Choose Carob for Healthy Valentine’s Treats

Have a healthy valentine’s day. Give your sweetheart carob candy instead of chocolate, or bake a healthy carob cake.

Vegan Tofu Chocolate or Carob Cake

Carob is known as a chocolate substitute, but this seductively sweet food has both the substance and the flavor to earn its own merit. The color is the same as that of dark chocolate, although the taste is markedly different, with slightly nutty and bitter overtones.

Carob is somewhat sweeter than chocolate, but it makes an ideal chocolate substitute for several healthy reasons:

Chocolate contains stimulants such as theobromine, which is highly toxic to many animals. There is also a small amount of caffeine in chocolate – similar to the amount in decaffeinated coffee but enough to bother caffeine-sensitive individuals. Phenylethylamine in chocolate may be linked to increased migraine headaches.

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Carob, of course, contains none of these substances.

Also, processed chocolate and cocoa products often contain high amounts of toxic lead according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which are not found in carob.

Chocolate has a somewhat bitter flavor that is often masked with excess refined sugar and corn syrups. Carob is naturally sweet and can be enjoyed with less added sweeteners. It also generally has no dairy additives, so it is acceptable for a vegan diet.

The carob tree is a legume, and grows in Mediterranean areas. It grows best in arid conditions, which are naturally alien to fungus and pests so little or no chemical sprays are needed in its cultivation. It is a large tree and grows to 15m in 50 years. It produces no fruit for the first 15 years of its life, but will fruit well into its old age. A large tree can produce one ton of beans in one harvest.

The carob pod contains a sweet, edible pulp and inedible seeds. After drying, the pulp is roasted and ground into a powder similar to cocoa.

One tablespoon of unsweetened carob powder has 25 calories, no fat, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, and 6 grams carbohydrate. By comparison, one tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder contains 12 calories, 1 gram of fat, no saturated fat, no cholesterol, and 3 grams of carbohydrate.

One reason why carob is a great health food is because it contains a wealth of essential nutrients like copper, manganese, potassium, magnesium and selenium. It is especially rich in calcium and iron. It also contains vitamins A, B2, B3, B6 and D.  Carob also contains two to three times as much calcium as chocolate, without any of the oxalic acid in chocolate, which interferes with calcium absorption.

Carob flour is an excellent source of natural dietary fiber, with two grams of fiber per tablespoon of flour. It contains pectin, a beneficial fiber that aids the elimination of toxins.

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When substituting carob powder for cocoa powder, replace one part cocoa with 2-1/2 parts carob powder by weight. Carob chips can easily be substituted for chocolate chips in recipes. Try it with our Vegan Tofu Chocolate or Carob Cake, ideal for Valentine’s Day, or in chocolate brownies for a delicious snack.

Judith Kingsbury, Savvy Vegetarian

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