it can be a good substitute for coffee if you’re looking to cut down on your caffeine intake.

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

Still, if you like the taste and are able to tolerate it, feel free to add it to your diet and enjoy.

An evidence-based nutrition article from our experts at Authority Nutrition.

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