Which Is One Healthier: Cacao, Cocoa, or Carob?

If you have come across the terms cocoa, cacao, and carob, you are likely to have thought there was a spelling error for at least two of these terms. Most likely, you would have considered that cacao was misspelled cocoa.

However, these three terms are different in meaning, which we will look into in this article. So, if you love chocolate or want a healthier version of chocolate, you might want to keep reading.

Difference between Cocoa and Cacao

Cocoa and cacao come from the same type of beans, theobroma cacao, but they differ because of the processing that each goes through.

Cacao is processed by cold pressing the theobroma cacao beans to form tiny pieces known as cacao nibs. You can also press the beans to form cacao powder. This method of processing ultimately maintains most of the nutrients and enzymes. Thus, the cacao left behind after the processing has more antioxidants and minerals like magnesium. Cacao also has less fat than cocoa.

Hence, cacao powder may look like cocoa powder, but it has living enzymes and flavonoids known to protect your body cells from oxidative damage that can cause diseases.

On the other hand, cocoa is processed by roasting the cacao beans at temperatures ranging between 250 and 350 degrees Fahrenheit. The roasting usually lasts between 30 and 90 minutes. This exposure to high heat destroys the living enzymes inside the beans.

Both cocoa and cacao have caffeine, nervous system stimulants, and theobromine. The two products of the cacao beans contain phenolic antioxidants such as anthocyanidins, proanthocyanidins, and catechins. These antioxidants help protect the heart and the whole cardiovascular system. They also help improve the digestive system, blood sugar levels, brain function and prevent blood clots and certain cancers.

Difference between Cocoa, Cacao and Carob Powder

Carob is entirely different from cacao and cocoa because it comes from the Ceratonia siliqua tree, also known as the carob tree. However, do not confuse carob with the jacaranda caroba tree, also referred to as carob tree.

Carob powder or flour is made by gently drying, grinding, and then roasting the pods. When making carob syrup, the grounded pods are boiled in water to concentrate their sugars and flavor, producing a dark-brown consistency similar to molasses.

Caron powder is an alternative to cocoa powder and looks similar to cocoa powder. Due to its high level of natural sugar, carob powder is often used as a natural sweetener in baking.

In terms of taste, carob is lighter in taste than cocoa and lacks the flavor found in chocolates as it lacks the cocoa butter that gives the chocolate its distinct flavor.

Compared to cocoa and cacao powder, carob powder is high in carbohydrates and low in fat. It also contains higher levels of fiber than cocoa and cacao powder and does not contain caffeine as opposed to cocoa and cacao powder. Carob powder is thus lower in stimulants compared to cocoa and cacao powder.

Health Benefits of Carob Powder

The following are some of the health benefits of carob powder.

Helps Decrease Diarrhea

Carob contains lots of tannins that bind to the intestinal tract's mucous membrane, thereby helping to decrease diarrhea.

Carob is rich in tannins that cling to the mucous membrane of the intestinal tract, making it helpful in decreasing diarrhea (4). Several pieces of research have shown that drinking carob juice made from raw carob beans or mixing carob powder with the standard oral rehydration solution (ORS) significantly helps reduce acute diarrhea symptoms in infants and children.

Reduces Cholesterol

Regular oral consumption of carob products or carob pulp for up to six weeks has been shown to reduce one's total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein for people with high cholesterol levels.

Safe for People with Kidney Problems

Unlike cocoa and cacao, carob has no oxalates; thus, you can still have your carob drink if you have kidney stones or have vulvodynia.

Free From Caffeine

As mentioned earlier, the carob does not contain caffeine, even though it looks similar to cocoa powder. This is a pro for people looking to reduce their caffeine intake, especially people undergoing the effects of excessive caffeine intake like migraines and heartburn.

Health Benefits of Cacao and Cocoa Powder

Cacao can refer to food products that have remained raw after being derived from cacao beans. Compared to cocoa powder, cacao powder has more antioxidants and is the purest form of chocolate you can get. This is because cacao is raw and less processed than chocolate bars or cocoa powder.

However, cacao, cocoa, and carob have relatively the same health benefits. These include:

Healthy Digestion

Cacao is rich in fiber, reducing the risk of developing irritable bowel syndrome, a common disorder that affects large intestines. Its symptoms include abdominal pain, cramping, gas, constipation, or diarrhea. By promoting healthy digestion, cacao helps prevent this disorder and other digestion problems.

Highest In Antioxidants and Magnesium

Carob, cacao, and cocoa are regarded as the highest sources of antioxidants among all foods. Thus, regular consumption of carob, cocoa, or cacao helps keep many diseases at bay. Antioxidants help reduce the damage of body cells caused by oxidation by scavenging on free radicals. Cacao is also the food type with the highest magnesium content.

Improved Cognition

Cognition is the process or action of acquiring and understanding knowledge via thought, senses, and experience. It is the ability to perceive, process, store, and retrieve information. It also includes making decisions and producing relevant responses.

Studies have shown that adding more cocoa powder to your diet helps improve your attention, memory, and general cognition. Additionally, regular cocoa intake may help restore cognitive performance in people suffering from lack of sleep.

The Healthier Option

Having covered the difference between cocoa, cacao, and carob, it is essential to know the safest option among the three. Even though the three look and may have slightly similar tastes, the healthiest choice is carob. Carob is the more nutritious and safest option as it has no caffeine. Although caffeine has some benefits, such as increased alertness, its adverse effects outweigh the benefits.

Caffeine intake is highly addictive and can cause problems like restlessness, irregular heartbeat, and anxiety once caffeine intake becomes an addiction. Contact us today for more information on safer and healthier food options.