This is a question I get asked often. And the answer is yes.
Cacao is loaded with the methylxanthines caffeine and theobromine and these bitter alkaloids are powerful central nervous system stimulants.
Cacao also contains many nutrients but its overall effect on the system is depleting rather than nourishing.
Many people find that cacao makes them feel jittery and that it interferes with sleep or even stops them from sleeping altogether if taken late enough in the day and/or in sufficient quantity.
I’ve always been highly sensitive to the stimulant effects of coffee and dark chocolate, to the point I was already avoiding them by my late teens.
But the effect of those on my system is mild compared to that of uncooked cacao, and many I’ve spoken to have said the same.
Due to the presence of its methylxanthine alkaloids, cacao also has an extremely bitter taste which means most people find it unpalatable unless it is sweetened. Adding a concentrated, processed sugar such as agave into the mix only increases cacao’s drug-like properties.
Carob, on the other hand, contains no caffeine, theobromine nor other stimulants and has a mild and even subtly sweet flavour which means it can be enjoyed without added sweeteners.
Cacao is especially contraindicated for anyone suffering from stress, insomnia, exhausted adrenals and/or CFS/ME. I also question and doubt whether it is an advisable food for children – however, this has been resolved simply in our home as my 9-year-old son finds even sweetened cacao so bitter he refuses to eat it.
Check out the Siesta brand of carob bars which are unsweetened and come in three varieties – plain, orange and mint. They’re not raw – but then neither are many of the cacao-based bars that say raw on the label! (I address that issue here) – and these carob bars are around a quarter of the price of those and in my opinion also a healthier choice.
For a treat that’s quick and super easy to make at home, mix a tablespoon of carob powder with a tablespoon of almond butter. This can be enjoyed as is or rolled into truffle-sized balls and placed in the fridge or freezer to solidify.
Carob is a bit of an acquired taste, though. Not because it is unpleasant in any way – quite the contrary – but because while it looks very like chocolate, it doesn’t taste very like it.
But if you want your sweet treats to be sugar and stimulant-free, it’s worth re-educating your taste buds so that when you satisfy a chocolate craving with carob, they are happy!