Inulin belongs to a class of carbohydrates of carbon called fructans. A fructan acts like a prebiotic. Many have heard of probiotics, which are healthy bacteria related to intestinal health. Prebiotics, on the other hand, serve as food for probiotics, which in turn promote a healthy intestinal flora. In addition to promoting a healthy gastrointestinal tract and reducing constipation, inulin can stimulate bone health by improving calcium absorption and decreasing the risk of atherosclerosis by lowering triglyceride levels in the blood.
The Jerusalem artichoke comes from a sunflower species grown mainly for its tuber and used as a root vegetable. Jerusalem artichoke is also called sun root or topinambur, and 14 to 19 percent of its weight is composed of inulin fiber. Traditional artichokes provide the equivalent of 3 to 10 percent of their weight as inulin.
Chicory root, along with the Jerusalem artichoke, is one of the main sources of inulin fiber used by the food industry. Fifteen to 20 percent of the weight of the chicory root corresponds to the fiber inulin. The root of chicory can be difficult to use for cooking, but look for foods that contain this root, such as snack bars supplement, as part of their ingredients to get the benefit of inulin.
Leeks, Onions and Garlic
Leek bulbs, onions and garlic are good sources of prebiotic inulin. Three to 10 percent of the weight of the leeks, 2 to 6 percent of the weight of the onions and 9 to 16 percent of the weight of garlic correspond to inulin. Try using these tasty vegetables when cooking vegetables, stews, soups or sauces to increase the amount of inulin in the diet.
The banana provides small amounts of inulin, or about 0.3 to 0.7 percent of the weight of a fresh banana. Although the prebiotic content of bananas is relatively small compared to Jerusalem artichoke and chicory root, they can also contribute to increase inulin intake if eaten on a regular basis.
Rye and barley
Rye and barley are cereals that contain small amounts of inulin. For example, about 0.5 to 1 percent rye is inulin, and is 0.5 to 1.5 percent in barley. Choose bread made with rye flour and accompany your meals with barley instead of rice to get the benefits that inulin has to offer.