Inulin, a soluble dietary fiber, has increasingly become popular in the food processing industry. It may help with weight loss, promote gut health, lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and reduce the frequency of digestive issues.
There are two types of fiber- soluble and insoluble. They are all critical for good health, with the former mixing with food to reduce the frequency and severity of digestive issues and to promote fullness, eliminating the need to eat from time to time. Inulin is one such soluble fiber that forms a good addition to many industrial food processing stages. Studies show that it can aid weight loss, lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, promote fullness, and improve gut health. Peer into this article to understand what inulin is and the bearing it has on your health.
What is inulin?
The first step in appreciating the role of inulin in the human system is understanding what it is. Simply put, it is a soluble dietary fiber found naturally in some plants and vegetables and is often added to different stages of food processing because of its health benefits. Onions, asparagus, garlic, wild yams, artichokes, chicory roots, wheat, and bananas. Most industrial processes rely on the plants to extract inulin and add them to food processing stages, thereby improving food quality.
Why is inulin a major pick in the food industry?
Although inulin can be found naturally in some foods, not every single fruit and vegetable has this fiber. However, the food industry recognizes its benefits to the system, and manually adds it to foods. Inulin helps with a range of functions, including changing food texture, adding a creamy mouthfeel to food, eliminating excess fat and sugar to foods, boosting gut health, feeding the gut microbiota, boosting the immune system, and increasing fullness. What’s more, by improving one’s fullness, this fiber eliminates the need to eat from time to time, making the weight loss quest more successful. As if that’s not enough, the new texture baked products acquire when inulin is used to replace some flours is worth dying for, making this dietary fiber more important in the food industry.
How is inulin used in the food industry?
We must also understand how the food industry incorporates inulin in its products to appreciate this fiber even more. This is because many food items and candies we eat have this dietary component, but we might not know this. Interestingly, the food industry uses inulin in many ways, including as a substitute for baking flour. As such, it adds texture to the baked items while still providing a unique taste. Inulin is also used to replace margarine when preparing salad and dipping. This is because this soluble dietary fiber has a unique creamy mouthfeel, making the salads creamier and more enjoyable. Besides, inulin can also be added to food as a prebiotic additive. Such additions feature foods (or dietary elements) that feed the good bacteria (probiotics) found in the gut health, resulting in many health perks.
The health benefits associated with inulin
As stated earlier, inulin is a great dietary fiber. In fact, being soluble means that it has many health perks in the human system because it readily dissolves and mixes with food, exerting the associated health benefits. Here are some of the reasons behind the great popularity of inulin;
i. It boosts fullness
You can take food products that incorporate inulin or food items naturally packed with inulin if you are trying to boost your fullness. Inulin is soluble and mixes with foods to form a gel-like substance. This way, it slows down digestion and absorption of food along the alimentary canal, allowing more action time. The more the food takes to be digested and absorbed, the longer you will feel fuller, eliminating the need to eat from time.
ii. It may aid with bowel movements, preventing constipation
Constipation is a digestive problem resulting in the hardening of stool and pain as one passes it out. Thankfully, soluble fibers like inulin improve bowel movements, easing constipation. They not only slow down digestion to allow more action time but add bulk to stool. Besides, adding bulk to stool also lowers the chances of diarrhea, which results from several factors, including too much fluid in the system.
iii. It may lower bad cholesterol levels, improving heart health
Bad cholesterol levels and the ratio of good to bad cholesterols are two of the indicators of heart health. Since high bad cholesterol levels risk heart health when they oxidize and become more damaging, scaling them down goes a long way to improve heart health. Including inulin in your diet keeps cholesterol levels in check, safeguarding the heart.
iv. It adds to prebiotic content
Prebiotics refer to foods that feed the beneficial bacteria in the alimentary canal (prebiotics) and are critical for good health. Keeping the balance between good and bad bacteria in check and feeding the former means a healthier gut and improved health. Inulin is a prebiotic food that feeds the beneficial bacteria, keeping the gut healthy and boosting the overall immune system. As such, one’s frequency of infections and colds goes down.
v. It could help lower risks of colon cancers
Studies suggest that since inulin promotes gut health and overall immunity, it may help lower the risks of some forms of cancers. For instance, it could reduce colon and colorectal cancers risk. Still, these are findings from preliminary studies, and there is a need for further studies before recommending inulin for this role. However, it still doesn’t harm to add inulin to your diet since it offers more help than harm to your health.
vi. It may help lower diabetic risk
Diabetes is at the top of the world’s top killer diseases and claims millions of lives yearly. Did you know that you can lower your risk of getting diabetes by including dietary fibers such as inulin in your diet? Inulin is a carb that slows down the digestion and absorption of other carbs. As such, it goes a long way to prevent sudden sugar and insulin spikes, two factors that increase one’s risk to diabetes type 2. This explains why doctors recommend inulin-rich foods to prediabetics with positive observations.
Inulin is a dietary fiber naturally found in many foods, including artichokes, bananas, asparagus, garlic, wild yams, wheat, and chicory roots. The food processing industry adds it to food items because of its many health benefits. It can help with weight loss, lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, boost gut health and immunity, and promote fullness.