If you have a sweet palate but want to sweeten your dishes in an intelligent, conscious way and without creating any addiction, then without a doubt, one of your most precious allies is the carob. Yes, the pod of the carob tree, also calledCeratonia siliqua,linked to the Mediterranean basin and above all to animal nutrition (rural and industrial).
Belonging to the legume family, these dark brown pods are toasted and then converted into a gluten-free "flour" suitable for coeliacs, also getting very similar to the cocoa powder that we all know, or also in the form of syrup, similar to a chocolate caramel, ideal for garnishing a fruit dessert, toast or crepes, to be used as a 100% natural sweetener in the kitchen.
The carob, like cocoa, is rich in tryptophan, an amino acid precursor of serotonin, our hormone of well-being and happiness, hence its consumption provides us with pleasure and a comforting sensation both in the mouth and emotionally. However, unlike cocoa, carob has the advantage of not creating addiction since it does not contain theobromine (or other stimulant substances) and that is why it is recommended for both children and adults, when seeking to "disengage" from the need to take your daily chocolate dose-dependency However, both options are interesting and can be alternated if their origin is of quality and their consumption is moderate.
Nutritionally, carob is low in fat (less than 2% compared to 23% in cocoa), and rich in natural sugars, which makes it an excellent source of energy for high intensity days, athletes, children and adolescents. It is also a good source of vegetable protein and, like cocoa, contains significant amounts of iron, calcium and magnesium, with the great and interesting difference of lacking oxalates, which leads to better absorption of these minerals.
Another advantage of this pod is its richness in fiber, especially of the soluble type with prebiotic function thanks to its pectin and lignin content, which benefits our intestinal microbiota, the battalion that resides in our second brain, in addition to fighting constipation, regulate cholesterol and reduce inflammation of the digestive mucosa.
Another aspect to assess is its contribution in tannins, phenolic compounds with high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power, as well as being astringent, which also regulates diarrhea or gastroenteritis.
As it is a local product, consuming it as a substitute and alternative to cocoa makes it an ecologically more ethical product since it is part of our geography. In addition, being already sweet in itself, it reduces the need to use and add more "sugars" to whatever recipe is chosen. In fact it can be made with it, multiple delicacies that can satisfy everyone at home, such as a hazelnut cream with carob, replacing cocoa for example, or carob muffins with fresh and natural fruit, or simply a cup of vegetable milk with carob, as if it were a hot or cold chocolate, useful to lift your spirits and repair fatigue after an intense day.
By Mareva Gillioz, Dietitian and Nutritional Coach, specialized in Naturopathy