Focus on Health with Dr. Janie Unruh, PhD

Carob: A suitable chocolate substitute?

With many people allergic to chocolate, or unable to have it due to unwanted effects, it is nice to know that there is a great tasting alternative out there.

Carob comes from 50-foot evergreen trees that produce green, glossy leaves and small red flower clusters. The mature trees produce long brown hanging pods that contain five to 15 carob seeds that are covered in sweet pulp.

It is the pulp that is dried and ground into carob powder. Carob syrup is made by adding water to the powder then boiling until it reaches a honey consistency. The seeds dried are used to make carob gum, which is an additive in cheeses, ice creams and a number of other common foods to help hold the consistency and improve texture.

Carob is often used as a confectioner like on carob-covered nuts, seeds or raisins, and made into carob bars, candies, pies, puddings, brownies, breads, other baked goods and beverages.

The powder can be made into carob chips and used like chocolate chips then added to cookies and trail mixes, and melted down to be used in place of melted chocolate. Replace your chocolate recipes one for one with carob.

Carob powder contains a very impressive nutrient panel comprising of only 57 calories in one fourth cup, and an impressive amount of completely bioavailable calcium, iron, vitamin B-6, and magnesium. That quarter cup brags of 23 grams of complex carbohydrates with 10 of those grams being fiber and 13 grams of natural sugar.

Carob is naturally sweet and does not need a large amount of sugar to mask its bitterness like chocolate, though it is not as rich as chocolate or cocoa.

One quarter cup also includes a negligible 8 mg of natural sodium, 813 mg natural potassium, 1.2 grams of superb, easy-on-the-kidneys, plant-based protein and only traces amount of total fat with 0.025 grams of saturated fat.

Only about two per cent of its calories come from fat compared to chocolate, which is a minimum of 50 per cent.

Carob is not fermented, contains no caffeine, is gluten free and is free of known allergic reactions for those who might be sensitive.

It is not a contributing factor to insomnia, breast cancer, muscle tremors, headaches, itching, rapid heart rate, depression, anxiety, or harmful effects on the digestive system, all of which chocolate can cause in some people.

Studies from 2010 and 2003 revealed 24 rich sources of polyphenol flavonoid antioxidant compounds, which are free radical scavengers and killers of cancer cells. Flavonoid research has shown these to be anti-inflammatory, antidiabetic, antihypertensive, prevents constipation, and lowers cholesterol due to its high fiber content.

Carob is also pet friendly since it does not contain theobromine, the compound toxic to cats and dogs in chocolate.

Pregnant women are often advised against consuming large amounts of carob.

A fun and interesting bible fact is that John the Baptist was known to eat honey and locusts, with locusts being carob, a great combination to enjoy together.

Give carob a try and your body will love you.

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