Eating gluten-free – What is inulin and why is it in my bread?

Inulin is a relatively new addition to gluten-free baking. A product most commonly extracted from chicory root, it can replace sugar and fat in some products, adds fiber, helps promote good bacteria in your gut, and can even help your body absorb calcium.

Inulin is a starchy substance found naturally in many plant roots or tubers, including onions, garlic, bananas, and dandelions. Inulin is a polysaccharide, a long chain of simple sugars that plants use to store energy. Because humans cannot digest these polysaccharides, inulin is considered dietary fiber when added to processed foods.

In the gut, inulin promotes the growth of healthy bacteria and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, including E. coli, Clostridium difficile And Candida albicans.

Research continues to find out how inulin helps with calcium absorption, but it appears that inulin makes calcium more available for the body to absorb through the colon, especially in adolescents and young adults. . This could be an important method for building stronger bones early in life and for delaying or preventing the development of osteoporosis later in life.

Commercially, inulin is usually extracted from chicory root although it can also be extracted from Jerusalem artichoke (sun starter) or made by fermentation. The root is chopped and mixed with water to make a wet pulp. The pulp is refined to remove and purify the chicory juice, the water is evaporated and the final product is spray dried to create inulin powder.

Commercial bakers add inulin to products to replace some of the fat and sugar and to modify texture and taste. Research reported in International Food Science and Technology found that adding inulin to gluten-free bread improved the sensory qualities of bread, which gluten-free products sometimes lack. Inulin also improves the texture of low fat ice cream and unsweetened plain yogurt and reduces the formation of ice crystals in frozen dairy products.

Inulin powder is sometimes sold as a standalone fiber supplement, to be mixed with water or added to food. Some people are very sensitive to its laxative effect; this tendency can be reduced by gradually adding inulin products to your diet rather than consuming a large amount at once.

Some gluten-free home bakers add inulin to products to improve the fiber content of their diet. Try adding a teaspoon of inulin to recipes for muffins, cookies, cakes, and pies. You may be able to decrease the sugar by an equivalent amount without noticing a difference. Try adding a tablespoon or more of inulin to yeast bread or bun recipes. You may be able to accumulate up to about two teaspoons of inulin per serving, which will significantly increase the fiber content of your bread or rolls. Inulin can alter the texture of your baked goods, so experiment with how much inulin works with a particular recipe.

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