Of European origin, chicory provides several benefits for our health. It is a plant rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, being well known for its characteristic bitter taste.
Chicory can be consumed raw, in fresh salads, or also in the form of syrup and tea.
According to nutritionist Soraya Chagas, chicory has anti-inflammatory, analgesic and sedative action. Precisely for this reason, it is widely used to treat liver and bowel problems and also to help fight stress and anxiety.
This plant also aids in weight loss, helps to improve digestion, prevent disease and even improves the immune system.
Chicory health benefits
1- Favors weight loss
Chicory is a super healthy food that can help those who need to lose a few pounds.
“Chicory has a low calorie content , only 14 calories in 100g, has a good amount of fiber, and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These characteristics help with weight loss”, says Soraya.
And it doesn’t stop there, in addition to ensuring low calories, the plant also has other properties that help to eliminate fat and control sugar levels.
“Some compounds, such as ursolic acid, stimulate the breakdown of body fat ; and beta sitosterol helps to reduce the amount of sugar in the blood, an important effect for diabetics as well”, complements the nutritionist.
2- Helps in the proper functioning of the bowel
Another super important benefit of chicory is that it has a high amount of fiber. “It contributes 5% of the daily fiber needs, that is, in 100g it contains 2.2g of fiber”, says Soraya.
The specialist explains that due to its large amount of fiber, the vegetable contributes to the proper functioning of the intestine, provides satiety and even helps to reduce cholesterol. Fiber also helps to treat and prevent gastrointestinal problems.
“As for gastrointestinal disorders, fibers and active compounds increase the amount of water in the stool, helping to prevent constipation ( intestinal constipation ), increase the elimination of toxins, in addition to being a source of energy for the intestinal microbiota. This process makes the intestine stronger and able to protect itself against infections”, explains the professional.
3- It is rich in vitamins
Chicory is also rich in different types of vitamins. Soraya highlights the main ones and explains their benefits:
Chicory is a source of vitamin A. It is important for the health of the skin, eyes and mucous membranes . It is also important for the immune system, helping to prevent infections.
Complex B vitamins
B-complex vitamins are also present in chicory. Soraya says the main ones are: folates (B9), pantothenic acid (B5) and riboflavin (B2).
“Folates are important for the manufacture of DNA and RNA, especially in pregnancy and in preventing anemia . Folate deficiency is related to insomnia, forgetfulness and irritability”, he informs.
Regarding vitamin B5, the nutritionist says that it is important in the generation of energy, in the production of fatty acids and steroid hormones. According to the professional, her disability is related to tiredness and weakness, depression, burning in her hands and feet and an increase in respiratory infections.
Vitamin B2 is also involved in energy generation. “It is essential for the formation of red blood cells and for the regulation of thyroid function , in addition to being important for the activation of vitamin B6. Its deficiency is related to lesions in the corner of the mouth and lips, seborrheic dermatitis and anemia”, emphasizes Soraya.
Chicory is also rich in vitamin K, which is important in blood clotting processes and bone health . According to Soraya, this vitamin is essential for those who have osteopenia and osteoporosis.
Potassium and iron
In addition to these vitamins, the expert says that chicory also contains potassium and iron . Important minerals in blood pressure control and anemia prevention, respectively.
4- Protects the liver and heart
A common characteristic among the different types of chicory is the bitter taste, which according to Soraya, is an excellent characteristic for liver health .
“Chicory has substances that protect liver cells against toxic agents and aggressors. These are phenolic compounds. They also have antioxidant action. Studies have found more than 40 types of these substances in chicory extracts, some of which still have an unknown action”, he comments.
The professional also explains that these same substances also help with cardiovascular health. “They prevent the oxidation of LDL (bad cholesterol), reduce total and LDL cholesterol levels, help the immune system function, help the body fight viruses and reduce blood sugar levels.”
5- Acts in the prevention and treatment of disease
Chicory is also a great vegetable to prevent and help treat different diseases.
“It has a good amount of carotenoids that have antioxidant action and are important in cancer prevention. It also helps to prevent neurodegeneration , and to treat diseases such as diarrhea , flu and burns,” says Soraya.
6- Combat stress and anxiety
In addition to providing benefits to our physical health, chicory is also beneficial to our mental health .
According to Soraya, its varied amount of nutrients helps our body to deal with stress. The main compounds that help in this segment are: the B and C complex vitamins; some minerals, such as: magnesium, manganese and calcium, in addition to its potent antioxidant action.
“It has in its composition sesquiterpene lactones, which have sedative and analgesic action, which can help both in stress and anxiety”, complements the nutritionist.
In fact, Soraya also comments that the sesquiterpene lactones are responsible for the bitter taste of the plant.
But despite chicory providing this calming effect and all the other benefits mentioned, the specialist warns: “you must remember that no food alone can do a miracle. It needs to be within a nutritional strategy so that all the benefits can be enjoyed by our body”.
Different types of chicory
There are different types of chicory. Soraya explains that this is due to the fact that the plant is part of a genus called cichorium , which has several species. “Among the best known are almeirão (cichorium intybus) and chicory (cichorium endivia L.)”, he says.
In addition to the two most popular, the nutritionist highlights some other known species. Are they:
– Endive (Cichorium endivia var. Foliosum) : it has smooth cream-colored leaves, compressed into compact heads measuring 10 to 12 cm in length.
– Crisp chicory (Cichorium endivia var. Crispum) : consumed mainly in salads. With pointed leaves (frisee), they grow in a rosette shape and are relatively bitter.
– Escarole (Cichorium endivia var.Latifolia) : It has broad leaves and is less twisted and is less bitter than curly chicory. It can be eaten with other fresh vegetables as part of a green salad, sauteed or chopped and added to soups and stews. Remember that in some regions chicory is also called endive .
– Catalonia: another variant of chicory, much appreciated by the Italians. It is also known as cicoria di catalogna or cicoria asparago . They taste bitter.
– Chicory from sugar leaves (Cichorium endivia var. Porphyreum) : it has leaves similar to lettuce, green on the outside and pale yellow on the inside. It has a very bitter taste.
Soraya explains if there is a nutritional difference between these different species: “Because they are of the same genus, they have a similar nutritional composition , so the important thing is to choose the type that best suits your taste, and that are in your daily life in a variety of ways” .
According to Soraya, the best way to consume chicory is with it raw , in salads, or in juices, as this way you can enjoy its full potential. “Overcooking can lead to loss of nutrients,” he explains.
The nutritionist suggests a tasty and nutritious chicory salad recipe. Check out:
chicory salad with orange
- ½ stalk of purple lettuce
- ½ chicory (or endive)
- ½ foot of endive
- ½ bunch of parsley
- 20 mint leaves
- 2 chopped skinless oranges (save the juice that comes out of the orange while it is chopped)
- ½ cup of blackberries (or your favorite fruit)
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 clove of grated garlic
- Salt to taste.
Wash and sanitize all vegetables. Peel and chop the orange. Save the broth. Arrange vegetables and fruits in a container.
In a bowl, pour the oil and orange juice, beat with a fork until the mixture is cloudy and thickens a little. Add garlic and salt and mix. Serve with the salad.
We’ve separated some more practical and healthy recipes with the plant:
- 4 egg units
- 1 bunch of chicory
- 4 tablespoons of milk
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- Black pepper to taste
- Salt to taste.
Wash the chicory leaves thoroughly. Lay them on top of a kitchen board and cut them into more or less thin strips. Separately, beat the eggs with milk, salt and pepper to taste and add the chicory. Milk makes the omelet softer.
Heat a frying pan with oil and add the mixture, letting it cook over low heat for 3 minutes. Turn the omelet over and cook for another 1 minute (remember not to let it cook for too long and not to leave the heat on high so that the chicory doesn’t lose its properties). Remove the omelet from the heat and help yourself.
NOTE: You can also add mushrooms, white cheese, basil and other spices of your choice.
- 200 ml of filtered water
- 200 ml of natural yoghurt
- 1 bunch of chicory
- ½ cup (of tea) of chives
- ½ cup (of tea) of parsley
- Salt and herbs to season to taste.
To start, sanitize the chicory, chives and parsley. In a blender, blend the washed leaves with all other ingredients. You can consume the soup cold or hot.
Chicory braised with zucchini
- 1 zucchini
- 1 bunch of chicory
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 small onion
- Olive oil to taste
- salt to taste
- Black pepper to taste.
Wash the chicory, chop into strips and set aside. Cut the zucchini into slices and set aside. Peel the onion and cut it into thin slices. Chop the garlic.
Grill the zucchini slices in a skillet with oil, onion and garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Add the chicory, lightly sauté and serve immediately.
- 1 chicory leaf
- 200 ml of water.
Place the chicory and water in a blender, blend well and serve immediately. You can sweeten it gently with honey.
Chicory juice with mint and lemon
- 1 lemon
- 1 chicory leaf
- 1 mint leaf
- 200 ml of water.
Beat chicory and mint with water in a blender. Squeeze the lemon and beat for another three minutes. Help yourself immediately.
Attention: the ideal is to consume the chicory juice right after its preparation so that its nutrients are not lost. The oxidation process, which takes place through heat and exposure to oxygen and light, can cause some nutrients and properties to lose their efficiency.
Chicory syrup and other plant consumption variations
The syrup chicory is popularly known and is widely used for colds and fevers control , especially children. Soraya says it can also be helpful for insomnia and digestive problems.
You can buy this ready-made syrup at health food stores or make the homemade version. Typically, the product sold is chicory syrup with manna, a medicinal fruit. It is contraindicated for pregnant women and diabetics.
The tea chicory is also very popularly used and provides benefits such as: control of appetite , relieving stomach pain and constipation, and liver problems.
And finally, the last variation is the chicory coffee , where the root of the plant is processed to replace the coffee. It is suitable for people with hypertension problem and who need to stop consuming caffeine. The product can also be found in health food stores.
Remembering that it is always necessary to consult a doctor or a nutritionist to assess your case individually and confirm that you can consume the syrup and chicory tea without risks. This way, you also know the correct way to consume them.
“The use of any type of tea should be done under the guidance of a specialized health professional. Pregnant women, lactating women and people with gallstones should seek help from a professional before starting the use of chicory tea”, reinforces Soraya.
How to make homemade chicory syrup?
Simmer 500g of fresh chicory root juice and 500g of sugar to give the consistency of syrup. Store in a tightly capped container, protected from light. Usually, it is recommended to take 1 spoon (of coffee) up to 3 times a day.
How to make chicory tea?
Put 20 g of chicory leaves and roots in 1 liter of boiling water and let stand for 10 minutes. Then strain and drink at least 3 times a day, before or after meals.
Chicory is a healthy food that does not pose health risks, but some precautions need to be taken in certain cases. Soraya says there is a restriction on chicory consumption for people who use anticoagulants .
“This issue of restricting the consumption of dark green vegetables, rich in vitamin K, such as chicory, for people who use anticoagulants, is an old approach, but it is frequently used in the country. The new approach guides adjusting the amount of medication to the person’s eating routine”.
In addition, people with illnesses such as ulcers, gastritis or gallstones need to moderate their consumption. People who suffer from heartburn should also be careful, as the bitter taste of chicory can stimulate the production of gastric acids.