Carob is a tree (Ceratonia siliqua) in the pea family, which grows pods that contain seeds that can be used in food. These seeds are dried or roasted and ground to a powder that is slightly sweet and is commonly used as a chocolate substitute. The seeds are also commonly known as locust beans, which are the source of the food-thickening agent known as locust bean gum.
Carob powder is high in fibre and unlike chocolate it does not contain caffeine or theobromine (the chemical that makes chocolate toxic for dogs), which allows it to be a safe chocolate alternative for dogs and humans alike.
Interestingly, carob also contains protein, linoleic acid, alpha-linolenic acid, manganese, and iron. Because it is naturally sweet, unlike bitter cacao beans (the beans used for chocolate), carob requires less sugar to be turned into a sweet chocolate alternative. This allows it to be a lower calorie treat during times of intense chocolate cravings.
Because carob can also be processed into a food-thickening agent, it has long been used in the treatment of diarrhea and gastroesophageal reflux. Locust bean gum was used historically as an additive in infant formula to help stop reflux in infants. Supplementation with carob fibre has also been shown to help people with high cholesterol to bring down their LDL ("bad") cholesterol within 6 weeks. Because carob is an excellent source of soluble fibre, it can also help to regulate blood sugar levels and is a traditional medicine used in Israel for the treatment of diabetes. For more information on the benefits of fibre, please click here.
Blood Sugar Regulation – D-chiro-inositol
In addition to carob's fibre content providing blood sugar regulating capability, it also contains D-chiro-inositol (DCI). DCI is a particular isomer of inositol that has been found to have many health benefits, one of which is reducing insulin resistance. This allows DCI to be a major contributor in the treatment of metabolic syndrome (Syndrome X). For more information on DCI, please see our inositol article here.
How can I get more carob?
Carob is available in a wide variety of forms in both the health food store and the regular grocery store. It can be found as a powder, locust bean gum, or as carob chips that can be added to baking as a substitute for chocolate chips. There is no recommended dosage for carob supplementation in the diet. You can simply enjoy carob as a tasty addition to your daily meals and as a chocolate substitute to help regulate your blood sugar. For the insulin sensitivity benefits of D-chiro-inositol, at least 500mg must be eaten daily.