Carob is more than just a sweet substitute for chocolate. In fact, its use for health benefits goes back 4,000 years. There is even mention of carob in the Bible as “St. John’s bread” or “locust bean.” (This is because people believed that John the Baptist was eating locusts.)
The ancient Greeks were the first to cultivate carob trees, which are now grown around the world. The evergreen trees grow to about 50-55 feet tall and produce dark brown pods filled with brown pulp and tiny seeds. Today, the pods are dried and ground into powder or processed and turned into carob gum.
Carob has been used throughout history as a remedy for diarrhea. Additionally, nineteenth century British chemists sold carob pods to singers to chew on to maintain healthy vocal chords and soothe the throat.
Read on to find out more about carob and how it’s used today.
1. It’s yummy. Carob powder is available at health food stores and is often used for baking. The gum is found in manufactured products that range from cosmetics to medications and foods. It’s used to improve the texture in foods such as baked goods, salad dressings, frozen desserts, and meat products. You can also purchase the gum in pill form as a dietary supplement.
2. It’s like chocolate, but healthy! Carob makes a good substitute for cocoa powder because it’s high in fiber but low in fat, contains antioxidants, has no caffeine, and is naturally sweet. It’s similar enough in taste that it can be swapped for chocolate when making certain candy as well.
3. It can help lower your cholesterol. Some medical benefits of carob likely come from its antioxidant content. Like cocoa, carob contains polyphenols, antioxidants known to reduce the risk of heart disease. Research shows that adding polyphenol-rich foods such as carob to your diet may help reduce high cholesterol.
4. It can ease tummy issues. Tannins, a dietary compound found in plants, are likely responsible for carob’s effectiveness in treating diarrhea and other stomach issues. In most other plants, tannins are soluble, meaning they dissolve in water, but carob’s tannins don’t dissolve in water. The tannins in carob help prevent harmful bacterial growth in the intestines, while the natural sugars in carob help thicken loose stool. One study found carob bean juice to be a safe and effective way to treat diarrhea in young children and adults.
5. It’s approved. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved carob as safe for cooking and eating. Carob gum is approved as an additive in food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.
However, as a dietary supplement, carob is not under the same FDA guidelines. Using high levels of carob may not be safe, particularly for pregnant women. Check with your doctor if you plan to take carob as a supplement.
Looking for a way to add carob to your diet? It can be used anywhere you’d use cocoa powder in baking. Since it’s sweeter than cocoa, you won’t need as much sugar. You can also add carob powder to smoothies.