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Why You Should Switch From Chocolate to Carob
Publish date: Jul 18, 2014
Summary: There are a number of good reasons for giving up chocolate.
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You may have health concerns or feel that you’d like to shake an addiction to chocolate. Perhaps, you’re concerned about those who work in the cocoa industry and environmental damage done by chocolate plantations. There’s plenty of evidence to support giving up chocolate for these reasons.
Recently chocolate, especially dark chocolate, has become a health fad. In fact, cocoa beans or cacao nibs are high in antioxidants, but you can get a good dose of antioxidants from berries and avoid the negative effects of cocoa. The truth is, many of the chemicals in chocolate are poisonous. Eating cocoa for the antioxidants is a bit like taking a little poison with a vitamin pill. Why do it?
Not So Healthy After All
Cocoa contains an assortment of chemicals, many of which can be addictive. Some marijuana-like chemicalsi in chocolate stimulate the brain in ways that can produce addiction. Another chemical, theobromine, is similar to caffeine, though less potent and in the same methyloxanthine chemical family. Theobromine is connected to a number of health risks.
A study found that theobromine can be found in human breast milk when mothers eat chocolate bars. Theobromine concentration in breast milk was at its peak 2 to 3 hours after the mother ate chocolate. Nursing babies whose mothers eat chocolate will also be getting theobromine in their mother’s milk. And while studies should be done to determine the effects of theobromine ingested by infants, animal studies have demonstrated the harmful effects of theobromine taken up by fetuses in utero.
In pregnancy, theobromine freely crosses the placenta barrier and is taken in by the fetus. In a study on pregnant mice, researchers found that mice given theobromine produced offspring with shorter limbs, suppressed immune systems and enlarged spleens. They concluded, “Consequently, particular attention should be paid to the reduction of theobromine consumption, and most probably that of other methyloxanthines, during pregnancy and lactation.”ii
Another study researching the relationship between certain lifestyle factors and prostate cancer found that theobromine consumption was connected to prostate cancer in older men. Researchers concluded, “Compared with men with very low levels of theobromine intake, older men consuming 11 to 20 and over 20 mg of theobromine per day were at increased risk of prostate cancer”iii One 1.55 oz (43 g) milk chocolate bar can contain around 80 mg of theobromine. In other words, the prostate cancer risk can be apparent for older men eating as little as one fourth of a bar of milk chocolate. Dark chocolate contains even more theobromine.
Theophylline is another chemical found in cocoa. It is used as a drug to treat asthma and other diseases that cause breathing difficulties. It can cause upset stomach, stomach pain, diarrhea, headache, restlessness, insomnia and irritability. Toxic effects include vomiting, increased or rapid heart rate, irregular heartbeat, seizures and skin rash.iv
These and the many other chemicals in cocoa can lead to or worsen a variety of health problems and, when combined with the psychological effects of eating chocolate, can result in addiction.
If you’ve been eating chocolate since early childhood, you likely have many happy memories and emotional associations with eating chocolate. Your brain associates chocolate with feelings of contentment reaching all the way back to the first time you ate a piece of chocolate. If you feel you’re addicted to chocolate, you probably tend to reach for chocolate when you’re feeling down, anxious or stressed, because eating it causes your brain to reproduce the same positive feelings you experienced as a child.
Of course, if chocolate were a true addiction in the same sense that alcohol is, your craving might be satisfied by choking down a spoonful of cocoa powder straight out of the can. But you’re not likely to do that. A chocolate addiction is helped along by a heap of sugar and a good dose of fat. Without these, cocoa itself is unpalatable. But sugar on its own is addictive, too. Combined with fat and cocoa, it makes chocolate seem irresistible for many.
If you feel like you’re addicted to chocolate and are tired of being controlled by your cravings, the good news is that since a chemical addiction to chocolate is unlikely, you can be free relatively easily. It’s a question of changing your behaviour.
Think about this. Any addiction is dishonoring to God because the addiction controls you, not God. If you feel you are addicted to chocolate, you must ask God to set you free. 1 Corinthians 6: 19 and 20 tells us:
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's.
Jesus promised, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).
You may have heard of some of the problems related to the production of chocolate for the workers. Accounts of child labour, slavery and trafficking abound within the chocolate industry. Cocoa is grown in undeveloped countries where poverty is high and law enforcement is not on par with that of developed nations. Unprotected children labour long hours in terrible conditions to feed the international demand for cocoa so that privileged children can eat chocolate. Instead of going to school, they toil over cocoa pods under the blazing equatorial sun. Many cocoa plantation workers have never even tasted chocolate themselves.v The cocoa industry only accentuates the inequity between the wealthy and impoverished in the world.
In addition, producing cocoa is dangerous work. Many workers have scarring from machetes used to clear natural forests for expanding plantations. Poisoning from unsafe handling of chemicals used on plantations is also not uncommon.
Philippians 2:4 tells us, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” In other words, we ought to be concerned about the sufferings of others. Could you in good conscience happily enjoy a piece of chocolate knowing that a child suffered to bring it to you? God sees the injustice in the chocolate industry. Are you willing to fuel that injustice with the money you spend on chocolate treats?
The good news is you can still enjoy a chocolaty treat without supporting the negative aspects of chocolate. Although carob may take a little getting used to, it tastes a lot like chocolate, is better for your health and doesn’t have the negative social and environmental problems associated with chocolate.
Carob has been in use as a food for thousands of years. Anciently, it was known as “locust” and has come to be known as “St. John’s bread” because the Bible reports that along with honey, it was a staple food of John the Baptist. (See Mark 1:6.)
Carob was historically grown in the Mediterranean. It is now grown in many places including Australia, Mexico, Brazil, South Africa and in the United States in Texas, California, Arizona and Mexico.
The fruit is a bean-like pod which is sweet and pulpy. Ripe, dried pods are ground into flour that looks like cocoa powder. Carob powder can be used as a substitute for cocoa in any recipe that calls for cocoa. You can buy carob candy bars and carob chips in health food stores.
Carob does not contain caffeine, theobromine or other poisonous substances found in cocoa. Carob pods are dried and ground without having to be fermented as cocoa does. Cocoa pods ferment for a week in the open, during which time they can become contaminated with pests including rodents and insects. Carob is cleaner because it doesn’t ferment for days in the open.
Health Benefits of Carob
Because it’s a legume, carob is high in protein. It’s also a good source of fibre, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, calcium, antioxidants and phytonutrients.
Research has shown additional benefits to using carob,vi making it beneficial for digestion, lowering cholesterol levels, fat metabolism and weight reduction, reducing the chance of osteoporosis, and strengthening the immune system
As a medicinal herb, carob has been used to treat diarrhea, heartburn, persistent coughing and morning sickness or nausea in pregnancy. In times of famine, it has been a nutritious food source.vii
All round, carob is better than chocolate. Isn’t it time you made the switch?
v. David McKenzie and Brent Swails, “Child Slavery and Chocolate: All Too Easy to Find,” CNN(accessed June 13, 2014), http://thecnnfreedomproject.blogs.cnn.com/2012/01/19/child-slavery-and-chocolate-all-too-easy-to-find/.
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