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What Are the Health Benefits of Chicory?

By Jennifer Voight
Updated Jan 23, 2024
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At just 7 calories per cup of raw greens, chicory is an excellent low-calorie source of vitamins and minerals. Not only is chicory a great nutrient source, but the medicinal benefits of chicory are varied and numerous. Its greens and roots contain many compounds that may help improve health conditions like heart disease and osteoarthritis. Chicory may also help ease digestive problems and have a laxative effect.

One of the primary benefits of chicory is its status as a nutritional powerhouse. One cup (29 grams) of chicory greens contains 108 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin K, a nutrient important for healthy blood and bone. Chicory greens contain one-third of the RDA for vitamin A, which is important for healthy vision and skin. The greens also are a good source of vitamin C, folate, and manganese. Chicory greens contain minerals like calcium, copper, and iron.

Chicory greens may be eaten as a salad or cooked. Many of the benefits of chicory are found in the leaves, which contain flavenoids and tannins. These substances, although not studied specifically in chicory, have been studied in other foods and been found to have powerful antioxidant activity. Antioxidants are free-radical scavengers, meaning they can help undo cellular damage and help prevent cancer.

The root of the chicory plant is frequently roasted, ground, and brewed as a caffeine-free coffee substitute. The inulin-containing roots have been studied for their anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory effects. A 2011 study of osteoarthritic patients showed a decrease in symptoms when chicory-derived inulin was administered. Another study of elderly patients suffering from constipation showed a marked increase in bowel movements without increasing digestive distress when they took chicory. Although one study cannot be conclusive, these results are promising and indicate the need for further research.

Other benefits of chicory include probiotic activity, which is important for a healthy digestive tract. Although there have been no animal studies specifically devoted to the probiotic effects of chicory, clinical data suggest that chicory’s oligosaccharides help the colon manufacture beneficial bacteria and keep harmful populations of bacteria in check. Chicory’s lactucin may have a mild sedative effect, which can help ease anxiety and help insomnia.

Although chicory is generally considered safe, some of its ingredients make it unsuitable for pregnant and lactating women. It is possible to develop allergic contact dermatitis from chicory. Other than that, most people can safely enjoy the benefits of chicory, though it should always be obtained from a reputable, known source. If foraging for wild chicory, it is important to make certain no that pesticides or fertilizers have been used close to the foraging area.

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Discussion Comments
By Drentel — On Feb 22, 2014

I had heard actors in old westerns mention drinking chicory, but I didn't know people still drink it. I'll have to try it just to see how it tastes.

By Animandel — On Feb 21, 2014

While I haven't tried chicory greens, I do enjoy the coffee. I know regular coffee has some benefits, but I like to cut back on the amount of caffeine I drink and I don't care for decaffeinated, which also has some negative aspects. So I was happy when I discovered chicory coffee. I enjoy the taste and the health benefits are great.

I still drink regular coffee, but the chicory is a great alternative from time to time. I drink the chicory at night as an alternative to caffeine-free coffee.

By Sporkasia — On Feb 20, 2014

When I think of chicory I think of the flower. Numerous times I have driven through the mountains and seen the flowering plants and thought I would love to have some of them in my flower garden at home. I had no idea that parts of the plant could be eaten, and that the plant can be so beneficial to our health.

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