Chocolate vs Carob – Which is healthier?
Chocolate vs Carob – Which is healthier?
Q: What does the Easter Bunny bring?
A: Chocolate eggs of course! What about Carob? Both are popular treats at this time of the year, but do you know the differences? Many people move to Carob as an alternative to chocolate and rightly so. It has a similar dark, earthy bitter taste. Chocolate has been known for its healthy properties so let’s look at how they both measure up and which one is the healthiest.
Chocolate comes from the fruits of the Cacao tree, native to Mexico. It has been used for over 4000 years, including use by the Maya and Olmec civilisations in spiritual ceremonies. Cacao is derived from the unroasted bean and cocoa is made from roasted cacao that has been ground into a fine powder.
Cacao is rich in many trace nutrients such as magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium. It also contains stimulants including caffeine and theobromine. Caffeine in Cacao is low but could still be enough to stimulate some people who are sensitive to caffeine. One cup will deliver approximately 9-10mg of caffeine, compared with a cup of coffee which is on average 95mg. Theobromine is another stimulant which is known to increase in energy and is beneficial for heart health.
Cacao contains flavanols that act as powerful antioxidants in the body. These have been shown to prevent damage made by waste products and reduce inflammation. In one clinical trial over 98 genes showed beneficial changes from the antioxidants in cocoa drink (1).
Cacao has powerful affects on the cardiovascular system and maybe beneficial for cardiovascular disease. It has also shown to improve brain function by increasing blood flow to the brain and improve cholesterol profiles in clinical trials (2). If your preference is chocolate, ensure you choose a quality one with high cocoa content and low sugar to get the most benefits!
Carob comes from the pods of a Carob tree which is native to the Mediterranean and has been used by the Ancient Greeks and Ancient Egyptians where it was found in tombs. It is often used nowadays as a chocolate replacement.
Carob contains many trace minerals including copper, calcium, manganese, potassium, magnesium, zinc, selenium. It is high in pectin and fibre, which is good for digestion, and it is high in protein. It contains twice the amount of calcium as Cacao so maybe better for you if you are trying to increase Calcium in your diet such as in vegan or vegetarian diets. Carob is great for digestion. It is high in insoluble fibres, which lower cholesterol and improve bowel movements (3). Carob is also high in tannins which can help to heal your gut lining and is good for diarrhoea. However, it must be consumed away from any iron supplements to prevent absorption issues.
Research shows Carob can help to improve athletic performance. A clinical trial on Taekwondo athletes showed those who supplemented with carob had improved aerobic performance and was effective in weight loss (4). This is thought to happen by balancing levels of the “hunger hormone” named ghrelin.
Carob is also good for high cholesterol levels. Research shows the fibre is high in polyphenols and after 4 weeks of daily consumption, volunteers had significantly measurable lower total and LDL cholesterol (5).
Diabetic? Carob maybe a better choice for you due to Carob’s high inositol content. In one trial, 12 weeks of two cups of carob per day resulted in a 14% of lower blood sugar compared to placebo (6).
Ensure to consume a range of carob products to ensure good fibre content for its health benefits.
Both Carob and Cacao have been consumed over generations for human health. If you want to have the taste of chocolate without the caffeine content, Carob maybe a better choice for you. Both offer benefits on cholesterol and cardiovascular system. Both are also high in antioxidants. If you prefer the stimulation, then Cacao may be a better option. For a broader range of health benefits, include a range of both in your diet!
Written by: Mandy Astrop, Naturopath
- Barrera-Reyes PK, Hernández-Ramírez N, Cortés J, et al. Gene expression changes by high-polyphenols cocoa powder intake: a randomized crossover clinical study. Eur J Nutr. 2019;58(5):1887-1898. doi:10.1007/s00394-018-1736-8
- Mastroiacovo D, Kwik-Uribe C, Grassi D, et al. Cocoa flavanol consumption improves cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic profile in elderly subjects: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study–a randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;101(3):538-548. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.092189
- Gruendel, S., Garcia, A. L., Otto, B., Mueller, C., Steiniger, J., Weickert, M. O., Speth, M., Katz, N., & Koebnick, C. (2006). Carob pulp preparation rich in insoluble dietary fiber and polyphenols enhances lipid oxidation and lowers postprandial acylated ghrelin in humans. The Journal of nutrition, 136(6), 1533–1538. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/136.6.1533
- Gaamouri, N., Zouhal, H., Hammami, M., Hackney, A. C., Abderrahman, A. B., Saeidi, A., El Hage, R., & Ounis, O. B. (2019). Effects of polyphenol (carob) supplementation on body composition and aerobic capacity in taekwondo athletes. Physiology & behavior, 205, 22–28. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2019.03.003
- Ruiz-Roso, B., Quintela, J. C., de la Fuente, E., Haya, J., & Pérez-Olleros, L. (2010). Insoluble carob fiber rich in polyphenols lowers total and LDL cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic sujects. Plant foods for human nutrition (Dordrecht, Netherlands), 65(1), 50–56. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11130-009-0153-9
- Bañuls, C., Rovira-Llopis, S., Falcón, R., Veses, S., Monzó, N., Víctor, V. M., Rocha, M., & Hernández-Mijares, A. (2016). Chronic consumption of an inositol-enriched carob extract improves postprandial glycaemia and insulin sensitivity in healthy subjects: A randomized controlled trial. Clinical nutrition (Edinburgh, Scotland), 35(3), 600–607. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clnu.2015.05.005