|Blue-flowered chicory, a summer roadside staple.|
Q. I was reading the ingredient list for Fiber One bars, and the first ingredient is chicory root extract. Is that a tricky name for sugar? B.H. Holland, MI
A. No, chicory root extract is not a sugar. While chicory root extract has a little sweetness (one-tenth the sweetness of table sugar), it is more valued as a type of soluble fiber. This fiber is called inulin (not to be confused with the hormone, insulin) and is a polysaccharide similar to starch. The Fiber One bars are high in fiber with 9 grams fiber per bar, and the chicory root extract is part of the fiber count.
Chicory grows wild throughout the world. In West Michigan it is a summer roadside staple (along with Queen Anne’s Lace and other wildflowers). But the makers of fiber bars are not digging up chicory from along the road; it is grown as a crop for the fiber content. Chicory root also can be roasted and used as a caffeine-free coffee additive (a popular beverage type in New Orleans).