Carob is a beneficial type of shrub in the same family as peas that has a wide variety of health benefits, including its ability to boost the immune system, reduce the risk of cancer, improve digestion, slow down aging, prevent cardiovascular diseases, and help prevent and manage diabetes. For these reasons, and more that are still being researched, carob is widely used throughout the world.
Carob is also known as St. John’s-bread and is a member of the Fabaceae family, so the edible fruits are considered legumes, like peas. The fruit comes in a pod, much like peas, and they grow in a cylindrical shape supported by a thick trunk, from which the pods grow. The plant is native to the Mediterranean region and Northern Africa, as well as parts of the Indian subcontinent and Asia, all the way to Macronesia. Many cultures regularly use carob like other nuts and seeds, and also as a substitute for chocolate!
The health benefits of carob are mainly attributed to its vitamins and mineral content, like calcium, zinc, potassium, phosphorous, vitamin K, riboflavin, and vitamin-E, as well as its natural antioxidants.
Health Benefits of Carob
The polyphenolic content of carob makes it an ideal antioxidant, and carob germ flour, another byproduct of this useful plant, has been directly associated with cytotoxic activity in the body.
This means that it is toxic to some cells, but luckily, carob has shown a penchant for being toxic to cancer cells, particularly those related to cervical cancer. That, combined with the antioxidant activity of polyphenols which scavenge dangerous free radicals from throughout the body and prevent cancer and other disease, makes carob a very beneficial addition to your lines of defense against cancer!
In comparison to regular chocolate, carob has considerably less sugar, a fraction of the fat content, and only 1/3 of the calories. It can help prevent spikes in blood sugar and be a safe dietary choice for diabetics. This is why it is so often used as a replacement for chocolate in various cultures, because it also provides protein and fiber that chocolate lacks. This makes carob helpful for people trying to lose weight, without depriving their sweet tooth of some chocolate on occasion!
As a rich source of dietary fiber, carob can help the digestive activities of the body. Fiber bulks up bowel movements and stimulates regularity, as well as the secretion of gastric juices and peristaltic motion. All of this combines into a healthier digestive system, while helping to prevent more serious gastrointestinal conditions. Furthermore, since the type of fiber is insoluble, it can absorb liquids, therefore reducing the amount of loose stool in the body and preventing diarrhea. Carob powder is actually a common prescription as a treatment against acute-onset diarrhea.
The fiber found in carob is somewhat special, in that it inhibits the secretion of postprandial ghrelin, a hormone that tells the body that it is hungry, occasionally released after eating. This means that carob can reduce the chances of overeating, and therefore aid in weight loss attempts.
As already mentioned, carob fiber is a special thing, and it has been shown to be highly effective against high cholesterol. Studies have shown that people given carob fiber significantly reduce the presence of LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) in their system, and it reduced the amount of triglycerides in the body as well. Reducing dangerous forms of cholesterol can reduce the chances of various cardiovascular diseases, including high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, heart attacks, and strokes!
Words of Caution
Carob is quite high in saturated fats, so eat it in moderation, but other than that, it is an extremely healthy addition to your diet! Enjoy!