Do a quick Google search for chicories, and you’ll see headlines claiming that it’s healthier than kale. You might think, “But how can anything be healthier than kale?”
And then you think, “Wait. What on earth is a chicory?”
Chicory is a green, leafy plant with a bitter taste. Chicory originated in Europe, but has since been brought to America where the plant grows wild and can be found proliferating all over the landscape. Not familiar with chicory? You might be surprised to know that radicchio, endive and escarole are all members of the chicory family. Radicchio is often called Italian chicory and is known for its beautiful, red colored leaves.
Chicory has ancient roots in mysticism and healing. Believed to be a liver detoxifier and blood purifier, it was a regular part of our ancestor’s diets. It has stood the test of time.
Recently, a researcher out of William Patterson University, Jennifer Di Noia, set out to determine which foods are nutritional powerhouses, and the CDC published her results. No surprise, chicory made the list. So, what makes chicories so super?
Polyphenols, to start.
Studies suggest that there is a correlation between regular consumption of foods high in polyphenols and a longer life. These powerful nutrients protect us from disease and inflammation.
Chicory is so concentrated in polyphenols, it contains double the amount of spinach!
Chicory is also an excellent source of inulin and fiber. It acts as a prebiotic, preventing constipation and promoting gut health. The research is piling up supporting the direct effects that a healthy gut has on your immune system. Some experts contend that your gut comprises about 50 percent of your immunity.
But wait, there’s more! Chicory contains a wealth of micronutrients. Selenium is abundant in the leafy green. This nutrient helps your thyroid function properly. Chicory is also a great source of vitamin C, potassium, B9 and beta-carotene. To test your knowledge on these vitamins try our short quiz here.
The cherry on top? One cup of chicory contains just seven calories. So feel free to dive in to the green stuff!
Wondering how to enjoy chicory? It may be too bitter to use as a salad base alone, but its deep flavor adds the perfect dimension to many dishes. Grilling and roasting will create a milder flavor. Wilt and drizzle it with olive oil, salt and pepper for a warm Italian salad. You could toss it with a more buttery leafy green like Bibb lettuce. Try adding it to your sandwich for a delicious bite, or your favorite soup recipe.
Best news of all: Chicory is an unlimited food for those following the Nutrisystem program.