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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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Less-Fattening Carob May Satisfy Chocolate Cravings

LAS CRUCES--Valentine's Day just wouldn't be the same without a box of chocolate. No other flavor has such a universal appeal. But for calorie counters, chocolate has its downside.

"With any luck on Valentine's Day, we can look forward to a box of chocolate," said Patricia Aaron, Bernalillo County home economist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. "But the bad news is that chocolate is more than 50 percent fat."

A one pound box of chocolate-covered creams contains about 2,000 calories and 75 grams of fat, she said. Each chocolate is about 80 calories and three grams of fat.

One substitute can help chocolate lovers cut the fat and just may satisfy their sweet tooth, Aaron said.

"Carob has the same rich color, consistency and sweet taste of cocoa and can cost about one-fifth as much as chocolate," she said.

Carob powder is used in a variety of things to add flavor. It can be found in such items as chewing tobacco, dog biscuits, drugs and vitamins. The primary use of carob is for baking, Aaron said.

"If you're going to substitute carob for chocolate, three tablespoons of carob powder plus two tablespoons of liquid will equal one ounce of unsweetened chocolate," Aaron said.

Carob has a long shelf life and can be stored in the pantry for six to 12 months. It is a high-protein, low-fat tropical bean. Although it is naturally sweet, it is only about half as sweet as sugar.

Chocolate also comes from the bean of a tropical plant, she said. The beans are fermented, dried and roasted, then ground into a liquid paste. Cocoa butter is squeezed from the liquid paste, leaving solids.