Inulin — also known as oligofructose — are prebiotic fibers you likely consume every day, but had no clue how valuable they can be to your health and longevity. Once you learn about inulin and its benefits, you’ll never look at another Jerusalem artichoke the same way again!
What’s up with inulin?
According to registered dietician Kendra Weekly, inulin is “a type of carbohydrate that’s not digested in your body but is used as “food” by your gut’s good bacteria.” You may not have known it until now, but inulin is found in fruits like bananas, veggies like asparagus, leek, onions, and artichokes, and it is also found in wheat, soybeans, wild yams, and garlic.
Scientists say that inulin can be found in around 36,000 types of plants.
This clever carb may be used as a sweetener, an alternative to eggs in bakery products and when added to the ice cream manufacturing process, it can replace some types of fat and prevent ice crystals from forming. Most often extracted from those 36,000 species, the motherlode of inulin can be found in chicory root.
We’re not sure why Mother Nature decided to favor chicory root so generously but take our word for it: you’ll want to include some in your daily diet for the following 12 reasons and more.
Inulin Can Do Wonders for Your GI System …
…because it’s a great bowel movement stimulant. We call it a super mover because what it does for your intestinal health is miraculous. Inulin can balance out your gut’s environment so neither loose stools nor constipation need become problematic and if you tend to get snippy when you’re backed up, inulin could trigger a happy dance. This fiber is being used to treat folks with ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s Disease in concert with other medical protocols.
Inulin May Help Mediate Overeating
Because it’s a soluble fiber, inulin turns into a gel once it’s mixed with bodily fluids and once digested, thicker stomach contents empty at a slower pace. During the digestive process, even veteran overeaters discover that they feel full for longer periods of time and while the gel is doing its thing, inulin may also stabilize blood sugar levels, yet another perk for overeaters seeking to develop more sensible eating habits.
Inulin Contributes to Your Mental Health
If you think the bacteria roaming around your intestinal system only has the capacity to impact your physical wellbeing, you may be shocked to learn that your mental health can also benefit from inulin. It’s all about biology, folks. Healthy elimination patterns can do wonders for feelings of depression and anxiety, say impressive brainiacs writing about the gut-brain axis for the National Center for Biotechnology Information.
Inulin Can Improve Bone and Skeletal Health
Because the right amount of inulin can improve mineral absorption, it could be a valuable contribution to a long list of ailments that impact bone health and density. Specifically, inulin found in agave fructans is being used in clinical trials to treat patients who suffer osteoporosis and diseases that weaken the ability of the skeletal system to bear weight. What’s behind this? Calcium absorption. Ingesting inulin can up absorption and play an important role in bone and teeth formation, blood vessel relaxation, and hormone balance.
Inulin May Promote Weight loss
Having already learned that inulin’s ability to form a gel in the gastrointestinal system contributes to a feeling of fullness, you won’t be surprised to learn that weight watchers can benefit from inulin, too. For inveterate dieters who have tried everything under the sun to knock off pounds, this news offers hope: One scientific study proved that over a 24-week period, members of a study group “lost significantly more weight between 9 and 18 weeks” than control participants taking fiber that doesn’t include inulin in its cellular structure.
Inulin Can Play a Role in Diabetes Control
This information is especially valuable for patients who have yet to develop full-blown diabetes but show symptoms and a propensity that leads to being diagnosed with prediabetes. Who wouldn’t want to begin mediating symptoms early? When used as a food supplement, inulin can decrease the amount of fat in the livers of folks who have been diagnosed as being pre-diabetic. In fact, there’s scientific evidence that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed if inulin is paired with weight loss and lifestyle changes.
Inulin May Help Prevent Colon Cancer
Because inulin acts so dynamically in the lower intestine and contributes to regular bowel movements, factors that contribute to the development of colon cancer may be impacted by the ingestion of inulin. Pre-cancerous growths originating with cell changes — aided and abetted by inflammation triggered by bowel irritability — may not be able to attach to the colon lining if inulin is ingested. This line of research is being pursued assiduously by scientists working on colon cancer cures.
Inulin Could Contribute to Heart Health
While studies that investigate the role inulin could play in heart health are in their infancy, the potential for heart health contributions look good. While it is questionable as to whether triglycerides can be lowered as dramatically as LDL cholesterol, several health markers have been identified over an 8-week clinical trial during which participants were given 10g of inulin daily for 8 weeks. Lower LDL and triglyceride levels that contribute to heart health were verified and continued research into these findings are underway.
Inulin is a Great Choice for Vegetarians
For patients who do their best to avoid taking synthetic pharmaceuticals, a personal plan that includes inulin offers people who don’t consume meat a way to combat ailments described in this article. Even vegetarians who watch what they consume don’t always get the recommended 25g to 38g of daily fiber (14g per 1000 calories). Dieticians recommend a diet that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Toward that end, they recommend eating one fruit or veggie at every meal, three servings of whole grains, a serving of nuts or seeds, and snacks like air-popped popcorn, carrots with hummus and guacamole daily.
Inulin is Available in Many Forms
We’ve heard plenty of excuses from folks who couldn’t find the produce department at their local supermarket if they tried, but fortunately, inulin is being formulated in ways that are readily available to the public. No prescription is needed to purchase inulin-rich products like cereal bars, protein bars, baked goods, drinks, dairy products, and supplements. While consumers must take care not to consume too much inulin — flatulation, gas, and bloating could result — scientists recommend starting small (no more than 2g to 3g daily) for several weeks to test your tolerance. Increase the amount to 5g and 10g daily to reap inulin benefits. Once tolerated, some people consume up to 30g of fiber-rich foods per day.
You can Use Inulin Supplements if Fresh Produce isn’t Available
Understanding up front that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has yet to make official pronouncements related to inulin, you may still wish to consider adding it to your diet if fresh produce isn’t available for any reason. Current options are powder (made to be incorporated into shakes, beverages, and bakery items), inulin fiber gummies and capsules. Look for inulin products derived specifically from artichokes, agave, or chicory root for optimal results. Always stick with a reputable brand when shopping and choose an organic product if possible as organics are less likely to be adulterated or contain impurities.
For consumers bombarded by pharmaceutical sales messages extolling the virtues of chemical and synthetic solutions over natural products, there’s usually little risk and lots to gain by exploring this plant-based extract. The 12 reasons posited above suggest that trying inulin-laced dietary improvements in concert with produce that contains inulin are just the beginnings of research into this important prebiotic.
Bottom line? Natural derivatives aimed at healing the body (and the mind, too), tend to be gentler on the system than synthetics and this generation of healing products has only just begun to emerge. Stay tuned for advances and more reasons to consider inulin prebiotic fiber products; you may even live a longer, healthier life as a result.
Resources https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/ https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318593 https://www.verywellhealth.com/the-health-benefits-of-inulin-4587258 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25069021/ https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4680171/ https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323627 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3885731/ https://www.news-medical.net/health/Herbal-versus-Synthetic-Medicines.aspx