Is Chicory Coffee Good for You?

Chicory coffee, annotated

Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman 

Brewed chicory root is a tasty coffee-like beverage that can be used in addition to or as a replacement for coffee. It's often used to substitute coffee to reduce or eliminate caffeine intake. Aside from helping reduce caffeine intake, it has several other health benefits that make it a nutritious addition to your diet. Read on to find out more about these benefits.

What is Chicory Coffee?

Chicory coffee is made from chicory root (Cichorium intybus) that's been ground and roasted. It is then infused in hot water, much like traditional coffee.

Chicory is part of the dandelion family and has light blue flowers. It has been used as folk medicine, as a vegetable, and as a forage food for livestock around the world.

There are two types of chicory coffee: a caffeine-free chicory coffee made solely from chicory root and zero-caffeine ingredients and a chicory-coffee bean blend that is lower in caffeine than pure coffee. How much caffeine this blend contains depends on the ratio of the brand.

Chicory coffee has been used as a regular coffee substitute since the end of the 18th century. It gained popularity as a suitable replacement when Frederick the Great prohibited the importation of coffee into Germany.

Chicory Coffee Nutrition

Chicory coffee contains 5.4 calories in a 6 fluid ounce brewed cup with 0.2 grams of protein, 1.3 grams carbs, 0 grams of fat, and 37.6 milligrams of caffeine, according to the USDA.

Chicory Coffee Nutrition Facts

  • Calories: 5.4
  • Protein: 0.2g
  • Carbs: 1.3g
  • Fat: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Magnesium: 5.4mg
  • Potassium: 62.7mg

Chicory root contains several nutrients such as magnesium, potassium, calcium, and iron. However, when it is processed and consumed as an instant chicory coffee beverage, fewer nutrients are provided per serving than if you were to consume the root in other forms, such as a vegetable side dish or a cooking flour.

People with allergies to ragweed, marigolds, daisies, and related plants may experience an allergic reaction to chicory. If you have allergies, talk to a health care provider before drinking chicory coffee.

Chicory Coffee Vs. Regular Coffee

Traditional coffee provides its own nutritional benefits such as possibly offering protective effects against diabetes, cognitive decline, and depression with consistent intake. Coffee may also contain beneficial compounds that counteract the effects of free radicals and oxidative stress, which are responsible for some of the effects of aging, heart disease, heart failure, liver disease, cancer, and other health concerns.

However, there are some adverse effects of drinking coffee. Some research indicates that women who drink coffee are at an increased risk of bone fractures. Coffee intake is also sometimes contraindicated during pregnancy as it can adversely affect the fetus, increasing the chances for pregnancy loss, preterm birth, and low birth weight.

Coffee and caffeine can interfere with some medications such as those taken for thyroid conditions.If this is a concern for you, speak to your doctor and consider reducing or eliminating caffeine intake.

Other adverse reactions include an increased risk of aggravating gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and overuse symptoms, including headache, insomnia, irregular heartbeat, anxiety, diarrhea, nausea, and more. It's recommended to limit caffeine intake to around 400mg or 4 cups of coffee per day.

Chicory coffee that is not mixed with regular coffee beans contains no caffeine. So, if you are trying to reduce or eliminate your caffeine consumption, chicory coffee is an excellent alternative. It also contains several phytonutrients, such as inulin, coumarins, tannins, monomeric flavonoids, and sesquiterpene lactones.

Chicory Coffee Health Benefits

Chicory root has many health benefits. It is anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and immune-stimulating, among other beneficial properties. The root is very rich in fiber including inulin, a prebiotic resistant starch that helps to feed the good bacteria in your intestines.

However, the inulin and phytonutrients are broken down into different compounds during the roasting process, so it is difficult to know for certain how many of the health benefits of chicory root are present in its coffee form. As well, there is little inulin present in chicory coffee, so any benefit you'd hope to gain from this aspect of the plant is better obtained through a different chicory-based product.

The high inulin content is much of the reason chicory root is favored for its use as a functional food product in North America, although it is consumed as a nutritious whole vegetable in other parts of the world such as Italy, Germany, and the Netherlands.

May Improve Blood Sugar Levels and Stool Frequency

Chicory coffee itself has been researched for its health benefits. One study examining the effects of chicory coffee on blood sugar and lipid metabolism found a significant improvement in blood sugar levels and stool frequency. However, no improvements in fasting glucose or insulin concentrations and lipid metabolism were observed.

May Reduce the Risk of Thrombosis

Another study found that chicory coffee has a positive effect on whole blood and plasma viscosity, as well as red blood count deformability, which allows blood to flow in microvessels to transport oxygen and carbon dioxide. This ability allow red blood cells to properly respond to stressors to pass efficiently through the body when needed. The result is less risk of thrombosis, a potentially painful and life-threatening blood clot.

Chicory coffee has no known adverse health effects, although more research on long-term use would provide a better picture.

How to Reduce Caffeine with Chicory Coffee

If you are trying to reduce your caffeine intake, chicory coffee is a valuable product to try. Regular caffeine intake often leads to physical, emotional, and psychological dependence, and a sudden cessation of use can lead to many symptoms.

Caffeine withdrawal can result in symptoms that include headaches, changes in mood, impaired behavioral and cognitive performance, changes in normal blood pressure, decreased motor activity, increased heart rate, hand tremors, increased need to urinate, skin flushing, flu-like symptoms, nausea and vomiting, constipation, muscle stiffness, joint pains, and abdominal pain.

Avoiding these symptoms is much easier if you use a chicory-coffee blend with reduced caffeine to wean yourself off. You can use a blend and add it to your regular coffee, diluting the stronger coffee content in your cup. Over time, you can reduce the pure coffee amount and only consume the blend. After that, you can try switching entirely to a caffeine-free version of chicory coffee.

Keep in mind other potential sources of caffeine if you wish to eliminate or significantly reduce your intake. Other sources include chocolate, some kinds of tea, and energy drinks. Other products that can be used to replace coffee include mushroom coffee and dandelion root coffee.

Low to moderate doses of caffeine (20 mg to 200 mg) may cause feelings of increased well-being, happiness, energy, alertness, and sociability. Higher doses can cause adverse symptoms such as anxiety, jitteriness, and gastrointestinal upset.

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