Is carob really healthier than chocolate?

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Dear Cecil: What is carob? Where does it come from? Is carob healthier than chocolate? Why is it more expensive? How many calories in an ounce of carob? How much sugar, and what type? Eddie E., Los Angeles

Cecil replies:

I can see you have a fiery curiosity, my son, although carob seems like a strange thing to get passionate about. It is basically a chocolate substitute made from the roasted and ground pods of the carob tree, a Mediterranean evergreen that goes by the name Ceratonia siliqua.

It is not healthier than chocolate in itself; both carob and chocolate are basically nonnutritive flavorings. Carob has 51 calories per ounce to cocoa powder’s 98; it has a somewhat larger proportion of carbohydrates, but less protein and fat. You don’t use enough of it to make the sugar content worth worrying about.

What’s significant is that carob is naturally sweeter than (or, perhaps more accurately, not as bitter as) chocolate, so you don’t have to use as much sugar with it in recipes. Refined sugar, which does little for you besides rot your teeth, is the major ingredient in many chocolate recipes. Supposedly you can use half as much sugar when you substitute carob. Carob is still a specialty item, which accounts for its cost.

Having ventured one or two carob delicacies in my day, I must say that carob makes for a pretty vague approximation of chocolate, and American tastebuds do not take to it with unanimous delight. However, it’s worth experimenting with, as long as you’re not determined to actually eat it.

Cecil Adams

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