Steve Maxwell was on Joe Rogan’s podcast recently and one of the things he mentioned was carob. He talked about how he would buy carob bars, but also that he found carob on the ground and ate it. That’s all well and good, if not a bit strange, but what exactly is carob?
Carob is a member of the pea family and if you look over to the right, you’ll see a picture of carob pods. They looks a lot like dried out, brown pea pod would. But we don’t serve carob at Thanksgiving dinners as a side dish like we would peas. In fact, carob is linked to chocolate in many ways, usually with health food nuts who use it as a substitute for chocolate.
But carob is not chocolate, it doesn’t have the texture of chocolate, and it doesn’t taste quite like chocolate either. I think the reason that carob is linked with chocolate is because when it’s processed into a powder, it resembles cocoa very much.
Powdered carob is created when the pod is dried out, the inedible seeds are scooped out, and then the pulp inside the carob pod is roasted and ground up.
So why is carob and cocoa linked to each other? Well, both come from tropical pods. Both are sweet, though in different ways. Both also have their pros and cons in terms of health benefits. People like that chocolate has caffeine to give them a boost, but carob contains no caffeine. Both do not contain cholesterol or saturated fat, but cocoa contains fat while carob does not, and cocoa also has less protein.
Carob can be used as a substitute for cocoa as both are sweet powders. Though you’ll want to double the amount of carob you use in a smoothie, for instance, as the flavor isn’t as strong as cocoa.
Give it a try in your next smoothie!
One of the cool things I originally liked about Onnit when I first heard about the company on The Joe Rogan Experience podcast was how it provides a list of ingredients for many (all?) of its products on its website. That way, as Joe would say, if you wanted to make your own at home, you could. I can say now that I think they do this knowing that there’s no way you’ll be able to replicate their products 100%.
What I set out to accomplish was to make my own Hemp Force protein powder. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, I found a local source for maca root powder, unsweetened cocoa powder, and stevia. I then purchased some Manitoba Harvest hemp protein powder since hemp powder wasn’t available in bulk form. Finally, some vanilla extract completed the ingredients list. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any vanilla extract powder either, so the liquid variety would have to suffice.
Over the course of the next five days I concocted two shakes per day trying to replicate the undeniably delicious Onnit Hemp Force recipe. Some of my shakes were overpoweringly sweet, no doubt due to using too much stevia. Others had too much vanilla or cocoa taste, thanks to too much of those ingredients, obviously. Some simply just didn’t offer much in the taste department, likely because I was being too modest with the cocoa, stevia, and vanilla. This proved to be much more difficult than I had anticipated.
In the end, what I learned is that I couldn’t replicate Onnit Hemp Force protein powder. While I did have a list of all the ingredients, I didn’t know what ratio to use them in. Ultimately, it was cheaper to just spend the money on buying the real thing rather than trying unsuccessfully to make my own. It’s also easier, cuts down on prep time, and you have the peace of mind knowing exactly what you’re getting. If you managed to breakdown the Hemp Force recipe, please comment with the ratios because I’d love to try it!
The other day I was at a local bulk food store and noticed they had organic maca root powder available for sale, which instantly made me think of Onnit’s Hemp Force protein powder since that’s one of its main ingredients. Nearby I also saw pure cocoa powder with no additives, another ingredient in Hemp Force protein powder. Around the corner I came across some pre-packaged cacao powder which was priced much higher and came in a fancy bag touting how healthy it was. This got me wondering, what exactly is the difference between cocoa and cacao?
What I learned is that there really isn’t a difference, if any at all. In fact, only in English-speaking countries is there cocoa and cacao. All other languages only have one word for cocoa powder: cacao. It’s actually believed that the word cocoa came about due to a spelling mistake, and it happened to catch on because it was easier to pronounce.
So why does the word cacao seem to be popping up more and more lately? It’s more or less being used by companies as a marketing tool to show that their powder is more “pure” or “raw” compared to regular cocoa powder. However, according to the FDA, cocoa powder and cacao powder are different ways to label the same product. That being said, pure/raw cacao powder has the fat from the cacao butter removed, while cocoa powder may have some remaining.
To bring things back to where I started, I looked around the maca root powder and cocoa powder, trying to find a hemp protein powder. I figured if all the ingredients were in one store, I could make my own Hemp Force! Alas, it wasn’t meant to be. All I could find were hulled hemp seeds, which are much different from hemp protein powder (I’ll get into this in a later blog post). Looks like I’ll be sticking with Onnit’s Hemp Force protein powder…for now!