In today’s hectic world and busy work schedules, people are always on the lookout for possible ways to improve their overall physical and mental well being and to enhance their quality of life. A number of things can be done to achieve this such as an adjustment in one’s diet, increased physical activity, and exercise, taking different natural supplements or food items, and lessening unnecessary stress and unhealthy activities. One such supplement and food additive is inulin.
In this article, we will look at some of the uses and benefits of Inulin and how it can help individuals achieve better health and wellness.
Inulin: A Brief Overview
People who are interested in gut health may most definitely have encountered the supplement and additive known as inulin. It is a type of fiber that has been associated with numerous health-related benefits and most often used as a form of additive to certain food items. In addition, it is now available in the mass market as a form of a supplement. Some individuals, though, may have some questions on how truly effective inulin is and what are the possible side effects and risks of taking it.
Basically, it is a form of plant-based soluble fiber. It is made up of chain molecules comprised of fructose and is considered a fructan which means it does not get digested in the small intestine. It instead gets routed directly to the individual’s lower gut and then acts as a prebiotic, turning into a kind of food source for the good bacteria present in the gut. This provision of food to the good bacteria in the gut can provide various health benefits to individuals and contribute directly to improved gut and intestinal health. The benefits of prebiotics can also enhance the health of colon cells and improve digestive health.
Inulin is also considered as a low-calorie food item. At just 1.5 calories per gram, this food item is a non-issue in terms of inadvertently increasing the consumption of calories by individuals. It is believed that early humans may have taken in more of this food item than people at present as plants that contain inulin have been present for more than a thousand years.
Where Can You Get Inulin?
As inulin is a plant-based product, it can naturally be found in plants. However, recent advances in science have made inulin readily available in a more modified and manufactured form.
Some of the natural sources are:
- Asparagus: 2 to 3 grams per 100 grams
- Yacon Root: 7 to 8 grams per 100 grams
- Chicory root: 36-48 grams per 100 grams
- Onions: 1 to 8 grams per 100 grams
- Garlic: 9 to 16 grams per 100 grams
- Jicama: 10 to 13 grams per 100 grams
- Jerusalem artichoke: 16 to 20 grams per 100 grams
Inulin is also available in a manufactured form and is usually added to various food items such as yogurt, cereal bars, and protein bars. It can come from native chicory root by extracting inulin from the root of the chicory plant, oligofructose which can be manufactured by having inulin’s longer molecules removed, HP or high-performance inulin which can be produced by having the shorter molecules of inulin removed, and FOS or Fructooligosaccharides which can be produced by having table sugar synthesized into short molecules of inulin.
What Are Its Health Benefits?
Individuals consume inulin for a number of different reasons but most of them are mainly for enhanced health. Listed below are some of its health benefits:
1. Digestive function and health
Certain good or helpful bacteria and microbes reside in the lower gut of individuals and they are mainly composed of good and bad microorganisms. The real secret for a healthy gut though is maintaining an ideal balance between the good and bad bacteria of the body. Getting the right balance between good and bad bacteria can help people maintain good health and aid in preventing preventable diseases. Inulin has also been shown to initiate the growth and development of good bacteria. With increased levels of good bacteria, individuals can expect improved immune system response, health, and digestive functions.
Evidence suggests that it can help relieve the symptoms of constipation. Data has shown that people who regularly took inulin had better consistency of their stools and bowel movements that are deemed more regular and frequent. Test subjects in another study showed that taking fifteen (15) grams of inulin per day can decrease the instances of being constipated and contributes to better digestion.
3. Weight Loss
Studies show that inulin can help with weight loss. Individuals who were obese or those who were overweight were able to overcome their hunger cravings and improve their feelings of satiety by consuming around twentyone (21) grams of inulin on a daily basis. It was also observed that people who regularly took inulin was able to lose around 2.9 lbs or 0.9 kg of body weight while those who did not take inulin actually gained around 1 lb or 0.45 kg of body weight during the course of 12 weeks.
Inulin’s performance was also compared to that of cellulose and the results were positive in favor of the former. The inulin group lost around 7.6% of their weight while the group who took cellulose only lost around 4.9 % of their body during the course of the 18-week study. However, the effects of inulin and oligofructose on obese kids have not been subjected to an in-depth study yet and as such, further research is required to confirm any data.