Carob vs. Cacao

Cocoa powder
A large wooden spoonful of cacao powder. (Image: Anna Quaglia/iStock/Getty Images)

Carob powder, from the pod of the carob tree, is often marketed as a chocolate substitute. While it has a similar appearance to cacao powder -- made from the beans of the cacao plant -- it has a milder, sweeter taste and offers a significantly different nutritional profile. Both carob and cacao have a place in a health-conscious kitchen, but carob fails to offer the rich mineral content of cacao.

Calories and Fiber

Carob and cacao both fit well into a balanced diet. A 2-tablespoon serving of either provides approximately 25 calories. This makes up just 3 percent of your daily calorie intake, if you follow a standard 2,000-calorie diet. Both carob and cacao also provide you with dietary fiber, a type of carbohydrate that may prevent hemorrhoids, fight constipation, lower cholesterol and regulate your blood sugar levels. A 2-tablespoon serving of carob powder boasts a fiber intake of 4.8 grams -- a significant amount when evaluating with recommendations from the Institute of Medicine of 25 to 38 grams a day for adult women and men, respectively. Cacao powder contains slightly less fiber, at 3.6 grams per 2-tablespoon serving.

Iron and Copper

Cacao comes out ahead of carob when it comes to copper and iron content. A serving of cacao provides 1.5 milligrams of iron -- 9 and 19 percent of the recommended daily iron intakes for women and men, respectively -- as well as 409 micrograms of copper, or slightly less than half of your recommended daily intake. Carob, on the other hand, contains a paltry 0.4 milligrams of iron and 69 micrograms of copper. Both copper and iron contribute to red blood cell function, helping to ensure that you have enough functional red blood cells to transport oxygen. Copper also strengthens your bones and supports healthy connective tissue, while iron helps you produce energy.

Magnesium and Phosphorus

Choose cacao over carob as a source of magnesium and phosphorus. Both of these minerals keep your bones strong and healthy by making up a part of your bone mineral tissue. Phosphorus also helps you make DNA, while magnesium aids in enzyme activation. A serving of cacao provides you with 54 milligrams of magnesium -- 13 percent of the recommended daily magnesium intake for women and 17 percent for men -- and also contains 79 milligrams of phosphorus, or 11 percent of the daily recommended intake. A serving of carob, in contrast, provides just 6 milligrams of magnesium and 9 milligrams of phosphorus.

Uses and Cooking Tips

Carob powder lacks the rich, chocolatey flavor of cacao, and using it in your recipes in place of cacao powder is likely to yield less flavorful results. Instead, use carob when you seek a subtle chocolate taste. Stir it into oatmeal or add it to homemade fruit smoothies. Add more cacao to your diet by baking it into whole-grain muffins; mixing a spoonful into Greek yogurt; or heating it with almond, soy or dairy milk for healthful hot chocolate.

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