If you’re among the large group of chocoholics spread across the globe, you might be into carob — a finely ground powder that comes from carob pods that grow on trees originally in the Mediterranean.
Not only does this sweet and nutty treat echo chocolate in taste (a real win, if you ask us), it also has some impressive health benefits, including its antioxidant potential and grams of fiber per serving.
Interested in learning more? Read on to see if carob is the next best thing to satisfying your sweet cravings.
What is a Carob Pod?
Carob is a purple-brown pod that grows in the Mediterranean Serratonia Silicaor carob, tree.
Inside the leathery pods—which vaguely resemble overripe, shriveled bananas—you’ll find rows of seeds surrounded by a rich sticky pulp.
Although carob is often considered a fruit, it technically belongs to the legume family.
You can find roasted carob in syrups, molasses, beverages, candies, and baked goods.
But if you want to add carob to meals at home, you’re unlikely to find the pods in the produce section of your local grocery store.
According to Mascha Davis, MPH, RDN, founder of NomadistaNutrition.com and author Take your vitaminsThe pods are usually made into a powder (also called carob flour) because they are not particularly easy to prepare.
Carob pod seeds are used as a food thickener or stabilizer and are not traditionally eaten by themselves.
“You can find it in ingredients like locust bean gum,” says Melissa Mazumder, MS, RD, senior bariatric dietitian at the Brigham and Women’s Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.
As mentioned earlier, the taste of carob has been compared to chocolate. “However, it has a sweet and nutty flavor that distinguishes it from cocoa,” Majumdar says
What is carob used for?
Majumdar says carob pods have been traditionally used for various health benefits, but he explains that most of these claims are not validated by sufficient scientific research.
For both flavor and nutritional benefits, you can add carob powder to recipes that call for cocoa powder.
“Consider using it in yogurt, smoothies, oatmeal, or baked goods like muffins or granola,” Majumder says.
What is the nutrition of carob?
Since carob is often compared to chocolate, let’s break down how these two ingredients stack up against each other nutritionally.
Davis explains that while carob has some notable pluses, it’s not necessarily healthier than chocolate. He says about carob powder:
- High in sugar but lower in fat than cocoa powder
- Caffeine-free, unlike cocoa powder
- Some studies have reported mood-boosting compounds that cocoa powder does not
What are the health benefits of carob?
While you need to eat a lot of carob powder to meet certain nutrient needs, carob can be a healthy way to sweeten and flavor foods without adding empty calories.
According to Majumdar and Davis, carob:
- Contains fiber
- Source of polyphenols
- Source of potassium and calcium
Does carob have any side effects?
At this point, you’re free to supplement your shakes, smoothies, and oatmeal with carob as you please.
It does not appear to have any negative side effects and has not been identified to interfere with any medications, Majumder said.
Carob pods are generally recognized as safe (GRAS). “This means that when it is consumed in amounts that are naturally present in food, it is safe for healthy people to consume,” she says.
Where can I buy carob pods?
In the United States, carob pods can be difficult to find. “Powders are readily available in many stores, so I would recommend choosing pre-made powders,” says Davis.
You can find carob powder in health food stores and online.