There is much debate regarding our beloved chocolate. The longstanding hero of my sweet-toothed friends, the perfect ending to every evening. Chocolate is the better looking older brother, and yet, Carob, the squeaky wheel of the family, has entered the picture to hijack Chocolate of its good name.
If there is one thing you should know about me, it’s that I believe in making drastic life changes in order to best suit my health needs. I also believe in encouraging others to do the same (hi, welcome to my blog!). So it should mean something when I say I eat chocolate, and if you want to, I believe you should too.
Here is Everything You Need to Know About Chocolate vs. Carob
The “what’s what” on Carob
Carob is the product of a Carob tree (and apples are the product of an apple tree, and so on). The carob tree produces brown pods that contain pea like seeds. What you might not have suspected is that it is not the seeds that we eat, but instead, it is the ground up pod.
Carob looks an awful lot like chocolate and can even be purchased in chips, bars, cakes (if you live near the right kind of health food bakery)...basically, in every form which chocolate exists, you can also find a carob substitute. Don’t let the similarities fool you, the taste will discourage you from using the words “chocolate substitute”. While chocolate has its own distinct flavor profile, so does carob. Many enjoy the taste of carob (I am one of them), but to say that carob tastes like chocolate is to say that red looks the same as yellow.
Some of the noted benefits of carob are its caffeine content (or lack thereof), it’s high in fiber and it offers antioxidants and minerals. At the peak of the hipster revolution, you could find carob offered as an ice cream topping, a side pairing to your perfectly brewed espresso (which is ironic considering those who avoid chocolate for its caffeine content) and at every health food store. To find the nutritional information about carob, click here.
Carob isn’t the villain, but….
Before we move on, I think it’s important to note that Carob isn’t a bad guy. What I do believe to be disheartening about the carob fad is how exaggerated the benefits of carob have become in comparison to chocolate. For example, carob offers a hearty amount of fiber per serving, especially when considering that it is a “treat” food. Nevertheless, Chocolate offers nearly the same amount of fiber.
My problem with this debate is not the good reputation that carob has, but the bad reputations that society is attempting to tie to Chocolate.
Debunking chocolate’s bad reputation
While chocolate and carob are commonly compared, I would like to propose a new position: why can’t we love both? Let’s face it. The two share the same color, but that is about all they share in common. Their taste is different, their health benefits are different...what if we didn’t need carob to be a “chocolate substitute” because chocolate has health benefits all on its own?
Some of the common problems associated with chocolate are caffeine and tyramine. While some people are caffeine sensitive, this can actually be beneficial for most people. The caffeine in chocolate can elevate your mood and make you more alert. Additionally, when people complain about chocolate giving them migraines, this is due to the tyramine. However, there is actually no supporting research for this accusation and, in fact, caffeine can decrease symptoms of a migraine. If someone is experiencing migraines from chocolate, I would more likely suspect the added sugars and flavoring.
Now, when we discuss chocolate what I am referring to is dark chocolate that is free (or as close to free) from added sugars, dairy and other harmful additives. I am not endorsing a lifestyle of Snickers bars, but I can definitely get behind a diet that includes well portioned dark chocolate servings on the regular. I also like to think consciously about the foods I consume, so my recommendations will always be fair trade.Benefits of dark chocolate
- High in fiber
- High in antioxidants
- Proven to help with heart disease symptoms
- Can improve brain function
- Contains caffeine (which can be beneficial if you are not caffeine sensitive)
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Naturally low in fat
- High in fiber
- Contains calcium
- Contains no caffeine
- Good source of antioxidants
- Natural remedy to treat diarrhea
What to Look For:
If you are choosing to partake in consuming dark chocolate or carob, there are a few things you should note on the label.
For dark chocolate, be hesitant to indulge in additives such as sugar and dairy (kind of a no brainer, right?). Similarly, avoid dark chocolates high in trans fats and added flavors. Because it is difficult to tell what added flavors are actually natural in chocolate, if you opt for a flavor, I recommend buying organic (or...just get organic all the time?)
Another ingredient that I warn clients about is lecithin. This is a soy derivative and may also be noted as “soy lecithin”. It is often in such small doses that it should not pose major health concerns, but it is also not absolutely necessary and, if you can find a dark chocolate without lecithin, I would recommend going with that option.
Avoid alkalized or “dutch” chocolate. This style of processing chocolate helps remove bitterness. However, it also strips the chocolate of its many antioxidants. You know that container of "dutched" baking cocao you have in your pantry? Trash that and replace it with organic raw cacao powder immediately.
When buying carob, there aren’t usually as many additives to be wary of. This is especially because it has been promoted as a “health food”, so you are less likely to run into carob candy bars. However, I do always recommend buying organic as this ensures the carob will be free from harmful pesticides.
Before You Go, Try These:
Keto Friendly and Fair Trade
- Endangered Species Dark Chocolate
- Alter Eco Chocolates
- Eating Evolved Chocolates
- Equal Exchange Hot Cocoa
And my personal favorite carob bar is The Aussie. It is available with varying levels of sweeteners, including unsweetened and mint flavor. If you have eaten carob before and were disappointed by the taste, give The Aussie a try before you make a final judgment call on carob.