Nutriton Nibble Carob versus Chocolate

My dear chocolate loving friend wrote to me with a problem a few weeks back. He has a very sweet tooth but feels that he should be cutting back on his chocolate intake. He has tried carob but wanted to know a bit more about it and if it would be a better choice for him.

Well, I’ve done some research for you and hopefully this Nibble will enlighten you on the Carob versus Chocolate debate.

CAROB The carob tree is native to the Mediterranean. The seeds, pulp and seed pods are all used for animal and human consumption. The major source that we call carob is made from the ground up seed pod. This ground up pod forms a high protein powder which can be used as a substitute for cocoa.

Carob soothes the digestive tract and helps with diarrhoea and coughs and it is also high in fibre. A study at the University of Potsdam found that carob fibre has the potential to reduce LDL (the “bad) cholesterol.

Carob also contains the following vitamins and minerals:

• Magnesium • Calcium • Iron • Phosphorous • Vitamins A, B and D Carob powder doesn’t have the same stimulating effect as cocoa so may be a better choice as a bedtime nightcap.

Even though carob is sweeter than the bitter taste of cocoa it can still be mixed with saturated fats like butter or palm oil to make it into confectionary so this perhaps defeats the purpose of promoting carob as “healthy chocolate”. Generally though carob contains less sugar and fatbut it is important to check the labelling to clarify what has been added in the processing.

COCOA The cocoa tree grows in tropical rainforests in parts of Africa, Brazil and Ghana and it is the beans of the tree that are scooped out, dried, roasted and ground to make what we know as chocolate. Chocolate can trace its roots back to the Aztecs where it was believed to impart wisdom and have aphrodisiac properties.

Cocoa is naturally bitter. To make the sweet, rich, creamy milk chocolate that is so popular the cocoa is sweetened with butter fat, milk and sugar and this can be the downfall of cocoa. You may have heard that dark chocolate is best and this is the reason why – the lack of processing with milk and sugar. If you have a taste for dark chocolate then you’ve definitely made the right choice!

Cocoa contains flavonoids which are antioxidants that work to protect the body against free radical damage. The flavonoids are reduced in the processing of cocoa which is another reason why darker is better. Cocoa secretes endorphins into our system and contains phenylethylamine which is the body’s “falling in love” drug which is why chocolate can make us feel so good.

On the downside the fat in cocoa butter which is used to “sweeten” the bitterness of dark chocolate contain stearic and palmitic acids, both of which are saturated fats. To give you a comparison stearic acid is also found in red meat. Cocoa butter also contains oleic acid which is one of our good monounsaturated fats.

Chocolate also contains:

• Potassium • Magnesium • Calcium • Vitamins A, B, D and E • Tryptophan which works on the serotonin in the brain • Phenols which helps to reduce the risk of cardio vascular disease.

So there you have it – Carob and Chocolate summed up in a few short paragraphs! Like most foods though both have their good and their not so good points and again it comes back to moderation.

So the advice for my chocolate loving friend…………………………..

If you like the taste of carob, go for it! Just remember to check what has been added in the processing. If you are stuck on milk chocolate try to adjust your taste buds to the taste of slightly more bitter dark chocolate. If you are currently a dark chocolate fan then maybe you aren’t in such a bad position after all.

Just keep in mind that life is to be enjoyed and sometimes chocolate just needs to be eaten!

Your body is your most important asset Take care of it!