(NaturalNews) In recent years carob has been known solely as a chocolate substitute, but this seductively sweet food has both the substance and the flavor to earn its own merit. The history of carob is as rich as its flavor. Native to the rocky terrain of the Mediterranean, carob pods have been used in food preparation for thousands of years. From ancient Egyptians to Mohammed's army to Spanish conquistadors, carob found its way into a variety of cultures to serve many purposes. More recently we have discovered the reasons why carob is so prized as a health food:
- Carob contains a wealth of minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium and selenium. It is especially rich in calcium and iron.
- Carob contains essential nutrients like vitamins A, B2, B3, B6 and D.
- Carob flour is an excellent source of natural dietary fiber, with two grams of fiber per tablespoon of flour. It contains pectin, a beneficial fiber that aids the elimination of toxins.
- In traditional medicine, carob was often used to treat diarrhea. It can still be used as a natural remedy for this purpose, with a dosage of 15 grams per day for children and at least 20 grams per day for adults. Because of its pleasant taste, most children will take carob readily when mixed in warm cereal or applesauce.
Carob is most certainly a nutritious food on its own, but it can't be denied that it's the only chocolate substitute that comes within a mile of impersonating our old friend cocoa. Although carob's flavor is somewhat different than chocolate, it makes an ideal chocolate substitute for several reasons:
- Chocolate contains stimulants like theobromine, which is highly toxic to many animals. There is also a small amount of caffeine in chocolate - similar to the amount in decaffeinated coffee, but enough to bother caffeine-sensitive individuals. Phenylethylamine in chocolate may be linked to increased migraine headaches. Carob, of course, contains none of these substances.
- Processed chocolate and cocoa products often contain high amounts of toxic lead according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Again, not so with carob.
- Unlike carob, chocolate is often processed with alkali, which may cause allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Alkali processing also removes healthy components like flavonoids and antioxidants from chocolate, while increasing sodium content.
- Chocolate has a somewhat bitter flavor that is often masked with excess refined sugar and corn syrups. Carob is naturally sweet and can be enjoyed with less added sweeteners.
- Carob contains twice as much calcium as chocolate, without any of the oxalic acid in chocolate which interferes with calcium absorption.
- Carob generally has no dairy additives, so it is acceptable for a vegan diet.
- Carob gives the diner who is allergic to chocolate the opportunity to savor some of those decadent desserts that traditionally contain chocolate such as brownies.
Carob can be used in place of chocolate in a variety of baked goods. Its taste may not hold exactly the same note as chocolate, but it still makes for a delicious dessert.. Carob can also be used to flavor yogurt, cereals and coffee. Many traditional societies prepared a drink with carob reminiscent of hot cocoa, with a depth of flavor that will please almost any palate.
Carob powder or flour is one of the best forms of carob, since carob chips and bars often contain additives and other unwanted ingredients. High quality carob can be simply decadent and rich in flavor. Carob flour should be stored in a place that is dark, cool and dry where it can stay fresh for up to twelve months.
Murray, Michael. (2005) Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. Published by Simon and Schuster Adult Publishing.
About the author
Elizabeth Walling is a freelance writer specializing in health and family nutrition. She is a strong believer in natural living as a way to improve health and prevent modern disease. She enjoys thinking outside of the box and challenging common myths about health and wellness. You can visit her blog to learn more: www.livingthenourishedlife.com/2009/10/welco...