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The carob tree, or Ceratonia siliqua, has fruit that looks like a dark brown pea pod, which carries pulp and seeds. Carob is a sweet and healthy substitute for chocolate. Using it for health benefits goes back 4,000 years to ancient Greece.
According to the “Encyclopedia of Healing Foods,” 19th-century British chemists sold carob pods to singers. Chewing on carob pods helped singers maintain healthy vocal cords and soothe and cleanse their throat. Read on to find out more about how people use carob today and what kind of health benefits it offers.
Carob is available to buy as:
- dietary pills
You can eat carob pods when they’re fresh or dried, too. People who add carob to their diet have seen benefits like weight loss and decreased stomach issues.
Ancient Greeks were the first to grow carob trees, which are now grown all over the world, from India to Australia.
Each carob tree is a single sex, so it takes a male and female tree to produce carob pods. A single male tree can pollinate up to 20 female trees. After six or seven years, a carob tree is able to produce pods.
Once a female carob tree is fertilized, it produces hundreds of pounds of dark brown pods filled with brown pulp and tiny seeds. The pods are about 1/2 to 1 foot in length and about an inch wide. People harvest pods in the fall.
You can still enjoy your favorite sweet treats like fudge, chocolate milkshakes, and brownies. The most common use for carob is in food. Carob tastes similar to chocolate and is a great alternative because it has:
- a lot of fiber
- low amounts of fat and sugar
- no caffeine
- no gluten
Because carob is naturally sweet, it can help satisfy your sugar cravings. If you do find that it’s not sweet enough for your taste, try adding stevia.
When cooking, you can substitute carob for chocolate in a 1-to-1 ratio. You can also substitute carob chips for chocolate chips.
If you’re lactose-intolerant or choose to be vegan, carob is also a great dairy-free alternative. Check out this link for healthy vegan recipes, including recipes for carob-freezer fudge and a carob shake.
Carob is in many skin care products and medications. It’s usually labeled as C. siliqua, which is the scientific name for carob gum. The gum comes from the seeds, which are 35 percent gum.
Carob gum is mainly used in cosmetics as:
- an adhesive or binder
- a stabilizer for liquids
- a fragrance
- a texture enhancer
Many companies use carob gum to enhance the texture of food. You can find carob gum in many processed foods, such as baked goods, salad dressings, and meat products.
Because of their similar taste, people often compare carob to chocolate. However, it’s healthier than chocolate.
- has twice the amount of calcium compared to cocoa
- is free of a migraine-triggering compound
- is caffeine- and fat-free
- contains oxalic acid, which interferes with calcium absorption
- can trigger migraines in some people
- is high in sodium and fat
Carob is also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals. Carob has vitamins:
It also has these minerals:
Carob is also high in fiber, pectin, and protein.
Carob powder nutrition facts
You can see how many vitamins and minerals a typical serving of carob powder has in the table below.
Unsweetened carob chips contain about 70 calories per 2-tablespoon serving, with:
- 3.5 grams (g) of fat
- 7 g of sugar
- 50 g of sodium
- 8 g of carbohydrates
- 2 g of fiber
- 2 g of protein
- 8 percent of the recommended daily calcium intake
Landscapers can use carob trees for land care. The trees are resistant to drought, take to rocky arid soil, and are tolerant of salt. The glossy green leaves are fairly flame-resistant, which makes carob trees a great fire barrier. You can also use carob pods to feed livestock.
Why eat carob?
Adding carob to your diet can provide you with many health benefits. Since carob is naturally high in fiber and has no caffeine, it’s ideal for people with high blood pressure. The low sugar and fat content also makes it a great dietary addition or chocolate substitution for people looking to lose weight. The high levels of vitamins, such as vitamins A and B-2, are good for your skin and eye health.
Adding or substituting carob into your diet can help:
- lower your cholesterol
- reduce your risk of heart disease
- ease stomach issues
- treat diarrhea
Like cocoa, carob contains polyphenols, which are antioxidants known to reduce the risk of heart disease.
Carob for digestive issues
You may want to look into eating carob if you have digestive issues. Carob’s tannins, which are dietary compounds found in plants, are different from regular plant tannins. Regular plant tannins dissolve in water and prevent digestion, but carob’s tannins don’t. Rather, they have a drying effect on the digestive tract that helps tackle toxins and prevent harmful bacterial growth in the intestines.
The natural sugars in carob also help thicken loose stool. Research suggests carob bean juice can be a safe and effective way to treat diarrhea in young children and adults. Check with your doctor before taking carob as a supplement.
Does carob have side effects?
Carob is considered safe with low risk. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved carob for use in food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics.
Although carob allergies are rare, one study from Spain found that people with nut and legume allergies might show allergic reactions to carob gum. These reactions included rashes, asthma, and hay fever. But the study also reported that people who are specifically allergic to peanuts were able to eat cooked carob seeds and carob gum without having any issues.
As a dietary supplement, carob isn’t under the same FDA guidelines. Consuming a lot of carob may not be safe, particularly for pregnant women. It may cause unintended weight loss and decreases in blood sugar and insulin levels.
Carob is an excellent alternative to chocolate, especially if your body has digestive or dietary issues, such as gluten-intolerance. You can use the powder and chips the same way as you would chocolate in almost all recipes. And you can enjoy your favorite sweet treats with fewer calories, fat, and sugar.
The FDA has approved carob for consumption and as an additive in food, medications, and cosmetics. As an ingredient, you can purchase carob as gum, powder, or chips at most specialty or health food stores. As a supplement, it’s available in pill form at most pharmacies. It’s possible to have an allergic reaction to carob, but this is rare.