Most people I know are chocolate fans. Unfortunately, chocolate doesn't like all of them.
Allergies and sensitivities to cocoa can cause headaches, stomach cramps and hives and more. The caffeine in chocolate can present its own problems.
But to those still craving the creamy goodness, superfood carob to the rescue. Carob comes from the pods of carob trees, native to the eastern Mediterranean region and cultivated elsewhere. Classified as a legume, the ripe pods contain a sweet pulp that is dried, roasted and ground into a powder.
Carob is less bitter than chocolate and has a roasted, natural sweetness — as well as numerous health benefits.
High in insoluble fiber, carob keeps you fuller longer to help you eat less. In addition, carob consumption helps reduce ghrelin (the hunger hormone) produced in the body and thus appetite. High fiber foods also help control blood sugar, lower cholesterol, prevent constipation and contribute to overall gut health.
Carob provides calcium, an important mineral for bone health. Calcium also helps your heart, nerves and muscles function well. Two tablespoons of carob powder contain 42 mg of calcium, about 4% of the recommended daily requirement.
It does not contain oxalates, natural compounds found in chocolate and many other foods that bind to calcium and are eliminated in the stool. A diet high in oxalates increases your risk of developing kidney stones.
It's a good source of magnesium, iron and potassium, along with copper, manganese, zinc and selenium.
Carob is rich in polyphenol antioxidants. Two of its main ones, gallic acid and flavonoids, help the body ward off conditions linked to chronic inflammation such as heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.
Though free of gluten and caffeine, carob is rich in pectin and tannin. Carob bean juice has been used to treat diarrhea.
Being tyramine-free, carob's considered safe to eat if you suffer from migraines, which can be triggered by foods that contain tyramine, such as chocolate.
Carob has virtually no fat and no sodium. One cup of carob powder has 51 grams of sugar and less than 1 gram of fat. One cup of cocoa powder contains 1.5 grams of sugar and about 12 grams of fat. One cup of semisweet chocolate chips has 92 grams of sugar and 50 grams of fat.
Carob with its natural sugar, fiber and protein, does not spike blood sugar the way chocolate does. You may even be able to add less sweetener to recipes when using carob.
Finally, carob is fido and feline friendly. It is low in theobromine, a compound found in chocolate that is toxic to dogs and cats in large quantities.
Carol Slager is a licensed pharmacist, author, blogger and health coach in Northwest Indiana. Follow her monthly in Get Healthy and at inkwellcoaching.com. Opinions expressed are the writer's.