What is inulin and how does it benefit the gut?

Prebiotics, probiotics and postbiotics have all been identified as key players in our gut health, but important soluble fibers like inulin can also do wonders for our gut microbiome.

“Inulin is a type of fiber found most in plants like Jerusalem artichokes and chicory root, and it can act as a prebiotic because it [can be] easily fermented by the bacteria that live in our gut,” says Amanda Sauceda, MS, RD, dietitian and gut health nutritionist. “As a result of this fermentation, short chain fatty acids are produced, which can lead to positive changes in the gut microbiome. Short chain fatty acids have a range of positive effects on the gutthe main ones being the protection against inflammation, the production of mucus and the maintenance of the integrity of the intestinal barrier.

The positive changes in the gut microbiome can be attributed to the prebiotic nature of inulin, which can feed the bacteria in our gut that can produce butyrate, a form of postbiotics that help maintain a healthy gut, Sauceda adds. A Full report 2017 also points out that inulin is associated with improved gut microbiota, increased mineral absorption, boosted immune function, reduced risk of irritable bowel disease and constipation. There has been research on how inulin consumption can help with other health conditions like type 2 diabetes and high blood sugar, but Sauceda says the research isn’t necessarily there yet to validate. these assertions.

What experts know is that inulin can help maintain a healthy gut, which can contribute to our overall well-being. It’s important to note that inulin is high in FODMAPs, which are short-chain carbohydrates that can cause intestinal upset, so this type of fiber may not be everyone’s cup of tea. “If you are sensitive to FODMAPs or have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may experience bloating, gas, and general discomfort when consuming inulin-rich foods or inulin supplements, so consult a doctor first,” Sauceda says.

There is currently no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for inulin, but the The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends eating about 14 grams of fiber per 1000 calories consumed per day.

8 Inulin-Rich Foods That Can Help Gut Health

Getting more inulin through your diet can be a great way to naturally support gut health and reap the gut-boosting benefits of this fiber. Sauceda shares eight excellent sources of inulin per 100 grams (or 3.5 ounces).

1. Chicory root: 41.6 grams

Chicory root offers the greatest source of inulin and can be used as alternative to coffee or in a salad. Similar to dandelion greens, it is naturally bitter, but you can sweeten the flavor by soaking the root in water or sautéing it.

2. Jerusalem artichokes: 18 grams

Jerusalem artichokes can be cooked the same way as russet potatoes – they can be roasted, sautéed or mashed. The white flesh of Jerusalem artichokes has a nutty yet sweet flavor that makes it easy to add to your favorite dishes.

3. Dandelion greens: 13.5 grams

“Dandelion greens can be sautéed, used in herbal teas, and sometimes added to pesto,” Sauceda explains. Dandelion greens are also a excellent source of important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, calcium and potassium. But they do have a strong bite (similar to arugula), so feel free to experiment with a cooking method that best suits your palette.

4. Garlic: 12.5 grams

If you regularly cook with garlic in your meals, you are already adding inulin-rich foods to your meals without knowing it. Garlic not only adds great flavor to dishes, but it can also promote the growth of bifidobacteria, which are considered good bacteria in the gut.

5. Leeks: 6.5 grams

Leeks are an excellent source of inulin, as well as important vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B6, vitamin K, vitamin C, copper, iron and manganese. Often considered the brothers of onions, leeks offer a sweeter, milder taste that can be added to a variety of dishes. You can add leeks to pizzas, casseroles and soups. Keep in mind that leeks may need a thorough cleaning before eating, as their roots and outer leaves may contain hidden soil.

6. Asparagus: 2.5 grams

Asparagus is an example of a prebiotic-rich food that contains inulin and can also help in the production of postbiotics. Although the inulin components in asparagus are a bit lower than some of the other foods on this list, it’s still a great vegetable to cook with and offers tons of gut-boosting benefits.

7. Wheat bran: 2.5 grams

“Wheat bran can be used to coat the chicken or for baking, depending on your preference,” Sauceda says. “It’s also available as a cereal to eat as is, which can serve as a high-fiber breakfast.” Whole grains generally provide tons of essential nutrients in addition to inulin, such as B vitamins, iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, antioxidants and phytochemicals.

8. Bananas: 0.5 grams

Bananas don’t offer the highest number of inulin per 100 grams, but they’re a super versatile fruit that’s not only delicious, but also offers vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium, and potassium. .

Final Notes on Inulin

“Inulin is definitely a great fiber to add [to your diet]especially if you find it difficult to meet the recommended fiber intake, but know that not eating inulin is not necessarily going to negatively impact your gut health,” says Sauceda. If you like any of the foods listed, then great! However, if you don’t, Sauceda recommends finding other sources of fiber or prebiotic-rich foods that you enjoy.

On the cooking front, Sauceda also advises having a recipe in place if you’re cooking with a new ingredient, like any of the foods mentioned above. “Pick one, then find a recipe to make with it so it doesn’t stay in the kitchen,” she says. You do not know where to start ? Discover our delicious list of healthy recipes to try.

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