You may have noticed the chocolate-like nuts, bars, or powders in health stores made with carob but are not sure what it is and how it differs from chocolate.
Is it any better? Are there health benefits to choosing carob over your beloved chocolate?
Well, yes and no.
Allow us to explain by comparing the differences between carob and chocolate.
The Difference Between Carob and Chocolate
Although carob and chocolate seem very similar at first glance, they are very different. Each has unique nutritional and taste profiles.
To determine the differences and which is better for you, it's more of a comparison between carob and cocoa (the main ingredient of chocolate.)
Where Carob Comes From
Carob comes from the pods of the Meditteranean carob tree native to Greece and surrounding regions. These trees are now grown all over the world. The fertilized carob tree produces hundreds of seed pods from where the carob is harvested.
Where Chocolate Comes From
Chocolate is harvested from the beans inside the pods of the Theobroma cacao tree, native to Central and South America but now primarily grown in Africa.
How Carob Is Made
The edible pods of the carob tree are harvested, dried, or roasted and broken down into several different forms such as powder, chips, syrup, or extract. This then acts as a natural alternative to chocolate.
Carob pods can be eaten fresh or dried, though this is not common.
How Chocolate Is Made
Cacao beans are removed from the pods and fermented, creating the bitter taste that raw cacao and dark chocolate have.
After fermentation, the beans are dried or roasted and then processed into cocoa (the roasted beans) and whichever form of chocolate they are destined for.
To make chocolate, the cocoa is turned into a liquid and mixed with cacao butter, sugar, milk, and other ingredients.
Carob Vs. Chocolate - A Comparrison Breakdown
How do chocolate and carob compare in taste and nutrition? Let's compare!
The Difference In Flavor
Carob and chocolate both have distinct taste profiles and are not similar in taste. You may be surprised and disappointed when expecting carob to be an exact replacement for chocolate.
Cocoa (and chocolate): Has an intense, round flavor but is very bitter if not mixed with sweeteners.
Carob: Is naturally sweeter with a slightly nutty taste and less bitter than chocolate. It does, however, not have that luxurious taste like chocolate.
This makes carob an excellent option for people with diabetes or those who wish to eat less sugar.
The winner: This is up to you, but carob gets our vote cause it is naturally sweeter.
Minerals and Nutrients
Cocoa: Cocoa is higher in magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, and phosphorus.
Carob: Carob is higher in folate and calcium- it contains about three times more calcium than cocoa.
2-tablespoons of cocoa provide 1.6 milligrams of iron and 409 micrograms of copper. In contrast, carob contains a mere 0.4 milligrams of iron and 69 micrograms of copper.
2-tablespoons of cocoa also provide 81 milligrams of magnesium and 80 milligrams of phosphorus. In contrast, carob provides only 6 milligrams of magnesium and 9 milligrams of phosphorus.
Both contain other essential vitamins like vitamin A and B.
The winner: Cocoa
Carob and cocoa powder both contain approximately 25 calories in 2 tablespoon servings.
They can fit nicely into a balanced diet as it makes up less than 2 percent of your daily calorie intake if you follow a standard 2,000-calorie diet.
The winner: Both
Cocoa: 1 Ounce of pure cacao powder contains 4 grams of fat, while 1 ounce of unsweetened chocolate contains 15 grams of fat.
Carob: 1 Ounce of pure carob powder contains 0 fat.
Carefully examine the labels as both carob and cacao/chocolate products can contain hydrogenated, refined fats. The best is to buy raw carob or chocolate powders and make your own treats at home to avoid refined fats and added sugars.
The winner: Carob in its pure form is great if you follow a low-fat diet.
Sugar and Carbohydrates
Another distinctive difference between carob and chocolate is the carbohydrate and sugar content.
Cocoa: Cocoa powder contains 16 grams of carbohydrates and 0 grams of sugar per ounce.
Carob: Carob flour contains 25 grams of carbohydrates and 14 grams of sugar per ounce.
However, you won't eat plain carob or cocoa powder, right? That's just not tasty at all... So this comparison will come down to the added ingredients that will alter the sugar and carbohydrate content.
A chocolate bar may be loaded with sugar and milk to offset its bitter taste. Or carob-coated nuts may contain loads of added fat to mimic the richness of chocolate. It's imperative to carefully examine the labels to compare.
The winner: By purely looking at the sugar and carbohydrate content, cocoa wins.
Both carob and cocoa are excellent sources of dietary fiber that can help with constipation, regulate blood sugar levels, and lower cholesterol.
Cocoa: 1 Ounce of carob powder provides around 4.8 grams of fiber.
Carob: 1 ounce of carob powder provides around 11 grams of fiber.
Carob is great if you have digestive issues as carob's tannins have a drying effect on the digestive tract, helping tackle toxins and prevent harmful bacterial growth in the intestines.
The winner: Definitely carob
Stimulants and Caffeine
One of the most crucial differences between carob and chocolate or cocoa is the stimulants they contain and caffeine content.
Cocoa: Cocoa and chocolate contain caffeine and theobromine, which are stimulants and can become addictive. Some people can be susceptible to these and experience headaches, jitters, poor sleep quality, and acne.
Chocolate also contains oxalic acid that can inhibit mineral absorption and cause kidney stones.
Carob: Contains no caffeine, theobromine, oxalic acid, or other stimulants. This makes it a fantastic alternative for people with heart rate, sleep, or blood pressure problems.
The winner: Carob
Both carob and cacao can boast about having high antioxidant content. The two main bioactive plant antioxidant compounds are polyphenols and flavonoids. Antioxidants are crucial for neutralizing oxygen-based free radicals and toxins in your body.
Cocoa is one of the best sources of antioxidants you will find. According to Cornell University food scientists, a cup of hot cocoa has up to three times the antioxidants found in a cup of green tea.
The winner: Cocoa beats carob in this category.
So Which is Better, Carob or Chocolate?
Looking at our comparison above, it is a win for carob with 5 to 4. But, only because of the naturally sweet taste of carob. The pros and cons of both balance it out and make it a tie.
Both offer their unique benefits and drawbacks, and both are ok for enjoying as a sweet treat.
Keep in mind, this is the case when they are minimally processed and can significantly change depending on other ingredients used.
The sensitivity to caffeine and theobromine will also be a deciding factor.
Also, dark chocolate may be a better choice if you're watching carbs. And if you're trying to cut back on fat, carob is the healthier choice.
How To Use Carob
If you are looking for something to satisfy your sugar cravings, carob will do the trick as it is naturally sweet. You could sweeten it even more with stevia should you wish.
In any recipe, you can replace cocoa powder or chocolate with carob in a one-to-one ratio. You can still enjoy your favorites like fudge, chocolate milkshakes, cookies, and brownies.
If you want to gradually get used to the taste of carob, or keep the rich taste of chocolate, swap out 50% of the cocoa with a suitable carob replacement, i.e., powder or chips.
When you are trying to eat healthily and cut out excess fat or sugar, you'll want to look at the overall ingredients of any sweet treat. Always read any chocolate or carob product's ingredients and nutritional content lists carefully.
Carob and cocoa both have their place, and it will come down to personal preference and the need to avoid stimulants.
Just know that carob may not please everyone's taste buds. Instead, view it as a unique alternative than expecting carob to replace your beloved chocolate.
Sweetened and unsweetened chips
Carob coated peanuts, almonds, raisins,
And carob powder.