In addition to cacao, carob is another popular natural additive for juice, and especially teas or coffee.
While looking into learning more about chocolate (link), you will undoubtedly somewhere along the way run into a discussion about carob and how it’s “healthier for you than chocolate”. But, when you look at the specifics, you discover that that the ‘real’ answer is: ‘it depends.’
But first, if you don’t know what carob is, let’s start with a quick introduction, or refresher for those who were tormented with it by well-meaning moms in the 70’s and 80’s.
While cacao is made from a bean from cacao fruit (technically, a “gourd”). On the other hand, carob is grown in a long bean pod (see the picture, above). When ground into powder, they appear quite similar, but smell and taste different. It is much more mild, and less bitter. It also has a considerably different nutritional profile.
Is Chocolate the Obvious Winner?
It’s interesting — both of our competitors provide beneficial dietary fiber, which supports digestion, lowers bad cholesterol, and regulates your blood sugar. But, when you start digging a little deeper chocolate seems to be the obvious winner!
Why Chocolate Wins
The minerals: cacao is a better source of iron, copper, magnesium and phosphorus. So when you’re looking for a food that ensures proper energy by supplying iron for red blood cell function, or if you’re looking for other essential minerals such as calcium, magnesium and phosphorus for stronger bones, copper to build healthy connective tissue, and chromium for better metabolism, you’re talking cacao!
FUN FACTS ABOUT CAROB:
- It is also known as locust bean or St. John’s Bread, mostly because of biblical legends surrounding what John the Baptist was eating in the wilderness: honey and wild locusts. Try mixing it with raw honey; it’s a DELICIOUS combo!
- It was eaten in ancient Egypt where it was used as a sweetener.
- The term “carat”, the unit by which diamond weight is measured alludes to the ancient practice of weighing gold and gemstones against the weight of its seeds.
Sounds pretty good, right? So what’s the complaining about if it’s got ALL these benefits and may be better to eat specifically for certain populations with health sensitivities?
Why isn’t carob at least the queen alongside cacao?
Why Carob Wins
But, does cacao/chocolate really win out? Look a little deeper — it seems to depend on your health goals.
Here are a few reasons: cacao/chocolate can be bad for some people: it is loaded with the methylxanthines (aka caffeine and theobromine). Both of these are powerful alkaloids which affect the central nervous system, and may hinder our ability to absorb calcium. Cacao is a stimulant. Carob is not a stimulant.
Additionally, carob is:
- rich in protein.
- alkaline, and so does not upset or compound gastric acidity levels.
- hypoallergenic, meaning its safe for asthmatics, or sufferers of migraines, auto-immunity, or even cancer.
- high in gallic acid, tannin and pectin, leading to balanced peristalsis.
- inhibits the development of pathogenic bacteria like E. coli
- higher in antioxidants than cacao
- used to treat dehydration and diarrhea in children since ancient times.
- great for restoring proper digestion, especially for those dealing with issues of malabsorption, due to disease like celiac sprue.
- one factor that may aid in weight loss.
And, medicinally, Carob is an expectorant.
And so the Winner Is . . .
Well, it depends . . .
The thing is: carob is not chocolate, and does not taste like chocolate. Additionally, while some may develop a taste for carob, it does not process as easily as cacao.
So, that summarizes why you don’t see carob everywhere. Oh, and it’s not addictive.
Carob is a wonderful food all by itself, and has wonderful benefits, but I feel its best to consider as a replacement for cacao if a) you don’t like cacao (or chocolate), or b) have issues with cacao or chocolate for any of your body’s neurological or adaptive stress systems.
After all, while it seems most everyone adores chocolate, it wears some folks out.
Carob is a great way to give your body a break, alkalize and try something new.
So, why not pick some up the next time you’re at the store and try adding a little to your diet this week?