Health benefits of the prebiotic inulin and how to get more of this dietary fiber in your day
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The prebiotic inulin is a type of dietary fiber naturally found in plant foods. It boasts several powerful health benefits, including aiding in weight loss, controlling blood sugar, and promoting gut health. It may even help lower inflammation and protect against cancer.
Inulin works by fertilizing good bacteria in the colon. It passes through the upper part of the digestive tract and ferments when it arrives in the colon. Many people are familiar with the term probiotic (good bacteria living in the colon). A prebiotic such as inulin works by feeding the good bacteria and influencing the overall health of the microbiome.
You’ll also find inulin in processed foods when chicory root is added. Manufacturers add chicory root to products as a fat and sugar replacer and fiber booster. It is commonly used in ice cream, yogurt, or snack bars to create a creamy texture without adding calories. So if you see chicory root in the ingredient list, you know it contains inulin.
Because inulin ferments in the colon, it can cause digestive side effects like bloating, gas, abdominal cramping, and more frequent bowel movements. Therefore, individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may want to avoid foods and supplements containing inulin.
Chicory root is in the same family as ragweed. Individuals allergic to ragweed should talk with their doctors before eating chicory root or taking supplements with chicory root.
Also, consuming large amounts of a chicory root supplement during pregnancy is possibly unsafe and should be avoided.
Looking for some recipes containing the prebiotic inulin fiber? These recipes from the MyNetDiary Premium Recipe Collection are sources of naturally occurring inulin.
Proceed carefully when adding or increasing the prebiotic inulin fiber in your diet. This particular dietary fiber impacts people differently, and side effects may occur, especially when it’s added to processed foods. To see how your body responds to increased inulin, try incorporating inulin-rich foods regularly while paying attention to how your body feels. In the end, it is not worth it to suffer from stomach troubles simply in hopes of reaping inulin's health benefits.
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Reviewed and updated by Brenda Braslow, MS, RDN, LDN, CDCES on December 26, 2022.