Carob for my dog, carob or cacao for me?

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What’s the difference between cacao and carob?
Is carob healthier than cacao?
Why is carob okay for dogs and cacao is not?

by Dorea Reeser

Today my wiener dog Dexter, the inspiration behind our logo, is 17! I will be making him cupcakes with his favorites, peanut butter, banana and carob! Well, I know that he wold love to eat chocolate, but since chocolate is not good for doggies, he’s going to have to make do with pseudo chocolate, aka carob! I don’t know about you, but I’ve always wondered what the key differences between carob and chocolate are, especially since it is primarily marketed as healthier than chocolate.  If you want to know more then read on!

What’s the difference between cacao and carob?

The Taste: If you’ve ever had cacao and carob products, then you probably noticed that while carob is often used as a chocolate substitute it does have a different flavor and is much sweeter. This is because cacao is jammed full of far more flavanoids (flavor, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory chemicals) than carob, and carob has much more sugar than cacao.

Before I go any further I should briefly mention the difference between cacao, cocoa and carob:

  •  Cacao is the raw fermented product from the pods (often referred to as beans) of the theobroma cacao tree. Cacao can be ground up to a powder, but it is not roasted like cocoa or carob.
  • Cocoa is made when the cacao is roasted and ground up, and it is often further processed (e.g. alkalized).
  • Carob is the product from roasting and grinding the pods of the tree ceratonia siliqua.

Chemically: There are numerous differences between the chemical content of cacao and carob. Here I am going to focus on cacao because it contains much more nutritional content than its further processed relative cocoa.

  • theobromine and caffeineAside from flavor and sweetness, the biggest difference between carob and cacao are the presence of the stimulants theobromine and caffeine in cacao. However you would have to eat about 100 g of very pure dark chocolate to get the same amount of caffeine as in a cup of coffee.
  • 1 tbs of carob powder contains 25 calories, 0 fat, and 6 g of carbohydrates. 1 tbs of dark cocoa powder contains 12 calories, 1 g of unsaturated fat, and 3 g of carbohydrates.
    • Carob powder is higher in calories and sugar (the main contributor to the carbohydrates), and it is lower in fat than cocoa powder.
  • Carob powder has about half the amount of protein as cacao powder. For example, 100 g of carob powder has about 4 g of protein and 100 g of cacao powder has about 8 g of protein.
  • Carob powder has twice as about 4 times as much fiber as cacao powder.
  • Both carob and cacao contain a slew of vitamins and minerals, such as riboflavin, niacin, vitamin A, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium. However, the amounts of vitamins and minerals can differ substantially. For example, carob powder has about 5 times as much calcium as cacao powder, and cacao has about 4 times as much iron as carob.
  • A number of studies have also suggested that the flavonoids in cacao can improve cardiovascular health.

Is carob healthier than cacao?

First of all, I am not a medical doctor or a nutritionist. However, considering the nutritional content of carob and cacao, they both have good nutritional data! The answer to this question really depends on what you consider healthy, and what form you eat the carob or cacao in. I have noticed that a lot of carob products are marketed as being healthier than cacao based chocolates, but I am skeptical. From what I have read, the nutritional value of a carob and cacao candy bar is about the same because of the fats and sugars used to make them. A key difference between the two would still be the lack of stimulants in carob, and the substantially lower amount of heart healthy flavonoids in carob. At the end of the day, are you really going to eat enough chocolate for these differences to matter?

Why is carob okay for dogs and cacao is not?

Cacao has theobromine, which is toxic to dogs because they can’t metabolize it. Learn more about theobromine in my previous article, Death by TheobromineLuckily, carob does not have theobromine in it, so I can make my dog’s peanut butter, banana, “chocolate” birthday cake, and we can save the stress of an emergency visit to his vet!

 

This post is dedicated to Dexter. Happy 17th birthday, Dexter!

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Resources

Chemical compounds in carob and cacao by Sigma-Aldrich.

USDA nutritional data for dark cacao powder and carob powder.

 

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