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Inulin is a dietary fibre that is becoming increasingly well-known in the food industry as a natural sweetener. Since we do not use industrial sugar at foodloose, inulin caught our eye as a sugar alternative for our product development. Recently, we have studied the topic thoroughly, and we have noticed that there is a lot of interesting information about the dietary fibre. Many people do not know about inulin, or they consider it to be something disturbing, even harmful, for the gastrointestinal tract. In this article you will learn about inulin and it's positive effects on the gastrointestinal tract.

What is inulin?

The natural sweetener inulin is a water-soluble dietary fibre and a beneficial nutrient. On the one hand, inulin serves as a carrier of naturally sweet flavours and can be used as a sweetener substitute to avoid refined sugar or similar alternatives. The taste is not the only benefit, however: On the other hand, the intestinal bacteria are also happy about the prebiotic messenger.

We don't draw any energy from inulin, nevertheless our body derives a lot of positive effects from the ingredient. Since it consists of polysaccharides (multiple sugars) and fructose chains, inulin is classified as a fructan. The fructose is not absorbed on its way into the intestine. So it's a non-digestible sugar and therefore classified as dietary fibre not sugar. Inulin only has a very small effect on the blood sugar level. That is why we also plan to use inulin in future foodloose products. This way, we can reduce the amount of sugar and increase the fibre content at the same time.

How does inulin work in the body?

As a dietary fibre, inulin is carried through the gastrointestinal tract undigested. The human digestive enzymes do not have the ability to break down this beneficial nutrient. In fact, this is not even necessary: the important intestinal bacteria in the large intestine take over the processing. This is where most of the intestinal flora resides. Prebiotics like inulin are required for a healthy intestinal flora.

There are good and harmful intestinal bacteria. The former are, for example, the good bifidus bacteria. They utilise the inulin for growth and reproduction and thereby increase the number of beneficial intestinal bacteria. This results in less space for bad bacteria. Providing your body with enough inulin is important in order to ensure sufficient nutrition for your good intestinal bacteria. Otherwise you risk starving your gut bacteria. They would then become tired, reduce in number and size, and give the bad intestinal bacteria more room to flourish. So in order to address this correctly, a balanced diet should always be kept in mind.

Which foods contain inulin?

There are various foods that are good for the intestinal flora. The dietary fibre is found in various plants that are also popular in a healthy diet:

  • Artichoke
  • Parsnip
  • Leek
  • Chilled boiled potatoes
  • Topinambur
  • Chicory
  • Black salsify
  • Garlic
  • Onions

We consume approximately three to eleven grams of inulin daily in our diet. According to experts, health problems can only occur if we consume more than 30 grams.
However, very sensitive people may experience discomfort such as flatulence and diarrhoea even when eating small amounts of inulin-containing foods. This happens when the gastrointestinal tract is not used to the intake of dietary fibre. In this case, the prebiotic should be introduced slowly. With time, the inulin is better tolerated and the body can benefit from the positive effects.

The very special dietary fibre

Inulin can be a real blessing for the human body. Although no energy is drawn from the ingredient, the intestinal flora benefits from the intake of inulin to a great extent. If the good intestinal bacteria are supplied with sufficient prebiotics, this leads to a variety of positive long-term health benefits:

  • As a dietary fibre, inulin provides a long-lasting satiation
  • Low influence on blood sugar levels
  • Thanks to its swelling effect in the large intestine, the frequency and volume of bowel movements is increased; this prevents constipation and intestinal diseases; the reduced internal pressure in the large intestine can prevent haemorrhoids
  • Positive effect on healthy intestinal flora, leading to a strengthened immune system
  • Better absorption of calcium and magnesium
  • Reduce the level of "bad" cholesterol LDL
  • Reduced risk of bowel cancer

These aspects naturally lead to other positive side effects. For example, if the satiation lasts longer, cravings and unwanted gains in weight can be reduced. The absorption of calcium and magnesium is essential for good bone structure and muscle functioning, among other things. The intestinal flora is crucial for a healthy body and should be taken care of.

Conclusion on Inulin

If you want a healthy intestinal flora, you should pay attention to your dietary fibre and inulin balance. Don't overwhelm your body with too much inulin. When consumed in appropriate amounts, inulin is a real boost for our gut bacteria and thus for our immune system and our defensive forces.


Photo credit: Piotr Eliasz / Pixabay

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