No, this is not a misspelled word. It really should look like “inulin.” If you don’t know what it is, this is a great time to learn. It is definitely something everyone needs to be consuming every day.
Inulin is a water-soluble prebiotic plant fiber. Plants naturally produce inulin and use it as an energy source. There are an estimated over 36,000 plants that have high inulin amounts. Prebiotics cannot be digested but actually nourish the good bacteria in your intestines. As such, this particular fiber assists with digestion and assimilation of food. This of course plays an important role in immune health, so it is clear that inulin has numerous benefits.
As important as fiber is to our health, there are other benefits to inulin:
Helps keep your appetite under control
- Slows digestion
- Keeps you feeling full
- Removes cholesterol as it passes through the digestive tract
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 these bacteria to grow and 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
- Add 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.
Helps the body absorb calcium
- Calcium creates a stronger skeletal system
Controls blood sugar
- While slowing digestion, inulin slows the digestion of carbohydrates which allows sugar to be released slowly, without spiking resulting in healthy blood sugar levels.
- This also helps in weight loss
Boosts heart health and metabolic Issues
- As it passes through the digestive system unabsorbed by digestive enzymes, inulin takes with it toxins, waste, fat and cholesterol particles. This is exactly the reason a high-fiber diet has been tied to heart health in numerous studies.
Can replace sugar and flour in recipes
- Inulin contains about 25 to 35 percent sugar and starches that work similarly to grain-based flours to absorb water and thicken recipes. It’s also soluble in hot water, which means as long as you heat it, it will absorb liquid and can be used in teas, drinks or baked goods. Since it is non-digestible and forms a gel when mixed with liquid, it’s able to be used in place of oil (the reason you’ll find it in some low-fat cheeses, sauces, soups and condiments).
- The chicory plant, the most common and concentrated source of inulin, has chemical similarities to the sugar beet plant that’s often used to derive sugar. The same method is used for the extraction of inulin, although its taste is not as strong as sugar beet.
- Inulin is said to be about one tenth the sweetness of sugar.
You can get inulin in supplements, where it is mostly from chicory. Another source is the agave root. You can find it in powdered form or capsule. You may see it as inulin fiber or inulin prebiotic. It is being added to processed foods because of its many benefits.
But the best and safest way to get inulin is through natural foods.
Foods with Inulin:
- Ground chicory root (the most common source of inulin due to its extremely high concentration)
- Dandelion root
- Leeks and onions
- Bananas and plantains (especially when they’re slightly green)
- Sprouted wheat (such as the kind used in Ezekiel bread)
- Jerusalem artichokes
- Fresh herbs
- Wild yams
- Burdock root
- Camas root
- Coneflower, also called echinacea
- Yacon root
- Agave root
The Risks of Inulin
The majority of people will find no risk associated with consuming inulin. However, there is a group of people that may want to beware of the side effects.
Unfortunately, like antibiotics, inulin is indiscriminate and it not only feeds beneficial bacteria but may also fuel the growth of disease causing bacteria, like some bacteria that cause leaky gut.
FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides And Polyols) are short-chain carbohydrates that are difficult for some people to digest. Instead, they’re fermented by your gut bacteria, causing gas, pain, bloating and diarrhea. FODMAPs are found in many foods and include lactose in some dairy, fructose, galactans (found in some legumes), polyols (found in sweeteners like xylitol, sorbitol, maltitol and mannitol) and fructan (i.e. inulin).
Most people digest FODMAPs with no problem, but if you have gut problems, particularly irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), FODMAPs may be a concern for you. It is recommended that you start to consume these slowly and build up your tolerance of them. Coupled with a healthy diet and other discreet supplementation, inulin will help your gut continue to heal with time.