In truth, there’s not much difference between carob and chocolate; it simply depends on how you eat them.
Carob powder comes from the pod (or bean) of the carob tree. People have been using this nutritious food as a chocolate substitute for years, as the two taste somewhat alike.
Compared with cocoa powder, carob powder has slightly less fat and fewer kilojoules, but its levels of B-group vitamins are similar. Carob powder is also free from caffeine and theobromine, stimulants that are present (at only low levels) in chocolate. If you’re supersensitive to caffeine or want to avoid stimulants, this could be one good reason to make the switch; however, carob doesn’t contain dark chocolate’s beneficial antioxidants either.
Stirred into hot milk, carob powder makes a pleasant drink that’s much like hot chocolate. Happily, carob isn’t as bitter as cocoa, so you can cut back on the amount of sugar you add, which is a definite plus.
It’s important to realise that we usually consume carob powder as part of a muesli-bar coating or carob bar, and that these kinds of products contain just as much fat, sugar and kilojoules as regular chocolate does. A 50g block of carob has roughly 15g of fat and 2150kJ (about 500cal) — the same as a 50g bar of milk chocolate. The only advantage is a slightly lower sugar content — 21g as opposed to chocolate’s 28g — and more fibre and potassium.
Although the fat in chocolate (cocoa butter) is highly saturated, many studies show that this fat doesn’t raise blood cholesterol. Carob bars can contain any type of fat, but you often won’t know what that is, as the label will just read vegetable oil.
The bottom line
Carob has no significant health edge over chocolate. In fact, they’re very similar: both are high in sugar, fat and kilojoules, so eat them sparingly. Still, carob powder can be a caffeine-free substitute for chocolate in drinks and cooking, but its taste tells you it’s different!