Chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes need daily management, which requires many of us to become our own healthcare provider. If it is diabetes you are managing, the first thing you learn is that you need to watch your carbohydrate intake, as carbohydrates are broken down into sugar, and cause excess sugar to enter the bloodstream.
However, there is one exception to the carbohydrate rule – and that exception is dietary fiber. Dietary fiber, such as chicory root fiber, is a component found in plant foods, and while it is a carbohydrate, it has no caloric value and no impact on blood sugar levels. This is because, as chicory root fibers pass from the mouth, to the stomach and into the small intestine, their molecular composition is too tough to be broken down by the enzymes that break down digestible foods. The chicory root fibers simply pass through relatively unchanged as they enter the colon.
When chicory root fibers reach the large intestine, they become inhabited by trillions of bacteria that begin a new process – fermentation. Fermentation creates short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) which nourish the beneficial bacteria, particularly Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli, which live in the colon.
Scientific research supports the idea that SCFAs, working in the pancreas, the gut and the liver, help insulin production and decrease insulin resistance. They also slow the digestion of carbohydrates. This allows sugar to be released slowly into the body without spiking blood sugar levels – promoting healthy blood sugar levels and better blood sugar control.
In fact, studies have shown that the more fiber a diabetic eats, the easier it is to manage blood sugar levels.
(Note: Be sure to note the difference between inulin, which is the official name of the carbohydrate fiber present in chicory root, and insulin, which is a hormone produced by the pancreas to help regulate blood sugar. They sound and look similar, but are very different.)
If you are trying to manage your blood sugar, take advantage of the natural benefits that result from adding foods supplemented with chicory root fiber to your daily diet. Look for products on the grocery shelf with chicory root fiber listed in the ingredient panel (which may also be listed as inulin, oligofructose or oligosaccharide). Along with a healthy diabetic meal plan approved by your doctor, adding foods with chicory root fiber will help lower your blood glucose levels overall as well as the insulin peaks that occur after a meal.