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Carob (ceratonia siliqua) is a shrub from the pea family, native to the Middle East. The edible part is the fruit of the carob tree, which is found inside its long reddish-colored pods. The pods contain a very sweet pulp and hard, brown seeds.
Carob is a good source of fiber and protein, as well as the minerals magnesium, calcium, iron and potassium, and the minerals A, D and B. It contains the polyphenols catechin, gallic acid and quercetin - all powerful antioxidants. Carob also contains tannins that work as antioxidants, aiding the digestive tract.
Carob can be eaten raw, but its most popular use is from the extract of its seeds, which are used as a stabilizer in many commonly found foods, called Locust bean gum. However, this little-known fruit can also improve nutrition and has been used successfully as a remedy for digestive difficulties.
A study carried out on animals fed locust bean gum with a meal, found that it slowed the rate of food digestion, improved insulin response, and prevented rebound hypoglycemia (an abnormal lowering of blood glucose).
An Alternative to Chocolate
Carob beans are ground and used as a healthier alternative to chocolate and coffee, as they contain no caffeine, theobromine or oxalic acid, and only half the fat of cocoa. Their flavor is sweet and treacly, so is excellent in baking.
Tips on Using Carob
Carob is available in powder, chips and syrup, and is available prepackaged at health food stores.
Carob is similar in taste, but not as flavorful as chocolate. When using carob powder as a substitute for cocoa powder, replace one part cocoa with 1 ½ to 2 parts carob. It can be used in baking, for cakes, cookies etc. The chips can be substituted for chocolate chips in recipes.
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