Best Natural Sources of Inulin Fiber
A type of fermentable fiber, inulin offers numerous health benefits. Whether you are looking to improve your digestive health or insulin sensitivity, you can benefit from eating more foods that contain inulin. Here's a list of some of the best sources of inulin that can be found nature:
The root of the chicory plant (Cichorium intybus) is one of the most famous sources of inulin. Many supplement manufacturers use chicory root as the main ingredient in their inulin supplements. Besides being used by these manufacturers, chicory root is used as a coffee substitute and as a natural food additive. In some countries, it is also grown as a forage crop for livestock.
The Jerusalem artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus), sometimes referred to as the earth apple, sunchoke, sunroot, or topinambur, is also among the best food sources of inulin. It is also an excellent source of many other health promoting nutrients. Just 100 grams of Jerusalem artichoke provides 13% of the recommended daily value for vitamin B1 and nearly a fifth of the recommended daily intake for iron. Jerusalem artichokes also deliver plenty of potassium and a decent amount of copper and vitamin C.
Like chicory root, dandelion root (Taraxacum officinale) can be roasted, ground, and used as a coffee substitute. But that's not the only feature these two roots have in common: like chicory root, dandelion root contains inulin. Dandelion root contains less inulin than chicory root, but it is still a good source compared to other sources of inulin in the modern diet.
Like chicory and Jerusalem arthichoke, burdock (Arctium lappa) belongs to the Asteraceae family of flowering plants. Therefore, it is not surprising that also burdock root contains large amounts of inulin. In Japan, great burdock (known as 'gobo') is cultivated in gardens and its root is commonly used in Japanese cuisine. The slender roots of great burdock have a flavor similar to salsify, and they make a delicious addition to salads, soups, and stir fries.
Purple salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) belongs to the same Asteraceae family of plants as chicory, Jerusalem artichoke, dandelion, and burdock. Like the tuberous roots of the other Asteraceae plants, the root of purple salsify is a good natural source of inulin. The root of purple salsify is mildly-flavored, with flavor descpriptions ranging from artichokes to oysters, and it can be used as an ingredient in soups and stews. Young roots can also be consumed raw and grated for use in salads. Also the root of meadow salsify (Tragopogon pratensis), sometimes referred to as yellow goat's beard or Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon, is edible and a good source of inulin. Meadow salsify grows in meadows, fields, and roadsides across continental Europe and North America. It is also found in most of England, in parts of eastern and southern Scotland, and in central Ireland.
Black Salsify (Scorzonera)
Despite its name, black or Spanish salsify (Scorzonera hispanica) is not a member of the salsify genus 'Tragopogon'; however, it is closely related. Black salsify, which is also called Scorzonera, is commercially cultivated in some European countries such as Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands. If the harvested roots of black salsify are stored in a cool, dark place, they will keep fresh all winter, making black salsify a very good winter vegetable. Peeled and cooked black salsify is often served like asparagus, together with bechamel or mustard sauce, but it can also be used as an ingredient in soups and stews.
Yacon (originally spelled yacón; in Latin: Smallanthus sonchifolius) is yet another perennial plant in the Asteraceae family that is mainly cultivated for its sweet-flavored, inulin containing roots. Also known as Peruvian ground apple, yacon is mainly grown in the northern and central Andes. Yacon has also been introduced in countries like Australia and New Zealand where the climate is mild and the growing season long. Today, it is also grown in home gardens in some parts of the United States and the United Kingdom, and you may find it at farmers' markets, too. Raw yacon has a somewhat crunchy texture, and it is good simply peeled, diced and eaten as a snack. Peeled and sliced yacon can also be added to salads.
Tip: If you are planning to use yacon root (or any other Asteraceae root, for that matter) as a salad ingredient, dip the peeled and sliced roots in water that contains a bit of lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Acidulated water helps prevent the light flesh of tuberous root vegetables from discoloring.