If your lactose intolerance or milk allergies are keeping you from your beloved chocolate, than carob might be the solution to all of your problems.
A non-dairy alternative to chocolate, carob is a superfood that is made from the leathery pods that grow on the carob tree native to the Mediterranean area.
The pulp harvested from inside the pod is delicious enough to be eaten directly, however it is often roasted and then ground into a powder which is similar in appearance and texture to cocoa.
Carob can be found in a number of chocolate-like forms such as powder, baking chips, and flavoring in candy, baked goods and some beverage mixes.
While cocoa comes from a bean, carob is actually considered to be from the legume family, making it a source of protein. Carob also contains a substantial amount of dietary fiber.
Although it does give recipes that dark chocolate color, carob does not have quite the same flavor as chocolate.
Raw carob is subtly sweet, with earthy undertones and an almost caramel-like flavor. Also unlike raw cocoa, carob requires less sweetener when used in recipes due to its natural sweetness.
Carob doesn’t undergo the same extensive processing that chocolate does to make it taste good, and therefore doesn’t have the additional sugar, corn syrups, additives and processed chemicals that chocolate does.
Health Benefits of Carob
Diabetes Management and Weight Loss
Compared to regular chocolate, carob has significantly less sugar, fat, and only 1/3 of the total calories.
This helps to prevent blood sugar spikes, making it a safe dietary choice for those who suffer from diabetes.
Due to the fiber and protein that it supplies, carob can also be helpful for those who are trying to lose weight without depriving them of their chocolate fix.
The fiber found in carob is considered special given that it inhibits the secretion of postprandial ghrelin, a hormone that tells the body that it is hungry.
This means that carob can help to reduce the chances of overeating, a beneficial trait to anyone watching their waistline.
Carob contains a large amount of insoluble fiber, which helps to lower bad cholesterol levels in the body.
The polyphenols in carob, which are located in the insoluble fiber, are responsible for the positive effects on bad cholesterol.
Studies have shown that people given carob fiber have significantly reduced their LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) as well as reduced the amount of triglycerides in the body.
Reducing bad cholesterol levels can reduce the chances of cardiovascular diseases such as high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
Protects Against Cancer
Carob contains over 20 polyphenol compounds, which consist of antioxidants and flavonoids, both of which have cancer fighting properties.
Two antioxidants in particular, quercetin and myricetin, are especially known for their cancer fighting abilities.
Regulates Digestive Health
Carob contains high levels of tannins, which help to keep your digestive system running properly by drying out the intestinal track.
Tannins help to keep your system regular and have been used to help ward of diarrhea in children for years.
Carob is caffeine free as well as theobromine free, the stimulant in chocolate that is harmful to animals. These stimulants can be addictive as well as cause allergies, even when eaten in small amounts, such as in a chocolate candy. Caffeine is the most active of the two stimulants, working directly on the brain to stimulate the senses and keep you alert. The brain isn’t the only organ stimulated by caffeine though. Caffeine causes an increase in heart rate as well as gastric juices, acting like a diuretic, which can cause an excess loss of water soluble vitamins B and C. Caffeine also triggers the release of the energy stores in the body, which means that sugars are released into the blood. This can increase the risk of diabetes over time as well as cause mood swings.
Other Health Benefits
- Carob contains twice as much calcium as dairy milk, helping to keep bones strong and healthy
- Unlike cocoa, carob contains no oxalic acid, which interferes with calcium absorption
- It keeps skin healthy and fights wrinkles with vitamin E
- Carob has both antiviral and antibacterial properties due to the gallic acid and tannins it contains
- Flavonols in carob act as anti-inflammatory compounds
- Carob contains a slew of vitamins and minerals, including A, B, B2, B3 and vitamin D, potassium, iron, and calcium
- It is gluten free, thus making it ideal for those who suffer from gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease
How To Use Carob
- Replace cocoa powder with carob powder in your recipes. You can either replace all of the cocoa powder or replace half, depending on your taste preference.
- Substitute carob chips for chocolate chips in cookies, bars, cakes, and muffins.
- Instead of baking chocolate, use three tablespoons of carob powder plus one to two tablespoons of milk or a non-dairy alternative if lactose intolerant.
- Set your oven 25 degrees lower when baking with carob exclusively as it can burn.
The health benefits of carob are significantly greater when eaten in its raw, natural state as opposed to when it is heated or processed.
Freshly prepared carob powder has roughly 40% more protein content than commercially prepared carob as well as a higher amount of the amino acid lysine.
This means that the nutrients available in carob will vary depending on the source and variety of the carob you buy.
Whether you have dietary restrictions or not, consider making the switch to carob powder to boost your health in all the ways listed above. Not only will you enjoy its rich, nutty flavor, but you will also benefit greatly from this tasty chocolate substitute.
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