Chicory has been traditionally employed as a coffee substitute, especially among those who enjoy the aroma and flavor of coffee but seek to reduce caffeine intake due to health or other considerations. This is because chicory does not naturally contain any caffeine.
Chicory is a plant and chicory coffee is created by taking the roots of the chicory plant and processing them in a similar way to coffee beans, by roasting and grinding them to create a coffee-like drink when brewed.
It’s actually a plant from the dandelion family which has purple flowers and a hairy stalk. The leaves of the chicory plant are often used in salads as well, making it an all-around extremely useful plant for the health-conscious.
It has been linked to a few health benefits, beyond just reducing caffeine, including lowering blood sugar, reducing inflammation in the body, and better digestion, but there can be side effects as well.
What is the History of Chicory Coffee?
It is not clear when people first started drinking chicory coffee, but it’s thought to have come out of France during the 1800s when there was a big coffee shortage, so people were looking for alternative drinks.
It was also extremely popular in New Orleans during the Civil War after the city went through a coffee shortage due to a port blockade and it has been around ever since, often used to replace coffee although it can be drunk with it, to create a different flavor.
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Is Chicory Good For You?
As well as the reduced caffeine from drinking chicory, it has several extra nutrients and ingredients which are good for health and which coffee doesn’t contain. It is a good way to get inulin, which is a prebiotic fiber.
Inulin is linked to better gut health and for supporting weight loss so is a positive ingredient in chicory, which also contains vitamin B6 and manganese which are both important for our brain health.
Inulin is particularly important for digestive health and can promote the growth of good bacteria and some studies have revealed that chicory can help to lower constipation issues and improve bowel function overall.
In other studies, involving both humans and animals, it was found that inulin within chicory can also help to manage and lower blood sugar levels. A study in diabetic rats showed it helped to control their blood sugar, but more research is needed on this particular benefit of chicory coffee.
Is Chicory an Anti-Inflammatory?
While inflammation is an immune response, certain health conditions can cause chronic inflammation within the body which can cause long-term problems. Chicory root has been shown to have some anti-inflammatory qualities within some animal studies. More research is needed as to whether it has the same benefit for human drinkers of chicory coffee.
Why is Chicory Caffeine-Free?
Regular coffee comes from coffee beans which contain caffeine and drinking too much caffeine can cause health issues including anxiety, insomnia, headaches, and heart palpitations. Drinking lots of caffeine on a regular basis is not recommended.
Many people who like coffee but want to lower their caffeine intake, opt for chicory coffee instead. As it’s made from the root of the chicory plant and is nothing to do with coffee beans, chicory coffee is naturally totally caffeine-free.
It is possible to drink it on its own or to add it to a small amount of coffee to create your own version of a low caffeine coffee. Unlike decaffeinated coffee which has been processed to remove the caffeine, chicory root never had any in the first place.
Because it contains no caffeine, drinking lots of chicory coffee won’t give you the nasty health effects which too much coffee can give you. However, if you need your coffee to give you that energy boost in the morning, chicory might not work well for you.
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Are There Any Downsides to Drinking Chicory Coffee?
One of the big downsides is that you can’t buy all the varieties of coffee that you might be used to with regular coffee. There isn’t a big choice in roasts or grinds when it comes to buying chicory coffee so you can’t make your coffee your own in quite the same way.
If you like to be in control by choosing your beans and grinding them to make your own perfect coffee, then you can still opt for a chicory coffee if you wish to. It is possible to buy roasted chicory roots and then grind them yourself in your coffee grinder.
That way you can still use your coffee machine to create your own delicious pot of chicory coffee and still enjoy the aroma and the process. If you want to add in a mixture of chicory and coffee grinds to get a limited caffeine fix and enhance that coffee flavor, then you can try out different combinations until you work out which is right for you.
Chicory has been used successfully as a coffee substitute for many years and has some clear benefits, particularly for those wanting to reduce their caffeine intake. If you like the taste of chicory, then why not swap out some of your daily coffee for this healthier option instead?