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5 Carob Health Benefits + Nutrition & How it Beats Chocolate

Written by Jimmy Julajak, MS (Psychology) | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:
Jonathan Ritter
Medically reviewed by
Jonathan Ritter, PharmD, PhD (Pharmacology) | Written by Jimmy Julajak, MS (Psychology) | Reviewed by Ana Aleksic, MSc (Pharmacy) | Last updated:

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Carob

What if there was a healthier alternative to chocolate that could control your blood sugar and lower cholesterol? One that contains no caffeine but is rich in fiber and antioxidants? Carob might just be it, and it’s easy to bake with or add to smoothies. Find out if you should give carob a shot.

What is Carob?

Carob is the fruit of the Ceratonia siliqua L. tree, which belongs to the legume family. The tree is native to the Mediterranean region but is also grown in the US and other countries. The fruits are pods, around 10-30cm long, with a wrinkled and leathery surface. The inside of the fruit contains the pulp and seeds [1, 2, 3].

Carob has a nutty, chocolate-like flavor. Because of its high sugar content, it is naturally sweeter than cocoa. The pods contain tannins that bring a bit of bitterness to the taste [4].

Snapshot

PROs

  • Rich in fiber and antioxidants
  • Improves gut health
  • Controls blood sugar
  • Lowers cholesterol

CONs

  • Possible allergies in people with peanut or legume allergies [5]
  • Not everyone likes its taste compared to chocolate

Nutrition

100 g of carob flour provides [6]:

  • 222 calories
  • 4.6 g protein
  • 0.7 g fat
  • 89 g carbohydrates
  • 40 g fiber
  • 348 mg calcium (~35% RDA)
  • 827 mg potassium (~50% RDA)

The fruit is ~50% sugar (sucrose, glucose, and fructose), 3-5% protein, and low in fat (up to 1%). It contains all seven essential amino acids (threonine, methionine, valine, isoleucine, leucine, phenylalanine and lysine) [2, 1].

Carob is an excellent source of calcium and potassium, and also contains magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, and zinc. It is a valuable source of vitamin B6, C, D, and E. Vitamin A, B2, B12, and folic acid are present in lower amounts [1, 2].

The glycemic index of carob is around 40, making it a low glycemic index food [7].

Carob vs Chocolate

Carob may have some advantages over chocolate. For one, carob does not contain any caffeine or theobromine. These stimulants can cause side effects in sensitive people. Carob is also free from the oxalic acid found in cocoa, a major cause of kidney stones [8, 3].

Carob provides better blood sugar control. Two clinical trials compared the effects of a pre-meal snack (cookies) with either carob or chocolate on blood sugar levels and food intake. People given the carob snack had lower blood sugar levels, reported feeling more full, and ate less food at the following meal [9].

Compared with semi-sweet chocolate, carob contains less than half the calories, almost zero fat and six times the amount of fiber. It packs ten times as much calcium and more than double the amount of potassium and folate [10, 6]

Chocolate might still have some advantages over carob. For example, cocoa flavonoids may improve cognitive function and enhance mood. But too much cocoa may trigger migraines and acne, while many of its antioxidants are lost during chocolate manufacturing [11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16].

Bottom line? Carob is a healthy alternative to chocolate, especially for those avoiding caffeine. But it may not please everyone’s taste buds. Many people presented with carob as a chocolate substitute are thoroughly disappointed. Try it as a unique alternative, but don’t expect the same taste [17].

Can Dogs Eat Carob?

Carob is perfectly safe for dogs. This is because it’s free of caffeine (and other methylxanthines), which is toxic to dogs [18, 19, 20].

And in case you’re wondering, it’s safe for cats for the same reason [18, 20].

This makes carob a great alternative to cocoa and chocolate. And apparently, dogs love it.

So feel free to give some to your pal… thank us later!

Carob Health Benefits

1) Provides Nutrients and Antioxidants

Carob is a major source of dietary fiber. The pods and pulp contain mainly insoluble fibers and the seeds pack soluble fiber. Its soluble fiber is made of polysaccharides or long sugar chains (of mannose and galactose). Carob seed extract is also known as bean gum [1].

The fruits are also a powerhouse of antioxidants. The polyphenols in carob can be divided into three groups [1, 2]:

  • Phenolic acids (such as gallic acid)
  • Flavonoids (mainly quercetin and myricetin)
  • Tannins (mostly proanthocyanidins)

Being a member of the legume family, carob contains some antinutrients such as phytic acid and lectins. Since these are mainly found in the seeds, you can minimize their intake by avoiding the seeds. Heating also helps to destroy antinutrients. Thus, roasted carob powder will be more tolerable than raw carob for those with sensitivities [21].

The good news is that carob does not seem to reduce the absorption of nutrients from food. In one study, carob gum did not change mineral balance given before a meal. Instead, it acted as a stool-bulking compound without blocking mineral absorption from food [22].

2) Aids Digestion

Carob bean gum helps gastroesophageal reflux in babies. Gastroesophageal reflux is the technical term for burping up food. In 14 babies, carob bean gum added to formulas reduced both the frequency and amount of regurgitations [23].

Another clinical trial with 39 babies had similar results: formula with added carob gum reduced regurgitations. Regular intake also slowed stomach emptying [24].

Carob powder may improve diarrhea. In a clinical trial, 41 babies (3-21 months old) were given either carob powder or placebo. Carob cut the duration of diarrhea in half. The powder contained 40% tannins, 21% polyphenols, and 26% fiber [25].

Similarly, carob juice reduced diarrhea in a trial of 80 babies (4-48 months) given with an oral hydration solution. Compared with the hydration solution alone, carob juice reduced the duration of diarrhea by 45%. It also protected against high sodium levels (hypernatremia) [26].

3) Lowers Cholesterol

In a trial of 12 men, carob bean gum (0.75 g fiber per 100 calories food), lowered total and LDL cholesterol after 4 weeks. It also increased the HDL to LDL ratio, which is linked with heart-protective effects [27].

Familial hypercholesterolemia is a genetic condition that causes high cholesterol levels. In 18 people with the condition, carob bean gum lowered total and LDL cholesterol while increasing the HDL to LDL ratio [28].

Two other clinical trials confirmed that carob fiber reduces blood fat in people with high cholesterol. At 8 g or 15 g daily, it lowered total and LDL cholesterol, as well as triglycerides [29, 30].

4) May Fight Obesity

In a clinical trial of 19 healthy people, carob fiber lowered several markers associated with weight gain after a meal. Among others, it powerfully reduced acylated ghrelin, a form of the hunger hormone ghrelin that rings an appetite-stimulating alarm in the brain. Plus, it lowered triglycerides and fatty acids, pointing to carob’s fat-burning action [31].

Additionally, many studies attest to the weight-loss benefits of increased fiber intake. This is especially true when it comes to insoluble fiber–the type found in carob powder.  Dietary fiber helps manage weight by [32]:

  • Reducing food intake
  • Binding fat in the gut so less gets absorbed
  • Lowering blood fat and sugar levels

All in all, carob and its fiber safely boost weight loss and fat-burning.

5) Controls Blood Sugar

Adding to the benefit above, carob may be particularly helpful for overweight people with type 2 diabetes. Why is that so?

It turns out that carob is a source of inositols, including myo-inositol and d-pinitol. Myo-inositol alone offers an array of benefits. It’s been researched for combating diabetes, insulin resistance, and eating disorders [33].   

In a trial of 40 healthy people, inositol from carob lowered blood sugar and insulin after meals. It also lowered markers of insulin resistance, which points to its value for people with type 2 diabetes [33].

Another study reveals that carob fiber dosage matters. For example, 20g of carob fiber along with a sugar drink kept blood sugar and insulin levels in check. But lower doses (5g or 10g) couldn’t prevent sugar and insulin spikes in 20 healthy people. Also, at least 10g are needed to decrease the hunger hormone ghrelin [34].

Carob may not affect obese and non-obese people the same way. In a trial of 40 people with prediabetes–a condition that’s just not quite diabetes yet–inositol from carob lowered blood sugar and insulin levels. All people experienced the benefit, but the effect was stronger in non-obese people [35].

But carob offered a key added benefit to the obese group: lowering markers of inflammation (IL-6, TNF-alpha). Keeping inflammation at bay is crucial for both diabetes and overcoming obesity [35].

To sum it up, getting more carob is good for people with metabolic disorders–those with insulin resistance, obesity, type 2 diabetes, or for those at risk. In high enough doses, carob may even offset the detrimental effects of high dietary sugar.

Limitations and Caveats

The evidence to support the use of carob for aiding digestion, lowering cholesterol and reducing blood sugar is decent. Most of these benefits likely come from its fiber and polyphenol content.  

If you take medication that lowers blood sugar or cholesterol, use carob with caution and consult your doctor or pharmacist before eating too much of it.

Carob Chocolate, Bean Gum, or Powder?

As you may have noticed, the research studies mentioned above used various forms of carob. Most used the powder, others went with the pure fiber from carob, while a handful used the juice or even carob bean gum.

Most of these are commercially available. You’ll be able to find all of the following:

  • Carob powder (our no. 1 suggestion–go for pure, natural, roasted powder!)
  • Bean gum
  • Carob chocolate and syrup

Try our different products to find the taste you enjoy most–whether you’re seeking a cocoa alternative or simply want to try carob out. But always check the label to make sure the carob you’re getting doesn’t contain added sugars.

Carob powder is usually made from the pods (without seeds). It contains both soluble and insoluble fiber. You can add it to smoothies, shakes, or use in baking. The seeds contain the highest amounts of antinutrients, making carob powder a better option [36].

Carob chocolate is typically made using around 60% carob powder, which is mixed with vegetable or cocoa butter and sometimes carob syrup. Carob syrup is made from ground pods that are boiled for thicker consistency [1].

Carob bean gum is a soluble extract made from the seeds. Bean gum is mainly used as a thickening agent and for feeding livestock. It can also be used as a stool-bulking agent for reducing diarrhea [37].

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Takeaway

Carob is great for digestion and weight loss, helps keep blood sugar and fat in check, and it gives you a fair amount of nutrients. Plus, it packs antioxidant polyphenols that carry a number of benefits.

Chocolate-lovers can’t decide whether they love or hate carob, and we’ll stick to the Latin proverb: “There’s no arguing about tastes and colors.” You have to try it out for yourself. But when it comes to the health effects, carob beats chocolate. It’s caffeine-free and high in fiber. And unlike chocolate, carob is safe for dogs and cats.

If you’re willing to add a bit of healthy diversity to your diet, give carob a go.

About the Author

Jimmy Julajak

Jimmy Julajak

MS (Psychology)
Jimmy got his MSc from the University of Copenhagen.
Jimmy is a psychologist and researcher. He is particularly interested in the workings of the brain and strategies for improving brain health. He believes that people shouldn't hand over the responsibility for their health only to their doctors. His aim is to empower each person with easy-to-understand, science-based health knowledge.

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