Carob: Properties and Benefits
Carobs are a food that is almost forgotten but it has good organoleptic properties that can bring health benefits. According to studies, they are rich in antioxidants and are good for the digestive system
The carobs are the fruit of the carob tree, a spontaneous and evergreen tree typical of Sicily that can reach 500 years of age. Its scientific name is Ceratonia Siliqua and belongs to the Fabaceae family. The carob fruits have a shape similar to the bean pod although larger in size and dark brown in color.
In ancient times carobs were one of the means of livelihood for men and animals while they have now been almost completely forgotten. The carob is cultivated in most Mediterranean countries, mainly in the mild and dry areas. World production of locust beans is estimated at 160,000 tons per year.
- Chemical Composition
- Gluten Free
- Chocolate Substitute
- Satisfying Properties
Spain is the largest carob producing country, followed by Italy, Portugal, Morocco, Turkey, Greece, Cyprus and Lebanon. ( 1 )
Currently they are used mainly for animal feed, especially for horses. More sporadically, however, they are also used for human nutrition.
Many studies have shown that locust beans and their products can promote human health and help prevent specific chronic diseases. In particular, they show antiproliferative and apoptotic properties against tumor cells. They are suggested to treat diarrhea symptoms and have anti-diabetic properties due to their high content of antioxidants, polyphenols and fibers. ( 2 )
Carob flour instead, produced from carob seeds, is used for the preparation of dietetic products and products for celiac patients. ( 3 )
The carob tree is an indigenous tree that tolerates drought and high temperatures well. The plant has been cultivated in Cyprus for centuries. In the past the agricultural economy of the island benefited from its cultivation. The plant was in fact known as the black gold of Cyprus .
In recent years the health benefits and nutritional value of carob have been highlighted. For this reason, traditional carob food products have increased on the market.
|Chemical composition for 100 g of carobs flour|
|Vitamin A, RAE||mcg||1|
The carobs contain 4,1 mg of fatty acids omega 3 and 218 mg of omega 6 fatty acids.
Amino acids: glutamic acid, aspartic acid, cystine, arginine, alanine, isoleucine, lysine,methionine, proline, serine, tyrosine, threonine, tryptophan, valine, histidine, glycine and phenylalanine.
100 gr of carob flour have a heat output of 222 kcal.
Carob: Properties and Benefits
Probably not everyone knows that carobs are a gluten-free food and therefore can be safely consumed by those suffering from celiac disease.
From a nutritional point of view, it is a good source of dietary fiber and has been used successfully in the preparation of gluten-free bread. ( 4 )
While the carob flour , which has the property of absorbing water, is in some cases a valid anti diarrheal, unlike the carob pulp fresh has laxative properties.
The carobs have a taste that recalls that of cocoa but with the difference that they are richer in nutritious and less caloric properties. They do not contain psychoactive substances and for this reason they represent a valid chocolate substitute for those people who have allergy problems or intolerance towards the latter. ( 5 )
The high content of dietary fiber makes carob a food with satiating properties and for this reason its intake is recommended in slimming diets.
An American study suggests that adding fiber to low energy density foods can be an effective way to increase satiety and suppress appetite. ( 6 )
To the same result came a French study carried out on mice. ( 7 )
The products enriched with fibers of carob have effects beneficial in reducing the rate of cholesterol in the blood. This is supported by a study published in 2003 in the European Journal of Nutrition.
Other studies claim that adding foods rich in polyphenols in the diet can help reduce cholesterol levels. ( 8 )
A study conducted in Germany suggests that daily consumption of foodstuffs enriched with carob fiber shows beneficial effects on the lipid profile of human blood. It can therefore be effective in the prevention and treatment of hypercholesterolemia. ( 9 )
A study published in 2002 in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, showed how polyphenols extracted from carob pods have a positive impact in counteracting free radical activity.
Even flour, according to studies, is a good source of polyphenolic antioxidant compounds. In particularly during the analyzes, as many as 24 polyphenols were found in the carob fiber. Mainly gallic acid and flavonoids. ( 10 )
Blood Sugar (Blood Sugar)
It has recently been discovered that carob pods have positive effects in regulating blood sugar levels. These benefits are attributable to the presence of fibers in the fruit. The 2018 study has been conducted for now on rats. Therefore further research is needed to assess whether the same benefits they are also valid on human beings. ( 11 )
A Malaysian study on rats found that the carob pod has antioxidant and anti-hyperglycemic properties without having side effects. ( 12 )
The studies evaluated the antidiabetic effect of carob based preparations and other natural products. These preparations had a low glycemic index or when used as food supplements for people with diabetes. ( 13 )
An Italian study reports that a carob gum diet has been shown to reduce rat blood glucose levels. ( 14 )
A study conducted in Turkey reports that the d- pinitol compound present in the fruit could be responsible for the anti-diabetic effects. This substance in fact regulates the blood sugar level in patients with type II diabetes mellitus by increasing insulin sensitivity. ( 15 )
The carob syrup is considered a rich source of d- pinitol. 10 g is enough, compared to the standard dose (10 mg of d- pinitol / kg body weight), to reduce the level of blood sugar in type 2 diabetes. ( 16 )
The carob contain tannins that are different from those found in other vegetables. The latter in fact dissolve in water and make digestion more difficult. The tannins present in carobs instead have a beneficial effect on the digestive system. They counteract the activity of toxins and harmful bacteria in the intestine.
In addition to having digestive properties, a Tunisian study of 2017 suggests that this plant also has antimicrobial properties. ( 17 )
Benefits to the Liver
Thanks to their antioxidant properties , carobs help improve liver health. These compounds in fact are essential for liver detoxification. According to several studies the antioxidant power of this fruit is higher than that of red wine.
A study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology claims that the juice extracted from these fruits is useful to counteract diarrhea in children. ( 18 )
A study conducted in Belgium suggests that tannins in the pod are effective in treating diarrhea. ( 19 )
Currently, the cultivation of carob pods in Italy is limited to the only region of Sicily where the most widespread varieties are Morescana, Racemosa, Saccarata, Latinissima and Falcata.
Cultivation and Harvesting
The carob is planted and cultivated mainly by seed in October or spring.
This plant, being resistant to drought, prefers arid climates with exposure of the plant to the sun, while places where the temperature drops below zero are to be avoided.
The fruit begins to develop in the spring to reach maturity in late summer. The flowers take about a year to turn into ripe fruit that should be picked when they are still fresh. Need avoid letting them dry as they would be too hard to be consumed.
If stored in a tightly closed and dry container, they can be stored for a few weeks.
The carob is a safe food for children, pregnant women and lactating women. At the moment there are no reports of toxicity of this plant.
There is only one Spanish study that claims that people allergic to nuts and legumes can also be allergic to carobs. The symptoms are hay fever and rashes. ( 20 )
Nowadays it is not very easy to find carobs on the market and when they are found the prices are very high.
If mixed with tropical fats or oils, carob flour turns into a compound very similar to traditional chocolate.
The name carob derives from the Arabic Kharrub or Harrub. The scientific name of the carob tree, Ceratonia siliqua, derives from the Greek word Kera which refers to the shape of the fruit, and from the Latin word siliqua, which refers to the hardness and shape of the pods.
Their peel which contains the sweet pulp is quite hard while the seeds, due to their hardness, cannot be eaten as they would cause damage to the teeth.
Thanks to their properties, carobs are used to treat gastroenteritis, especially in newborns.
From the seeds and the pulp you get a flour that is destined for the most varied uses, from pharmaceuticals to the preparation of sweets and ice creams.
It seems that the cultivation of carobs began at the time of the Greeks and was then intensified by the Arabs who exported them to Morocco and Spain.
The plant of the carob , thanks to its majesty, is also used in the coastal countries to purely ornamental purposes.
From the fermentation of the pulp of the carob beans an alcohol very widely used on an industrial level is obtained.
Maybe Not Everyone Knows That
Cyprus produces many traditional carob-based products. The best known is the carob syrup which is exported to many countries.
The wood of the carob tree, thanks to its hardness, is often used in carpentry.
The carat, the unit of measurement of diamonds and precious metals such as gold, was obtained by weighing the carob seeds and performing an arithmetical average of the values obtained.
The carob was used by the ancient Egyptians as a sweetener and is believed to be the food that claimed John the Baptist in his youth.
Based on the needs and evolution of the modern market, in the coming years the importance of these fruits is expected to increase globally. This for several reasons: cocoa deficiency, a tendency towards food and nutritional supplements and the need for free organic and gluten-free products. ( 12 )
Carob: Properties and Benefits
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