“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then won’t hurt.” – Charles M. Schulz.
There is no wonder chocolate is the number one food craved by women all around the world. Researchers have found that eating this godly food releases endorphins, the feel-good hormones. That is why stress and emotional pain initiate cravings for chocolate.
The good news is a few squares of dark chocolate with at least 70% of cocoa content is sufficient to bring on the good mood. It also has other health benefits, such as:
- Contains nutrients like magnesium and iron
- High antioxidant levels (more than the classic free-radical fighting blueberries)
- Lowers blood pressure
- Decreases oxidized LDL (“bad”) cholesterol
- Lowers risk of cardiovascular disease
- Protects skin from the sun
- Improves brain function
- Reduces stress
Keep in mind that these benefits only pertain to high-quality, organic, dark chocolate with at least 70% cocoa. If so, by all means, take a square or two and savor them!
However, note the emphasis on moderation. As much as we want to believe chocolate is healthy and a great stand-in for meals and snacks, there are some glaring disadvantages:
- It is a high-calorie food
- High sugar content
As a result, overindulgence can lead to:
- Weight gain
- Heart disease
- Gastroesophageal reflux or heartburn
- Caffeine effects such as rapid heartbeat, anxiety, nausea, depression, and sleep issues.
- Migraines and headaches
- Indigestion and constipation
This is bad news for chocoholics and anyone who wants to enjoy chocolate more often than “the occasional square.”
This is where carob comes in. Carob is a long pod grown extensively in the Middle East. I came across a carob tree while hiking in Israel. It was small and unassuming, and the pods didn’t look very appealing. It wasn’t until I tasted this fruit when I understood its reputation as being the number one chocolate substitute. Carob has a natural sweetness, unlike the cocoa bean which requires sugar to balance the bitterness.
Here are some of the benefits of carob:
- High in antioxidants (which prevent cancer)
- Lower in fat and calories than chocolate
- High in dietary fiber
- Promotes healthy digestion
- Weight loss – the fiber in carob inhibits the hormone that tells the body it is hungry, which is released after eating. Therefore, carob can prevent overeating.
- Reduces risk of cardiovascular disease
- Boost the immune system
- Rich in vitamins and minerals, like calcium, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin K, riboflavin, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, vitamin B, vitamin D
- High in calcium
Carob can replace cocoa powder in any recipe, such as cakes, cookies, smoothies, muffins, bread, waffles, pancakes, pies, you name it. A baking square of chocolate equals about three tablespoons of carob powder. You can also make carob ‘hot chocolate’ by mixing a tablespoon of carob powder in a cup of hot water and adding honey to taste.
Of course, real chocolate does have health benefits as listed above. The problems arise when it is eaten in excess. Carob is a perfect option for someone with a chocolate addiction or is trying to cut back for health reasons, or for people who would like to eat more chocolate in general, because let’s face it: who wouldn’t want to eat more chocolate?
You may be skeptical that fruit can replace the divine taste of the cocoa bean. I was too. Then these brownies happened.
Heavenly Carob Brownies
- 2/3 cup carob powder
- 1/3 cup oat flour
- 1/3 cup coconut flour
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 tsp coffee dissolved in 1 tbsp of hot water
Mix the dry ingredients and the liquid separately then mix until just blended. Bake at 350 degrees in a 9×9 inch pan for twenty minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.
Enjoy hot or at room temperature. Freezes well.