Though chicory is not exactly the type of food you will find yourself chomping into on its own, the root is added to a number of everyday foods. Most commonly, chicory root is used to add fiber to packaged snacks.
When eaten in foods, chicory fiber is likely safe during pregnancy though moderation is encouraged. Eating some chicory in foods may even provide some health benefits while pregnant.
Similar to herbal ingredients, large and supplemental amounts of chicory are best avoided simply because there is currently not enough research to establish safety.
Knowing which herbs, supplements, and natural additives can get confusing, and there is no shortage of conflicting information. I’ll walk you through what current research says, as well as the pros and cons to various types of chicory.
Is Chicory Root Safe During Pregnancy? Including Chicory Fiber
Chicory is a root vegetable with a similar appearance to parsnips. The chicory root has been used in traditional medicine for centuries as a way to remedy constipation and GI distress. Nowadays, the root is typically dried, ground, and sometimes roasted.
Several new and promising studies have shown that pregnant women who eat chicory have higher levels of beneficial gut bacteria. One particular type of chicory-loving bacteria, Bifidobacteria, has even been associated with higher blood folate levels (source: Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition).
Similar effects of chicory root are seen in animal studies, where pregnant rats fed chicory-rich diets were less likely to have low-birth-weight offspring (source: Journal of Applied Microbiology).
Knowing that chicory root fiber might be beneficial during pregnancy, does that also mean it’s safe? Currently, there is limited research about how chicory affects pregnancy, especially when it comes to safety (Source: BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies).
What we do know is that the studies I mentioned above were all based on pregnant women eating chicory in their diets, not taking large supplemental amounts.
When chicory root fiber is added to foods, it is typically in smaller amounts. Though there is no conclusive research on the safety of dietary chicory during pregnancy, eating some chicory fiber in foods is likely safe in moderation. Loading up on chicory may also cause abdominal cramping and discomfort thanks to its mild laxative effect.
Chicory root is often added to packaged snacks to boost the fiber content without sacrificing taste. For example, Fiber One, Metamucil, and think! bars all rely on chicory root to supply their high fiber.
When chicory fiber is added to foods and beverages in this way, that means the chicory is considered a food additive or ingredient. These products must all be evaluated and regulated by the FDA.
On the other hand, there are chicory root supplements. These usually come as capsules, tablets, or powders. Since chicory fiber is considered a dietary supplement, not food or medication, these products are not regulated.
Supplements also typically contain larger, medicinal doses. Because studies have not shown that large amounts of chicory are safe, it is best to err on the side of caution and avoid chicory fiber supplements during pregnancy.
Can Chicory Root Cause Uterine Contractions or Miscarriage?
Head to any motherhood blog or forum and you’ll likely find rumors about chicory swirling. Across the internet, there are reports that eating large amounts of chicory can lead to uterine contractions, prompt the menstrual cycle, and miscarriage.
Hearing (or reading) these rumors can be terrifying for anyone, but especially frightening during pregnancy! Despite a number of websites reporting this, none of them named their source(s). I was also not able to find even a single scientific or research article proving this to be true.
Interestingly, these rumors focused only on taking large, supplemental or medicinal amounts of chicory.
What we do have is research on the benefits of chicory fiber for a healthy pregnancy. While none of the studies looked at large amounts of chicory, based on the studies above it is likely that dietary sources of chicory are safe when eaten in moderation.
Is Inulin Safe During Pregnancy? Is it the Same as Chicory?
We already know that chicory is high in fiber- that’s what makes it great in high-fiber snacks! The type of fiber in chicory is known as inulin. Inulin may also be referred to as a fructan, which is the ‘family’ of fiber it belongs to based on its chemical structure (source: Journal of Nutrition).
Although most inulin that is added to packaged foods is produced from chicory, the root vegetable is not the only place inulin is found. Inulin is also one of the types of fiber in other veggies, including asparagus, bananas, and onions (source: WebMD).
No matter which plant inulin is sourced from, the recommendations are similar to chicory. Avoid inulin supplements and stick to smaller amounts of inulin, such as what’s typically found in foods. It’s likely okay to eat packaged foods that contain inulin fiber, but this is best in moderation.
Is It Safe to Drink Chicory Coffee or Tea When Pregnant?
Toasty and roasty with a bitter flavor similar to the beloved taste of coffee, chicory grounds are sometimes used as a coffee replacement. The flavors are so similar even the world-famous Cafe Du Monde in the French Quarter, New Orleans uses a blend of chicory grounds and traditional coffee beans in their signature coffee.
One big way chicory differs from coffee? Chicory grounds are naturally caffeine-free. If you’re having a difficult time giving up or cutting back on your daily coffee (or coffees) during pregnancy, chicory coffee or tea can sound like an appealing alternative.
If you are going to drink chicory coffee or tea, keep in mind that it is best to consume chicory in moderation. Blends made from chicory and traditional coffee beans are likely still caffeinated, and count towards your daily caffeine intake.
Chicory is getting easier and easier to find in everyday foods and snacks. Hopefully this article provided you with practical guidance on how much may be safe as well as what to look for when reading packages.