In the sight lines of health magazines and nourishing food and beverage brands, inulin has recently gained lots of attention for its amazing health benefits. But what exactly is it?
Inulin is an indigestible, dietary fibre (and completely unrelated to the hormone insulin!). It can promote the production of beneficial bacteria in our gut, which can improve nutrient absorption and lead to better overall health!
But before we get into the nitty gritty science and examine all of the unique benefits, the inulin story begins with some familiar veg and the roots of a pretty, blue wildflower…
Where does inulin come from?
As a fibre, inulin is a plant carbohydrate that can be found in over 36,000 different plant species. And some of the plants with the highest concentrations of inulin are pretty familiar within our diets!
Asparagus, garlic, onions, Jerusalem artichoke and leeks happen to be great sources of inulin. But there are other botanical sources too that we instead might associate with weeds or old fashioned soft drinks… like dandelion and burdock!
Why do these plants contain inulin?
Most plants will store energy in their roots as the carbohydrate starch, however some plants store energy in their roots as the carbohydrate inulin instead.
As well as storing energy, scientists believe inulin may have a role to play in helping plants control their resistance to cold temperatures.
The plant with the most inulin…
Each of the plants mentioned above contain a fairly high amount of inulin, however, the plant with the largest proportion is chicory.
Usually known for its delicate blue flowers, chicory has had many historical uses. It was once used as a coffee substitute and as a nutritious forage crop for livestock.
However chicory is now grown and harvested for its inulin content. In fact the roots of chicory contain such a high amount of inulin, that scientists discovered it could be extracted and used commercially!
The highest concentration of inulin is usually found in the roots of a plant, and chicory is no exception. Over 68% of the dried weight of chicory root is inulin.
It has a subtle, sweet flavour, which makes chicory root inulin a fantastic functional food ingredient.
It can be added as a dietary fibre supplement to food and drink products to provide a nutritional boost — and we add it to our Jamu Wild Water cans!
Why is inulin so great? The science…
So how can inulin benefit our bodies?
As an indigestible plant fibre, inulin passes through the gut without being absorbed. It does however, undergo a process called ‘prebiotic fermentation’, where the beneficial bacteria in your gut feed on it.
Generally there are two types of fibre, insoluble and soluble. Inulin is the soluble kind!
The two types of fibre
Soluble fibre dissolves into water in the gut and forms a gel, which essentially slows down digestion, allowing for more nutrient absorption and also making you feel fuller for longer. This gel then also acts as a source of food for the good bacteria, making inulin a source of prebiotic fibre! This is the name given to fibre that is the most beneficial to the bacteria in our gut microbiome.
Insoluble fibre passes through the gut and instead helps to bulk out your number twos!
The more inulin consumed, the more beneficial Bifidobacteria bacteria your body will produce as they begin to feed on it. And it’s these bacteria which help to bring all the amazing benefits that inulin can provide…
They can reduce inflammation and strengthen the gut barrier function which improves mineral absorption.
They can help to prevent infection by creating chemicals which stop toxins (e.g. from E. coli) entering the blood.
These bacteria also produce various healthy nutrients too like vitamin B and healthy fatty acids.
Studies have also shown that they can help to reduce blood cholesterol.
So all in all, prebiotic fibre is really good for you!
Why does Jamu contain chicory inulin?
We discovered some pretty shocking UK health stats while creating an action plan and ingredients list for Jamu. One of the most striking nutritional deficits in the British diet was fibre.
Yet, fibre is an essential nutrient that can reduce our risk of serious diseases like diabetes and even bowel cancer.
According to recent data from Public Health England, only 9% of adults are reaching the 30g recommended daily allowance (RDA) of fibre. This means there are lots of us missing out on the crucial health benefits that dietary fibre can provide for our bodies.
Meeting your daily fibre needs
As we’ve discovered above, fibre plays a critical role in our digestive system, so actively increasing the amount we consume is key to keeping our minds and bodies healthy.
To increase fibre in your diet you may need to revaluate some of your favourite recipes and increase the amounts of veg and fibre rich ingredients.
If your household is busy, a quick and easy way to boost your dietary fibre intake is with Jamu. But it also boosts some other key nutrients too…
38% of an adults RDA of vitamin C (great for immunity support)
38% of an adults RDA of zinc (great for metabolism function)
Additional prebiotic fibre from marshmallow root which again stimulates the reproduction of ‘good’ bacteria.
And of course 5g of fibre which is 16% of an adults RDA!
Jamu Wild Water isn’t just a tasty sweet treat, it’s a functional beverage that helps you meet your (and the whole family’s!) daily fibre and nutrient needs.