The Truth About Chocolate, Cacao, and Carob – Healthy Living Association

The Truth About Chocolate, Cacao, and Carob

Chocolate is considered to be the most popular dessert in the world. 

In fact, according to the World Cocoa Foundation, people worldwide consume over 3 million tons of cocoa beans per year

That’s a lot of cocoa.

Now, you probably hear different words and terms being thrown around when it comes to chocolate.

Chocolate. Cacao. Carob. Cocoa.

These are the words that tend to be thrown around most commonly when talking about this popular treat.

Most people think that those words mean the same thing…

Some form of chocolatey goodness. 

That thought is not exactly wrong… but it’s also not exactly right. 

So let’s break it down a bit. 

Chocolate Vs. Cacao Vs. Carob… What Are the Differences?

Out of the terms listed earlier, chocolate and cacao are the most similar. 

In fact, cacao beans are the root ingredient of chocolate. Chocolate is one of the final products that the cacao bean can produce after it has been harvested and processed.

But first, some background on the cacao bean.

The cacao bean is the dried seed that is produced by theobroma cacao tree found in the tropical areas near the equator. After being harvested, the seeds are then fermented and sun-dried to remove any moisture. 

Once the cacao beans have been dried, they are then ready for the roasting process. The time and temperature of the roasting are the key aspects in bringing out and changing the flavour of the chocolate.

Eventually the husk and shell are thrown away, and the meat of the seed is then used to form a liquid (chocolate liquor) or a solid state (cacao powder and cacao butter). 

Chocolate is then made by mixing  sugar and other ingredients with cacao powder. The higher the cacao percentage, the lower the percentage of sugar. 

But what about cocoa powder? Is it the same thing as cacao powder?

Not exactly. 

While both products come from the cacao seed, the main difference falls in how the cacao seed is processed.

Cocoa powder refers to when the cacao seed has been roasted at a higher temperature. The higher temperatures result in a sweeter taste and lower nutritional content.

If you are looking for a healthy and less processed option, using cacao powder is the healthier option.

If you are just looking to use something that is naturally sweet and the health benefits don’t matter to you, cocoa powder is the answer.

Okay, so now that we’ve talked about Cacao and Chocolate…what about Carob?

What Exactly is Carob?

Much to the misconception of a lot of people, even though carob powder is commonly used as a substitute for cacao powder, it is not related to cacao and chocolate

The two main similarities between carob and cacao are that carob is also a seed from a tree and that the final product after harvesting and processing is also brown. 

Aside from that, you are looking at two different products. 

Even the location of the carob tree (located in the Middle East and Mediterrean region vs. the Tropics) is completely different than the location of the cacao bean tree. 

The differences are not only limited to the location of the tree, but the differences can also be found in the nutritional components of each seed. 

Cacao Powder Vs. Carob Powder

If you are looking at the nutritional components of each bean in a powdered state, you’ll notice that when you break it down they are two very different powders nutritionally. 

While low in fat content, carob, is found to have naturally high levels of carbohydrates and sugar. The increase in natural sugar content found in carob powder allows it to have a more naturally sweet flavor in comparison to cacao powder. 

This increased sweetness is one of the reasons as to why carob is commonly used as a replacement for sugar in baking and chocolate desserts. 

Luckily for those who are sensitive to caffeine and stimulants, unlike cacao powder, carob powder is caffeine and stimulant free.

However, there is a BIG unfortunate truth attached to that. 

Carob powder may be caffeine and stimulant free, but it is also missing the endorphins that are commonly found in cacao powder. Without the endorphins, you won’t get that “feel good” feeling you tend to get after eating chocolate or cacao. 

Not only is carob powder missing the endorphins that you find in cacao powder, but it’s also missing important antioxidants that can help with heart health. In fact, you can find three times the amount of antioxidants in cacao powder than you can in green tea and red wine

So, which is better for you?

Cacao powder or carob powder?

When you sum it all up, it all depends on what you are looking for nutritionally. 

If you are looking for something that is naturally low-fat and sweet, carob is your answer. 

But if you are looking for something that will make you feel good, and provide you with some much needed antioxidants, cacao powder is the answer.

Is Milk Chocolate Healthy for You?

Two other terms that we constantly hear in the “chocolate universe” are milk chocolate and dark chocolate

Most of the chocolatey goodness that can be found in different desserts and treats are made from milk chocolate.

But what are the differences between the two types of chocolate?

For starters, the main and most noticeable difference between the two types of chocolate is the cacao percentage used in the final product. 

Milk chocolate contains a lower cacao percentage than dark chocolate, which means that less of the cacao bean is used. Milk chocolate also contains more added milk products, sugar and cream, than dark chocolate contains.

Since the cacao percentage is higher with a low amount of added sugar, dark chocolate tends to have a more bitter taste in comparison to milk chocolate. 

To sum it up, based on the low percentage of cacao and the high percentage of added ingredients, milk chocolate is definitely not as nutritious as dark chocolate.

Hold on a moment before you decide to swear off the delicious dessert for good. 

Even though the cacao content may be minimal, some of the nutritional elements can still be found in milk chocolate. 

The endorphins that are commonly found in cacao can still be found in milk chocolate products. 

In other words, milk chocolate can still cheer you up. 

But if that isn’t enough to keep you from clearing all of your milk chocolate out of the cupboards, than maybe it’s time to think of switching to dark chocolate. 

By switching over to dark chocolate, you are NOT limiting yourself to a life of only bitter and unsweet desserts. Dark chocolate can also offer sweet and tasty options. 

If you find the high percentage dark chocolate a bit too bitter for your taste buds, try a lower percentage dark chocolate ( such as 65%). It’s still on the sweeter side of the chocolate spectrum but also contains the nutritious antioxidants found in cacao powder. 

Another way to enjoy your dark chocolate without having to resort to switching to milk chocolate, is by melting your dark chocolate and having it with fruit. The natural sugars found in fruit will act as a subtle sweetener to the bitter chocolate dessert. (For a tastier dessert twist, try freezing the chocolate covered fruit for 5 minutes).

Chaz (Owner’s note): It’s so hard to resist chocolate! You all likely know Kriss’ and my take that you should avoid sugar as much as possible. Sugar does so many bad things: puts on those pounds, disrupts digestion, leads to so many other health issues…and mostly, if you pay attention to your body, about an hour after having sugar, you feel terrible. I do intermittent fasting nearly every day. On the rare occasions that I have sugar/carbs/chocolate in the evening, the next morning I’m *starving.* If I avoid it, my energy is more balanced, I feel better, and get way more done.

If I can make it through three days without sugar, then my taste buds change and I lose the urge to have sugar – and especially chocolate/cacao. With this said, if you manage having a bit of sugar without opening up Pandora’s box and losing control, there are a ton of benefits to cacao – high in antioxidants, many studies showing it may reduce risk of heart attack and stroke. Most of all, I’ve always seen chocolate make people a bit happier!

Now let’s hear from you. 

Can you live without chocolate? Do you think carob is a suitable replacement for the popular dessert?

Let us know and comment below.

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