Is Chicory Coffee Good for You?

Find out whether chicory coffee is a healthy substitute for your regular brew

Woman drinking coffee
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If you are a coffee lover looking to cut back on your caffeine intake, chicory coffee is often touted as a healthy substitute to the standard brew. Made from the roasted and ground root of the chicory (Cichorium intybus) plant, this lower-caffeine alternative has a flavor that’s remarkably similar to the taste of regular coffee.

There are two types of chicory coffee. One type is caffeine-free, made entirely from chicory root or from chicory mixed with other caffeine-free ingredients. The other type, which contains caffeine, is made by brewing regular coffee combined with roasted, ground chicory root. The caffeine content of the latter type depends on the coffee to chicory ratio in the brew.

Why Do People Drink Chicory Coffee Instead of Regular Coffee?

Since chicory coffee often lacks caffeine (or has less of it), many coffee aficionados sip this beverage to stave off caffeine-related side effects, such as shakiness, sleep problems, headaches, and dizziness.

It’s also said that certain compounds in chicory coffee can offer a number of health benefits, including reduced inflammation, improved digestion, and prevention of diabetes. However, many of these health claims stem from preliminary research focusing on the health effects of chicory extract (rather than chicory coffee).

The Health Benefits of Chicory Coffee

Chicory contains a compound called inulin, which is a type of prebiotic fiber. Prebiotic fibers have been found to stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines, which improves your gut health. Inulin may also enhance heart health by protecting against atherosclerosis, according to some preliminary studies.

Some people with acid reflux (also known as gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD) and heartburn find chicory coffee less acidic and easier on the stomach than regular coffee.

To date, there’s little scientific support for the possible health benefits of consuming chicory in coffee form. However, a small study published in Phytotherapy Research in 2011 found that drinking chicory coffee may ward off cardiovascular problems.

For this study, 27 healthy volunteers drank 300 milliliters (i.e., the equivalent of about 1.25 cups) of chicory coffee every day for a week. By the study’s end, participants showed a significant decrease in viscosity of whole blood and plasma. There’s some evidence that higher viscosity (or thickness) of whole blood and plasma may contribute to the development of heart disease.

In addition, a small study published in the Journal of Traditional and Complementary Medicine in 2015 found that drinking chicory root extract daily for 4 weeks helped improve bowel movements in healthy volunteers. The study also determined that chicory root extract may delay or prevent the early onset of diabetes.

Side Effects and Safety Concerns

Because so few studies have explored the health effects of chicory coffee, little is known about the safety of long-term chicory coffee consumption. Still, sipping chicory coffee in moderation shouldn’t be a problem for most healthy people, although some people notice gas, bloating, or diarrhea after consuming a lot of chicory (due to the inulin content).

It should be noted that people with allergies to ragweed, marigolds, daisies, and related plants may experience an allergic reaction after drinking chicory coffee. If you have allergies, talk to your doctor before drinking chicory coffee.

There’s also some concern that chicory could promote the body’s production of bile and, in turn, cause problems for people with gallstones.

Should You Drink Chicory Coffee Instead of Regular Coffee?

Although drinking too much regular coffee can have a negative impact on your health, coffee also has its share of health benefits. For example, studies have shown that regular coffee consumption may help fend off diabetes, keep your brain sharp as you age, and protect against depression.

Additionally, some research indicates that compounds found in regular coffee may help decrease oxidative stress, which is a destructive biological process linked to heart disease and other major health problems.

Still, overdoing it on caffeine can set you up for a host of health troubles, ranging from abnormal heart rhythms to anxiety. Therefore, many medical experts recommend limiting your caffeine intake to 400 mg per day (the equivalent of about four cups of regular coffee).

Despite the lack of evidence that choosing chicory coffee over regular coffee can improve your health, chicory coffee can still make a great addition to your daily diet. For extra flavor, try roasting the chicory roots on your own and preparing your coffee from scratch.

Chicory is more water-soluble than coffee, so if you're making it you'll need to use a lot less of it (25 percent chicory to 75 percent coffee is often recommended if you are trying chicory for the first time).

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