Belonging to the legume family, carobs have important beneficial properties thanks to the presence of polyphenolic compounds and fibers that make them a possible tasty and healthy alternative to chocolate.
Carobs are legumes rich in properties. They are the spontaneous fruits of the carob, an evergreen and usually very long-lived tree that can reach large dimensions: grow up to 10 meters in height and reach diameters even greater than 10 meters of foliage.
This tree (whose Latin name is Ceratonia siliqua) is typical of the Mediterranean area and grows spontaneously in the south of our peninsula, in particular in Sicily and Sardinia and Puglia, where it is considered a protected species. We can also find it in Spain, Morocco, Portugal and Greece, where it is thought that the cultivation of this plant was born in fairly recent times.
The carob tree spontaneously produces dark brown pods, similar to those of the bean, which contain small hard seeds that can be ground to produce carob seed flour.
Carob flour, thanks to the presence of high quantities of galactomannan, a particularly viscous polysaccharide, is particularly hygroscopic: it is able to absorb considerable quantities of water and for this reason in confectionery preparations it is often added as a food thickener and indicated with the code E410.
In addition, from the carobs it is also possible to derive the pulp, pasty and sugary, or the pulp flour, to be used as a substitute for chocolate and cocoa. These alternatives are free of exciting and nervine substances such as caffeine and theobromine and can therefore be recommended to all those who suffer from allergy or hypersensitivity to these substances.
Carob: calories and nutritional values
Carobs are a food particularly rich in fundamental micronutrients and with a moderate caloric intake. 100 gr of this fruit contain about 250 calories and a high fiber intake (23 gr), while the lipid and protein content is modest. Conversely, it contains a moderate amount of carbohydrates and in particular of simple sugars: the most represented is sucrose, followed by glucose and fructose.
Carob flour is also rich in iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc, magnesium, copper, selenium, manganese and B vitamins. In particular, compared to the recommended daily dose for an adult man, 100 grams of carob flour contains:
- 30% of the dose of iron, vitamin b2 and vitamin b6
- 35% of the calcium dose
- 20% of the dose of potassium, magnesium and manganese
- 10% of the dose of phosphorus, selenium and niacin
- 8% of the zinc dose
- 60% of the copper dose
Finally, the high quantity of tannins and other polyphenolic compounds present, give the carobs beneficial properties for the human body, as we will be able to learn more about in the following paragraphs.
Nutritional values per 100g of carob:
- Waterfall: 10 g
- kcal: 253
- Proteins: 3.3 g
- Fat: 0.7 g
- Carbohydrates: 49.9 g
- Fibers: 23.1 g
- Potassium: 827 mg
- Magnesium: 54 mg
- Iron: 2.9 mg
- Phosphorus: 79 mg
- Manganese: 0.51 mg
- Zinc: 0.92 mg
- Soccer: 348 mg
- Copper: 0.57 mg
- Glycemic index: 15
- Cholesterol: 0 g
Carob: nutritional properties
As we saw in the previous paragraph, the micronutrients contained in this food are many. Let’s get to know the properties of some of these substances together:
- Copper: as we have seen, the carob is a good source of copper, a mineral involved in various cellular reactions and part of some important proteins. It is also essential for the formation of erythrocytes and for the well-being of our bones;
- Selenium: fundamental cofactor of the enzyme glutathione peroxidase, necessary to prevent damage due to free radicals and to protect cell membranes;
- Zinc: important for the maturation of the gonads and for the proper functioning of the immune system. It is also a constituent of various enzymes and intervenes in the correct functioning of taste and smell;
- Manganese: essential mineral for the growth of bones and joints, the synthesis of collagen and the correct functioning of the metabolism;
- Vitamin B2: essential for metabolism and the correct functioning of energy processes;
- Vitamin B6: essential for the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats and sugars and important for the proper functioning of the immune system;
- Niacin: Vitamin B3 (or niacin) is important for cellular respiration, the circulatory system and the nervous system.
Finally, the carobs contain various polyphenolic compounds and the most represented ones are gallic acid and its derivatives. In this regard, it would seem that carobs are one of the foods in nature richest in gallic acid, a phenolic acid with an antioxidant and anti-haemorrhagic action.
Carob: health benefits
In recent decades, several studies have correlated the consumption of carob beans with beneficial effects on human health thanks to the presence in these fruits of fibers, polyphenols and tannins.
In particular, these bioactive compounds have been linked to positive effects in cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and in the treatment of diarrhea. Research carried out has made carob beans a fundamental ingredient of some functional foods or dietary supplements. Let’s see in detail the properties of the carob beans.
✓ Antitumor activity
The polyphenols present in the carob beans have been shown to have anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic abilities. By preventing cell proliferation and stimulating the programmed cell death of diseased cells (apoptosis), these compounds have beneficial effects on tumor pathology. Among the polyphenolic compounds present in the carob beans, the ones that carry out this activity the most are quercetin, gallic acid and delphinidin.
Studies carried out on colon carcinoma cells have shown that the anti-proliferative effect is not exerted by the addition of gallic acid alone, but by the addition of carob extract. This result allows us to hypothesize a synergistic effect of the substances present in the carob beans.
✓ Anti-diabetes effect
Carobs have a high fiber content and a decidedly low glycemic index. For this reason they are a recommended food for all those suffering from diabetes. Furthermore, supplemental diets with locust bean gum led to a decrease in blood glucose levels in experiments conducted on mice.
Finally, according to some authors, the D-pinitol present in carob beans is able to increase the absorption of glucose by the muscles, thus decreasing the production of insulin. It is therefore an excellent alternative to the more common chocolate in those suffering from diabetes.
✓ Benefits for the stomach and in case of diarrhea
Carobs can be recommended in case of diarrhea, also thanks to their ability to reduce the adhesion of bacteria to intestinal cells. The anti-diarrhea effect seems to be carried out by the tannins present in the carob beans. It also alleviates irritable bowel symptoms and can help with gastroesophageal reflux.
✓ Lower cholesterol
Carobs have the property of improving the level of cholesterol in the blood, in particular of the so-called bad cholesterol (LDL), which is believed to be responsible for the formation of atherosclerotic plaques.
For this reason, carob flour could be considered an optimal food in case of obesity and associated cardiovascular problems.
Carob: how to eat and how to use it
The only way to consume this food without buying processed products is to consume the carob pods, which can be baked in the oven for a crunchy and healthy snack. The carob pods are completely edible and can also be eaten as they are, taking care to pay attention to the internal seeds, which are hard and difficult to chew. The flavor of carob (including its flour) is sweet and reminiscent of chocolate.
Carob seed flour, as we have anticipated, is commonly used as a thickener and, in this regard, it can be used to thicken soups or sauces prepared at home. Carob flour can also be used for the preparation of homemade pasta or desserts, possibly mixed with other flours. The carob does not contain gluten, therefore it is also a food suitable for celiacs and gluten intolerant.
However, we want to focus on the similarity between carob flour and chocolate and recommend a recipe for the preparation of a carob cream, similar to the hazelnut and chocolate creams that we can find on the market, but less caloric and without chocolate. Let’s see how to proceed
- For the preparation it is necessary to have 150 grams of hazelnuts, 2 tablespoons of honey or 50 grams of sugar, 2 tablespoons of carob flour and 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
- After toasting the hazelnuts, we put them in a mixer together with the oil and chop them finely.
- Then add the sugar or honey, and the carob flour. We continue to mix and finally add rice milk or water to obtain a not too liquid consistency. The cream is now ready to be consumed as you prefer!
Carob: contraindications and potential negative effects
Even the carob can have some contraindications. According to some authors, in fact, the carob beans could increase the effect of the drugs used in case of hypercholesterolemia and as we have seen it can alter insulin levels.
Therefore, in case of hypercholesterolemia or type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes in pharmacological treatment with insulin, it is necessary to consult your doctor before consuming large quantities of carob beans.