Gluten Free Eating – What is Inulin and Why is it in My Bread?
Inulin is a fairly new addition to gluten free baking. A product most often extracted from chicory root, it can replace sugar and fat in some products, adds fiber, helps promote good bacteria in your gut, and may already help your body absorb calcium.
Inulin is a starchy substance found naturally in many plant roots or tubers including onion, garlic, bananas, and dandelions. Inulin is a polysaccharide, a long chain of simple sugars plants use to store energy. Because humans cannot digest these polysaccharides, inulin is considered a dietary fiber when it is additional to processed foods.
In the gut, inulin supports the growth of healthy bacteria and inhibits the growth of unhealthy bacteria including E coli, Clostridium difficile and Candida albicans.
Research is nevertheless continuing to discover how inulin assists in calcium absorption, but it appears that inulin makes calcium more obtainable for the body to absorb from the colon, particularly in adolescents and young adults. This could be an important method to build stronger bones early in life and to delay or prevent developing osteoporosis later in life.
Commercially, inulin is usually extracted from chicory root although it may also be extracted from Jerusalem artichoke (sun choke) or manufactured by fermenting. The root is chopped and mixed with water to make a wet pulp. The pulp is perfected to remove and purify the chicory juice, the water is disappeared 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 the texture and taste. Research reported in Food Science and Technology International found that adding inulin to gluten free bread improved the sensory qualities of the bread, something that is sometimes lacking in gluten free products. Inulin also improves the texture of reduced-fat ice cream and plain unsweetened yoghurt and it reduces the formation of ice crystals in frozen dairy products.
Inulin powder is sometimes sold as a stand-alone fiber supplement, to be mixed with water or additional to food. Some people are very sensitive to its laxative effect; this inclination may be reduced by little by little adding inulin products to your diet instead of consuming a large amount at once.
Some gluten free home bakers add inulin to products to enhance the fiber content of their diet. Try adding one teaspoon of inulin to muffins, cookies, cake and pie recipes. You may be able to decline the sugar by an equivalent amount without noticing a difference. Try adding a tablespoon or more of inulin to yeast bread or roll recipes. You may be able to build up to about two teaspoons of inulin per serving, which will significantly increase the fiber content of your bread or rolls. Inulin may alter the texture of your baked products, so experiment with the amount of inulin that works with any particular recipe.