Natural Health Tips

Carob: A Nutritionally Superior Alternative to Chocolate

Carob is a natural food that has a slightly sweet taste resembling chocolate, but unlike chocolate it contains no stimulants and has been found to improve nutrition and digestion.

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.

Health Benefits

Digestive Problems

The high fiber content of carob, together with the tannins it contains, all help to promote digestive health. One study found that carob flour was effective in the treatment of diarrhea in children.

Weight Management

A study of the benefits of carob pulp indicated the fat-burning properties of the fruit.

diabetes

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.

Carob powder can be substituted for cocoa powder in any recipe. Carob is also available in bars and other confectionery, found in health food shops.

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.

References

  • Fortier D, Lebel G, Frechette A (June 1953). Carob flour in the treatment of diarrhoeal conditions in infants. Can Med Assoc J 68 (6): 55761.

  • Makris D.P., Keflas P. Carob Pods (Ceratonia Siliqua L) as a Source of Polyphenolic antioxidants. Food Technol. Biotechnol. 2004:42(2);105-108.

  • Garcia AL, Gruendel S, Katz N, Koebnick C, Mueller C, Otto B, Speth M, Steinger J, Weickert MO. Carob pulp preparation rich in insoluble dietary fiber and polyphernols enhances lipid oxidation and lowers postprandial acylated ghrelin in humans. J Nutr. 2006 Jun; 136(6):1533-1538.

  • Graubaum HJ, Grunwald J, Haber B, Harde A, Koebnick C, Zunft HJ. Carob pulp preparation rich in insoluble fibre lowers total and LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic patients. Eur J Nutr. 2003 Oct; 42(5):235-242.

  • Peng G, Tsai AC. Effects of locust bean gum on glucose tolerance, sugar digestion, and gastric motility in rats, J Nutr. 1981 Dec; 111(12):2152-2156.