What is carob and where it comes from
Carob is a super-food with amazing composition and health benefits that everybody should know and enjoy. It has a sweet earthy taste and can be used instead of chocolate and sugar. The carob flour is gluten-free and is rich in calcium, therefore, carob products are a good replacement for milk.
The carob tree known also as the locust bean or St John’s bread is an evergreen tree that originated in the Middle East and was brought later to Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal, and the North African coast. The locust tree is cultivated mainly for its fruits known as carob pods, but also as an ornamental tree. Fruiting begins after the first 6-7 years of growth and the tree can last more than 100 years. The tree is drought and salt-tolerant and may help recover the areas degraded by soil erosion and desertification (Batlle & Tous, 1997). It is a good wind and noise barrier and does not require pesticides, thanks to its strong characteristics. The fruits of the carob tree or the carob pods are edible and have a great composition, beneficial to our health and well-being.
The word “carat” used in jewelry originates from the word “carob seeds” and in Cyprus, the syrup obtained from its pods is called “the black gold”. The legend says that the prophets and John the Baptist were feeding themselves with carob products. This is how legendary this product is!
The fruits have a high sugar content (48%–56%) (mainly sucrose, glucose, and fructose), 3%–4% protein, a low‐fat content, and high content of dietary fibers, especially in the seeds (Ortega et al., 2009). Specifically, the pulp contains sugars, polyphenols, and minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, manganese, etc), while the seed contains proteins, dietary fibers, polyphenols, and minerals and is free of gluten. The powder is a valuable source of vitamins E, D, C, Niacin, B6, and folic acid; vitamins A, B2, and B12 are provided in lower levels. (E. Papaefstathiou and others, 2018, source)
The endosperm of the seed contains water‐soluble mucus, known as locust bean gum (LBG), which is a natural additive with applications in the food industry as a thickener and stabilizer and also in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, film emulsions, paints, polishes, ceramics, and adhesives.
Carob health benefits
Researches have demonstrated that the product has a high nutritional value and it can promote human health and prevent some chronic diseases. These products show an anti-tumor activity against cancer cells, they have anti-diabetic effects and are especially beneficial to the gastrointestinal tract and the digestive system (gastro-esophageal reflux (GER), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), acute diarrhea, and ulcerative colitis) – (I. C.Theophilou, C. Neophytou, A. Constantinou 2017 source)
In naturist medicine, black gold is used against depression and emotional disorders, thanks to its soothing effect. It also lowers the appetite and helps in weight control. Carob foods stabilize blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and are beneficial for skin.
There are two main products obtained from its pods: flour or powder and food additives from the seeds. The carob powder can replace the cocoa powder, the bars are a good alternative to chocolate, the syrup will give a special flavor to salad dressings, marinades and sauces. Carob products are caffeine-free and gluten-free. The flour made of its pulp and seeds can replace the usual flour in cookies, cakes, sweets, etc. and it is used to manufacture dietetic products and products for celiac patients (gluten‐free products). Try a smoothy with carob powder and enjoy its full benefits!