The most dangerous word in food production right now might be “artificial.” No one wants to ingest something without knowing where it comes from. If you’ve ever wondered what is in prebiotics such as inulin and oligofructose, this video is a great place to start.
Turns out they’re all-natural and made from vegetables. Inulin comes from the root of chicory, a woody plant native to North America and Australia. The process of extracting the inulin from the chicory root is a lot like getting sugar out of sugar beets, involving the use of boiling hot water.
The Best-Known Prebiotics
Inulin and oligofructose are the most studied forms of prebiotics, offering the widest variety of health benefits based on human studies over the past 15 years or so. Their benefits include:
- Improving digestive health by helping to balance intestinal flora
- Strengthening the body’s defense system by allowing us to absorb larger amounts of calcium
- Fighting obesity by maintaining a healthy weight
On their own, inulin and oligofructose both have their benefits, but they are more effective when paired together in supplements. They add balance to an already-healthy diet.
Working Together for Better Nutrition
The two can also be used as substitutes for sugar or fat in processed foods, such as granola bars, salad dressing or yogurt. This gives a bit of dietary fiber punch to foods that otherwise are low in nutrients.
Inulin and oligofructose are easy additions because they don’t negatively affect the taste of the product they’re added to. In fact, with their neutral taste, it’s nearly impossible to tell that they’re present, as evidenced by a large number of products that add these prebiotics.
Consumers, for their part, associate the addition of inulin and oligofructose with an increase in fiber and thus a healthier product. Treats made with these prebiotics can be enjoyed without guilt, and because they’re all natural, people feel better about eating them rather than processed foods.
Researchers believe that prebiotics will become even more important in the future, as we discover the other benefits inulin and oligofructose have for our guts, our overall digestion and our health.