Vegan Vegetarian Cooking School

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Chocolate vs Carob. Is one better?

By Angela Poch, CN


Carob Health Benefits

1. Improves digestion. (So does chocolate)
2. May lower cholesterol. (So does chocolate)
3. It acts as an antioxidant. (So does chocolate)
4. It can be used to treat diarrhea in children and adults. Carob is often used in preparations for the treatment of diarrhoea, and as a thickening agent in feeds for infants with gastro-oesophageal reflux.  In 2002, a study at the Potsdam University in Germany indicated that carob fiber could reduce LDL cholesterol in men and women within six weeks. (So can dark chocolate.)
5.  Low in sodium. (So is chocolate.  Plus, chocolate has been directly linked to longevity.)
6. It doesn’t contain caffeine, by the way there are trace amounts of theobromine in some carob products1. (Some chocolate may contain it in very small amounts.)
7. It contains vitamins E as well as other vitamins. (so does chocolate)
8. Carob tannins have Gallic acid. (So does chocolate)
9.  It may be useful for those with lung disorders. (So can chocolate)
10.  It is not as controversial as chocolate.  It’s the ‘safest’ choice.  (But chocolate has some healthful properties carob does not, like helps the brain with serotonin production and more.) 


Chocolate’s Health Benefits (see above for the short form, here are the details.) Keep in mind we are discussing chocolate NOT chocolate bars and candy!!!! Eating candy bars is NOT healthful!!!!

1. Old herbal medicine.  “The medicinal use of cacao, or chocolate, both as a primary remedy and as a vehicle to deliver other medicines, originated in the New World and diffused to Europe in the mid 1500s. These practices originated among the Olmec, Maya and Mexica (Aztec)… Three consistent roles can be identified: 1) to treat emaciated patients to gain weight; 2) to stimulate nervous systems of apathetic, exhausted or feeble patients; and 3) to improve digestion and elimination where cacao/chocolate countered the effects of stagnant or weak stomachs, stimulated kidneys and improved bowel function. Additional medical complaints treated with chocolate/cacao have included anemia, poor appetite, mental fatigue, poor breast milk production, consumption/tuberculosis, fever, gout, kidney stones, reduced longevity and poor sexual appetite/low virility. Chocolate paste was a medium used to administer drugs and to counter the taste of bitter pharmacological additives. In addition to cacao beans, preparations of cacao bark, oil (cacao butter), leaves and flowers have been used to treat burns, bowel dysfunction, cuts and skin irritations.”2

2.  May lower total or ‘bad’ cholesterol because it contains mono-unsaturated fats which increase HDL, good cholesterol.  One study found that a substance in cocoa helps the body process nitric oxide (NO), a compound critical for healthy blood flow and blood pressure. Another study showed that flavonols in cocoa prevent fat-like substances in the bloodstream from oxidizing and clogging the arteries, and make blood platelets less likely to stick together and cause clots.3

3. It acts as an anitoxidant.  In November 2001, researchers from Pennsylvania State University found that people with a diet high in flavonoid-rich cocoa powder and dark chocolate have slightly higher concentrations of HDL cholesterol (the good cholesterol) when compared with the control group. This study, however, only investigated the health effects of cocoa in 23 people.  In a more recent study published in Hypertension journal in August 2005, researchers from Italy found that dark chocolate may lower blood pressure in people with hypertension. The research also found that levels of LDL cholesterol in these individuals dropped by 10 percent. This study also used a small test group with only 20 subjects.4  Studies show that cocoa powder, dark chocolate and milk chocolate have higher Oxygen Radical Absorption Capacity (ORAC) values than many common foods, such as prunes and blueberries.5 (ORAC values measure how powerful an antioxidant a substance is. An antioxidant is a substance that inhibits oxidation or reactions promoted by oxygen and peroxides, and that include many held to protect the living body from the deleterious effects of free radicals. Examples include beta-carotene, vitamin C, and alpha-tocopherol.  Scientists at Cornell University’s Department of Food Science and Technology and the Department of Food Science and Technology in the School of Agricultural Biotechnology at Seoul National University in South Korea, analyzed the total antioxidant content of three popular beverages: cocoa, red wine and tea.  Their results, showing that cocoa had the highest levels of antioxidants, were published in the December 3, 2003, issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.  Lead author, Dr Chang Yong Lee, said the study is the most complete comparison to date of the total antioxidant content of these three popular beverages.6 

4. Dark Chocolate Helps Diarrhea: Study Confirms Ancient Myth, ScienceDaily (Oct. 2, 2005) — Oakland, CA (September 29, 2005) -- “A new study conducted by researchers at Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland is the first to discover that a chemical in cocoa beans can limit the development of fluids that cause diarrhea. Cocoa beans contain a large amount of chemicals called flavonoids. Scientists believe that these flavonoids can be used to create natural supplements to ease diarrhea symptoms. Dark chocolate contains high concentrations of cocoa and may offer mild relief.”   So what about those that say chocolate is not?  Because they are using logic and not studies.  Caffeine is a diuretic and since most people assume there is lots of caffeine in chocolate they continue to lump it with coffee and tea.  Over and over in my research, I found Dieticians, doctors, and scientist combining coffee and tea with chocolate just because it is traditional to do so.  Frustrating when you are trying to seek the truth!!!

5.  May help with longevity.  Men who eat chocolate live a year longer than those who don't.7   Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health found that those who eat chocolate and sweets up to three times each month live almost a year longer than those who eat too much or those who steer clear of junk altogether.8

6. Caffeine (see also below - Chocolate on the Negative Side): It is likely most chocolate has some caffeine, and that may be enough for many to give up chocolate entirely.  But how much, is a much debated question.  “The Biochemist, (Apr/May 1993, p 15) did chemical composition tests where they specifically distinguished between Caffeine and Theobromine. They found regularly up to 1.3% by weight Theobromine in Chocolate. They also found other pharmacologically active compounds including occasionally up to 5.82% Serotonin. They could not detect any Caffeine at all. (The Merck Index, 12th Edition says that a very small amount of Caffeine is found in the hulls of the Cacao seeds, the hulls are discarded before processing.)”   There are other conflicting reports of caffeine in chocolate, but all of them admit the amount in chocolate is varied and much less than found in coffee.  One would have to eat about eight 100-gram bars of milk chocolate to consume the amount of caffeine present in a cup of coffee, so this one is left up to you to decide.  One answer to this conflicting data is the following: “CAFFEINE in the cacao plant is found mainly in the shell or membrane which encloses the cacao beans. Chocolate made from cacao beans in which the surrounding membrane is removed before processing will contain almost no caffeine because most of it is found in the membrane.”9

7.  Chocolate contains: Vitamin A, some B’s, and quite a bit of vitamin E.  It also has magnesium.  “In initial research, the supplementation of magnesium has resulted in the satiation of chocolate cravings. Since both chocolate and cocoa powder contain high levels of magnesium (520 mg/100 g and 100 mg/100 g, respectively), our craving of chocolate may just reflect our desire to supplement our diets with this essential element. Additionally, there are links between low magnesium levels and the development of PMS symptoms, which may explain some women’s monthly chocolate binge.”10

8. Chocolate and carob contain gallic acid.  Gallic acid is analgesic, anti allergic and antibacterial. It is also antioxidant, antiviral and antiseptic.22

9. Mexican healers use chocolate to treat bronchitis and insect bites.7   “An ingredient in chocolate may actually be a more effective cough medicine than traditional remedies, a new study suggests.  And not only that, the UK-based research showed that the cocoa-derived compound had none of the side effects associated with standard drug treatments for persistent coughs.  ‘These sorts of coughs, often lasting for weeks after a viral infection, can be difficult to treat, especially since it is not possible to give large doses of opiate-based medication to patients due to the side effects,’ says Peter Barnes, professor of thoracic medicine at Imperial College London, UK, who led the study.  Barnes and colleagues gave 10 healthy volunteers tablets containing: theobromine, a constituent of cocoa or; codeine, the cough suppressant against which other drugs are measured or; a placebo.  The volunteers were then asked to inhale a gas containing capsaicin - a derivative of chilli peppers - which induces coughing and is used as an indicator to test the effectiveness of cough medicines.   Lung patients given theobromine needed about one-third more capsaicin to produce coughing than those who took codeine. Codeine was only marginally more effective than the placebo at preventing coughing.   Dame Helena Shovelton, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, says: ‘The results of this research sound very promising. Persistent coughing often affects lung disease patients so this could be a progressive step in treating it.’”11

10. While chocolate is controversial, it was never mentioned as harmful by Ellen White, an inspired health genius of her time. And yes, chocolate was widely used in her time, and she purchased it for use in her own home.  If you are going to be open to science and not tradition you should know chocolate is a brain pick-me-up (naturally, healthfully).  Chocolate contains tryptophan. “Chocolate also contains tryptophan. Tryptophan is an essential amino acid. It is the rate-limiting step in the production of the mood-modulating neurotransmitter serotonin. Enhanced serotonin function typically diminishes anxiety. Yet tryptophan can normally be obtained from other sources as well; and only an unusually low-protein, high-carbohydrate meal will significantly increase its rate of intake into the brain.”12  “Tryptophan, an essential amino acid, lessens anxiety by producing the neurotransmitter serotonin; endorphins, the body's natural opiates, reduce sensitivity to pain…Chocolate is a natural analgesic, and high-fat, chocolate foods trigger the brain's production of natural opiates.”13


Chocolate On The Negative Side

1. Chocolate may trigger headaches in migraine sufferers.  Remember food allergies often affect one person and not another.  More people are affected by wheat than chocolate, but we certainly wouldn’t label wheat a toxic food.  Just remember if you react to chocolate it is NOT ok for you to eat it because of the health benefits listed above.  If you react to a food, LEAVE it alone!!!

2.  Cravings and behaviour issues.  One scientist blames the "exorphins" (external morphine-like substances) in chocolate for "gut problems" and even "psychological sequelae."14  A study published in 1999 in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that chocolate contains "several biologically active constituents (methylxanthines, biogenic amines, and cannabinoid-like fatty acids), all of which potentially cause abnormal behaviors and psychological sensations that parallel those of other addictive substances."15  But it seems it is the aroma is the most important part of chocolate satisfaction. “In one study that examined the pharmacological versus sensory factors in chocolate craving, the role of aroma was indicated as one of the most important factors in abating our yearning for chocolate, independent of sweetness, texture, and calories.”10

3.  It does contain theobromine, from the methylxanthine family.  BUT Theobromine is NOT caffeine.  It is a natural stimulant, like serotonin, and does NOT affect the CNS like caffeine.  However, dark chocolate or chocolate produced with the hulls, can contain very small amounts of caffeine.  There is caffeine free chocolate, and most chocolate has very little, if any, caffeine, less than de-caffeinated coffee. There was a study done in 1993 that showed an increased risk of prostate cancer in older men given theobromine 23, but in 2006 and 2008 two studies were published that stated chocolate had reduced tumor and cancer cell growth 24 (There have been several more since then on all types of cancer. The key was eating chocolate in moderation, only once or twice a week.). Why the conflict? The study in 1993 used theobromine, the chemical, and the later studies are using the food. We can't pick apart everything God has made and expect to get the same results. God packages food in a certain way. The same goes for eating too many vitamin supplements, gluten, soy isolates, and other articles that have been refined. We need to be cautious. That's not to say sometimes we need these items, but we should aim for whole foods first!

4.  It is fermented to remove the husks and add flavor.  This one factor may be the only real reason to avoid all chocolate, even caffeine free chocolate.  The fermentation works much like yeast in bread or wine.  But unlike wine, the remaining processes removes the alcohol.  I will leave it up to you to decide.  For those of you who avoid wine (de-alcoholized or other), miso, soy sauce, vinegar, and other fermented products, chocolate is also off limits to you.18    Carob is not fermented, usually, but it can be processed with sulfuric or other acids to de-husk it.21  I could find nothing harmful related to fermented foods, such as yogurt, sauerkraut, or vinegar, in Ellen White’s writings, except to NEVER use them during communion service.  The only other condemnation she has is absolutely NO fermented beverages.  Bread is actually “fermented” in the raising of it.


Poor reasons for not eating chocolate.

A)   It is harmful to dogs.
Here are 7 other foods that are harmful to dogs. Care to give up all these?
1. Onions (Both onions and garlic contain the toxic ingredient Thiosulphate.)
2. Grapes (Grapes are dangerous because of an unknown substance which affects canine kidneys)
3. Macadamia Nuts (Macadamia nuts contain an unknown substance that is toxic to dogs.)
4. Broccoli (Broccoli is only toxic in large quantities.)
5. Persimmons (Persimmons can cause intestinal blockage.)
6. Mushrooms (Mushrooms may contain toxins which could cause liver and kidney damage.)
7. Avocado (All parts of the avocado and avocado tree are toxic to dogs.)


B)  Chocolate contains oxalate, which can reduce the calcium absorption. 
“A new research carried out at the University of Western Australia and published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" shows that regular chocolate consumption could cause weaker bones and osteoporosis. Female subjects who ate chocolate daily were more likely to have lower bone density than those consuming chocolate less than once per week… The team associated these results with the fact that the chocolate contains oxalate, known to decrease the intestinal calcium absorption, and sugar, connected to increased calcium excretion. Less calcium in the blood affects the state of the bones”16  So it is eating too much oxalates and too much sugar that is the culprit.  We should avoid taking supplements and high calcium foods with foods high in oxalates.  And guess what, chocolate isn’t the only food with oxalates.  Here are just a few other foods that contain moderate to high levels of oxalates (over 10mg per serving).
Blackberries, Blueberries, Concord grapes, Red currants, Raspberries, Rhubarb, Strawberries
Tangerines, Beans - Green, Wax, Baked, Kidney, Celery, Collards, Eggplant, Kale, Leeks, Okra, Olives, Green Peppers, Spinach, Summer squash, and so on.


C)  It is full of milk and sugar.
Dahhhh, leave it out!   If you are using cocoa powder this certainly is not a good reason.  However this is a good reason to give up chocolate bars and other candy.  I’ve heard it said carob needs less sweetening, but that is pretty subjective.  I have made many recipes using carob vs chocolate and both of them need some sweetening. 


D)  Chocolate causes acne.
A long dispensed with myth, chocolate does NOT cause acne.  No scientific evidence on this one.  But sugar can aggravate acne.  “Last July the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study of men ages 15 to 25 that found that those who spent 12 weeks on a diet of protein and low-glycemic slow-metabolizing carbohydrates reduced their acne by twice as much as participants in a control group. Studies have also found that a low-sugar, low-refined-carb diet that reduces the level of insulin in the blood also lowers the level of androgens, a hormone that stimulates the glands in the skin to produce oil and, hence, zits.”17 Another reason not to nibble on chocolate bars!


E) Insects in the chocolate.  Harvesting foods in the tropical countries, can mean low sanitation levels. The U. S. Department of Health publishes a book entitled "The Food Defect Action Levels" in which they list unavoidable defects in food (insect, rodents etc.) allowed by FDA.  But guess what? The standard is for ALL food, grown anywhere!  Here are a few from the FDA.
Broccoli (frozen) --  Average of 60 or more aphids, thrips, and/or mites per 100 grams
Tomatoes (canned) -- Average of 10 or more fly eggs per 500 grams;  5 or more fly eggs and 1 or more maggots per 500 grams; 2 or more maggots per 500 grams
Pineapple juice --  Average mold count of 15% or more; Mold count of any 1 subsample is 40% or more
Flour --  Insect fragments - an average of 75 or more insect fragments per 50 grams; Rodent Hairs - an average of 1.0 or more rodent hair per 50 grams.


F) People get cravings for it, thus it is additive.
People also crave bread, sweets, dirt, cinnamon, salt, fats of any kind, ice, and so on.  Cravings come from deeper issues.  A mineral or vitamin deviancy can cause a food craving to fill the need.  A psychological craving - comfort food.  And there are even serious disorders that cause food cravings.  Cravings do not indicate addition.  In fact, type in salt addiction in Google and you will get over 3 million results, wheat gives you 1 million, and 5 million results for fat addiction!  “Although there are similarities between eating chocolate and drug use, generally researchers believe that chocolate “addiction” is not a true addiction. While chocolate does contain potentially mood-altering substances, these are all found in higher concentrations in other less appealing foods such as broccoli. A combination of chocolate’s sensory characteristics — sweetness, texture and aroma — nutrients, and chemicals, together with hormonal and mood swings, largely explains chocolate cravings.  Chocolate is seen as “naughty but nice” — tasty, but something which should be resisted. This suggests that the desire is more likely a cultural phenomenon than a physical one.”19   “A review of the literature on chocolate cravings indicates that the hedonic appeal of chocolate (fat, sugar, texture, and aroma) is likely to be a predominant factor in such cravings. Other characteristics of chocolate, however, may be equally as important contributors to the phenomena of chocolate cravings. Chocolate may be used by some as a form of self-medication for dietary deficiencies (eg, magnesium) or to balance low levels of neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood, food intake, and compulsive behaviors (eg, serotonin and dopamine). Chocolate cravings are often episodic and fluctuate with hormonal changes just before and during the menses, which suggests a hormonal link and confirms the assumed gender-specific nature of chocolate cravings...”20   In other words it is the ‘comfort’ food syndrome, like warm milk, chicken soup, and a favourite teddy bear!  Cravings can also come from a need for more serotonin or other missing nutrients.


G) Some doctors and dieticians say not to eat it.
MANY doctors and dieticians say you should drink milk, or that a vegan diet is dangerous.  There has to be a solid, scientific or BIBLICAL reason for doing so!    I have seen doctors quoted and re-quoted on the issue of chocolate repeating the same “dangers” with little research to back it up.  In fact, I’ve tried to cover most of the “reasons” I’ve heard on health networks and cooking shows in the above lists.  We can’t keep blindly following tradition! 



1 Caffeine and Theobromine Levels in Cocoa and Carob Products WINSTON J.  CRAIG  1   THUY T.  NGUYEN,  1 Authors Craig and Nguyen are affiliated with the Dept. of Nutrition, Loma Linda Univ., Loma Linda, CA 92350.

2 Food of the gods: cure for humanity? A cultural history of the medicinal and ritual use of chocolate
by Dillinger TL, Barriga P, Escarcega S, Jimenez M, Salazar Lowe D, Grivetti LE Department of Nutrition, University of California, Davis CA 95616, USA. J Nutr 2000 Aug; 130(8S Suppl):2057S-72S

3 Hollman PC, Katan MB. Dietary flavonoids: intake, health effects and bioavailability. Food Chem Toxic 1999;37:937-42.

4 Health Benefits of Chocolate?  Written by Gloria Tsang, RD, Published in Dec 2005; Updated in Dec 2006

5 Waterhouse A, Shirley R, Donovan J. Antioxidants in chocolate. Lancet 1996;348:834.



8 Lee IM, Paffenbarger R Life is sweet: candy consumption and longevity BMJ 1998; 317: 1683-1684.


10 Chocolate: Food or Drug?  Kerry Hughes, M. Sc., Field Technical Editor,, September 1, 2000 Chocolate: food or drug? by Bruinsma K, Taren DL, Arizona Prevention Center, University of Arizona, College of Medicine, J Am Diet Assoc 1999 Oct; 99(10):1249-56

11 Source: New Scientist, Date: 22 November 2004  Journal reference: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal (DOI: 10.1096/fj.04-1990fje)

12 Chocolate’s chemical charm Dhara Thakerar, a second-year student of natural sciences at Cambridge University, UK, 27 July 2006.

13 Chocolate [sorely tempted?] A rampant chocaholic

14 Brostoff J., Second World Congress on CFS and Related Disorders held in Brussels, Belgium, Allergy in CFS September 1999.

15 Bruinsma K, Taren DL Chocolate: food or drug? J Am Diet Assoc 1999 Oct; 99(10):1249-56

16 Chocolate Is Bad for Your Bones!, By Stefan Anitei, Science Editor 28th of January 2008, 09:09 GMT  

17 Is Chocolate Bad for Your Skin?  By Temma Ehrenfeld | Newsweek Web Exclusive, Feb 7, 2008 | Updated: 2:50  p.m. ET Feb 7, 2008


19  Does Chocolate Addiction Exist? By Jane Collingwood, June 28, 2006

20 J Am Diet Assoc. 1999;99: 1249–1256.

21 Isolation and chemical evaluation of carob (Ceratonia siliqua L.) seed germ.  2006 Elsevier Ltd All rights reserved.


23 Pennington, JA. Supplementary Tables: Theobromine. In: Bowes and Church’s Food Values of Portions Commonly Used, Fifteenth Edition. Philadelphia, PA: JB Lippincott Company, 1989 p. 278.

24 Jourdain C, et al. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2006 Aug;15(4):353-61 ; Bisson JF, et al. Eur J Cancer Prev. 2008 Feb;17(1):54-61


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