What Are the Benefits of Carob?

Carob is frequently used as a chocolate substitute in baking and in sweets, although it is not from the same plant. Harvested from bean-shaped pods, this sweet food is grown around the world, according to Purdue University. Carob is most commonly made into carob flour, which is similar in appearance and texture to cocoa. Whole pods are sometimes processed to make a syrup used in commercially produced foods, including baked goods, carob chips, ice cream and carob-covered fruits such as raisins. Carob is rich in a number of nutrients and antioxidants, and may help lower cholesterol levels.

Close-up dried Carob beans. Credit: bokeh105/iStock/Getty Images

Lowers Blood Cholesterol Levels

Carob naturally contains polyphenols, which help with blood cholesterol levels in a way similar to dietary fiber. Dietary fiber helps lower cholesterol levels. A 2010 issue of "Plant Foods for Human Nutrition" reported on a human study that found a 4-gram serving of polyphenol-rich fiber twice a day led to a decreased level of serum lipids; low density lipoproteins, also known as "bad" cholesterol; high density lipoproteins, or "good" cholesterol; and triglycerides after a period of four weeks.

Natural Antioxidant

The polyphenols in carob are also powerful antioxidants, protecting your body from damage from free radicals and environmental toxins. A 2002 publication of the "Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry" included an in vitro study of the antioxidant ability of carob pod polyphenols. The study determined that even the pods of carob contained polyphenols. These were shown to have a distinct antioxidant ability when adjusted for polyphenol concentration, which was lower in the pods than in the beans.

Rich in Calcium

Carob is naturally high in calcium, an essential mineral. A 1-cup serving of carob flour has 358 milligrams of calcium per serving, according to Real Raw Foods. This provides between 30 and 36 percent of the recommended daily allowance of calcium, which ranges from 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams per day for adults. In addition to keeping your bones healthy and strong, calcium is essential to blood clotting, transmitting information along your nerves and maintaining a regular heartbeat.

A Good Source of Selenium

A trace element, selenium is nonetheless important for your overall health. A 1-cup serving of carob flour contains 5.5 micrograms of selenium. This provides roughly 10 percent of the recommended dietary allowance for selenium for adults. The selenium content in carob, however, can vary depending on the growing conditions. Selenium is important for healthy thyroid function, the production of DNA, and defending your body from infection and oxidative harm.

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