March 24, 2019
woman in pink bra, doing breast cancer self examination
Ask the Experts

Is Carob a Good Chocolate Substitute?

by Berkeley Wellness  

Q: Is carob a good chocolate substitute?

A: It can be. Carob powder comes from the roasted and ground “beans”—technically pods—of the Ceratonia siliqua tree. Because it tastes something like chocolate (from the pods of the cocoa tree, Theobroma cacao), it’s sometimes used as a chocolate substitute in baking, beverages, and candy bars. Carob is also used as a thickener in some processed foods—as carob bean gum, also called locust bean gum.

Carob powder is low in calories (18 per tablespoon), with negligible fat, and is naturally sweet. It has no caffeine (chocolate has a little). Carob candy bars, however, have added saturated fats (often from palm kernel oil) and usually sugar in some form (such as barley malt or agave), sometimes as the first ingredient. Ounce for ounce, most carob bars have as many calories as milk chocolate bars.

Like cocoa, carob contains an array of potentially beneficial polyphenol compounds. But while some big chocolate companies have sponsored studies on the health effects of cocoa and its compounds, there has been less clinical research on carob.

Traditionally, carob has been used as a digestive aid. Lab research suggests that the fiber in carob, like other soluble fiber, has a cholesterol-lowering effect. But while the raw powder has 3 grams of fiber per tablespoon, carob bars usually have just one gram or less per ounce.

If you like the flavor, mix carob powder with nonfat or low-fat milk, add it to smoothies, or use it in place of cocoa powder in baking (you won’t need as much sugar).