Today, a lot of people use carob to make chocolate-flavored cakes, cookies, and drinks. In fact, some people think that this tropical fruit is better than cacao. But, is it really a healthy alternative to chocolate? To answer this question, let us first find out the health benefits of carob.
The Nutritional and Health Benefits of Carob
1. A Good Source of Calcium and Potassium
Calcium is the most abundant nutrient in carob. According to researchers, a serving of carob and a cup of milk have the same amount of calcium. Remember, this specific mineral is not only valuable for healthy bones. This nutrient is also vital for other bodily functions. So, if you’re lactose intolerant, this fruit is a great addition to your diet.
Aside from calcium, carob is also a good source of potassium, iron, magnesium, niacin (vitaminB3), and riboflavin (vitamin B2).
2. Rich in Disease-Fighting Polyphenols
As you know, polyphenols are plant compounds that possess strong antioxidant activities. As such, the main role of these nutrients is to reduce oxidative stress. This occurs when the antioxidants hunt and neutralize the free radicals in your body. But, there’s more. A lot of health experts consider polyphenols as one of the best foods for the good bacteria in your gut.
So, what are the polyphenols in carob? According to a study, this chocolate alternative is rich in flavonoids and gallic acid. Because of these substances, some of the most valuable health benefits of carob are reducing inflammation, preventing cancer, and protecting your brain against some degenerative diseases.
3. A Natural Remedy for Diarrhea
Traditionally, carob was used as a natural remedy for diarrhea due the food’s sugar, tannin, and fiber contents. As you know, fiber can help normalize your bowel movement. Sugar, on the other hand, can solidify loose or watery stools. Lastly, as a natural astringent, tannins can dry your digestive tract – preventing the overgrowth of harmful microorganisms.
However, keep in mind that most store-bought carob bars have undergone mechanical processing that strips their healthful substances. For this reason, using raw or unrefined carob powder or beans is the best and most effective way to relieve diarrhea.
4. A Heart-Friendly Food
Aside from the above-mentioned health benefits of carob, this chocolate alternative is also good for the heart.
According to a study, carob was able to lower the total cholesterol of 88 volunteers with hypercholesterolemia. The main reason is due to the tropical fruit’s fiber and polyphenols.
5. An Excellent Treat for Diabetics
For most diabetic patients, the best way to prevent blood sugar spikes is to avoid eating baked goods, desserts, and other sugary products. But, there’s no need to give up chocolate-flavored desserts, especially if you have a sweet tooth.
As mentioned, carob is rich in fiber and polyphenols. These compounds are not only heart-friendly. They can also help manage your blood sugar levels. The best part is that, unlike cacao, carob is naturally sweet. Thus, you don’t have to add a lot of sugar in your chocolate-flavored recipes.
The Face-off: Carob Versus Cacao
As you probably know, raw cacao is a healthful product that can offer nutrients and antioxidants like polyphenols, iron, and magnesium. However, this product also contains oxalates or compounds that can block calcium absorption. Nonetheless, oxalates will only cause a problem if you’re taking too much of this anti-nutrient. Thus, chocolates are not harmful, especially when eaten occasionally. But, if you need more calcium in your diet, carob is definitely a great substitute for chocolate.
Caffeine and Theobromine
For some people, the caffeine-free nature of this chocolate alternative is one of the best health benefits of carob.
As you know, too much caffeine has been linked to various negative health effects such as nervousness, irritability, and sleeping problems. Nowadays, high caffeine intake is a common problem. In fact, a lot of people drink several cups of coffee or caffeinated drinks to fuel their day. Adding chocolate products to your snacks and meals will only raise your caffeine levels. Thus, using carob powder for your drinks and baked goods will certainly help lower your caffeine intake.
Aside from that, theobromine is the compound toxic to dogs and cats. Fortunately, carob does not contain this substance. As such, you can just leave carob products unattended without worrying if your pets can reach it. You can also use this tropical fruits to make treats for your furry friends.
However, be reminded that carob doesn’t possess the bitter-sweet characteristic of cacao. Thus, this healthful product may taste different from dark or milk chocolate. Nonetheless, carob has a flavor that you’ll certainly like.
- The Nutrients and Benefits of Carob (NCBI)
- Carob for Treating Diarrhea (Michigan Medicine)
- Carob Reduces Total Cholesterol (SpringerLink)
- The Difference between Carob, Cacao, and Cocoa (OneGreenPlanet)
- Oxalates in Cacao and Dark Chocolate (ResearchGate)