Mediterranean carob seed flours hold potential as a novel, antioxidant ingredient for cereal products, according to scientists.
The research sought to examine the nutritional parameters of commercial carob flours by looking at antioxidant properties like phenols and plant compound lignans. The researchers said the antioxidant elements of carob germ flour and raw carob seed flour in particular suggest potential as a new food ingredient.
The study, published in the journal Food Chemistry, looked at the commercial carob flours raw carob seed flour (RCSF); refined carob seed flour (already present on the European list of food additives as E410) and a carob germ flour made from the degermination of seeds and grinding of germs (GERM).
The researchers said the RCSF and GERM flour were the most interesting in their insoluble fiber content and presence of lignans; a group of antioxidant chemical compounds found in plants.
They concluded that carob seeds contain higher amounts of protein, fiber, fat and calcium than the pods, while de-seeded pods contain higher amounts of carbohydrates and protein than the seeds.
“In this work, positive correlations were found between the total polyphenols, lignans content and antioxidant properties. The extracts rich in lignans exhibited appreciable antioxidant properties,” the researchers wrote.
“Carob seed flours could be used as an alternative raw material and incorporated as an ingredient in new food formulations. In particular, the antioxidant properties of the carob seed flours make them a potentially interesting ingredient for functional foods,” they added.
What is carob flour?
The carob tree (Ceratonia siliqua) is native to the Mediterranean region - including Southern Europe and Northern Africa and spreading into East Mediterranean countries like Jordan and across to Iran.
According to statistics from the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, in 2012 Spain was the biggest producer of carob by quantity (40,000 tonnes), followed by Italy (30,841), Portugal (23,000), Greece (22,000), Morocco (20,500) and Turkey (14,218).
Carob flour comes from the fruit of carob trees. The seeds and pods of the fruit are already used as raw material in food, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries and the pod can be ground into flour and used as a chocolate or cocoa substitute.
In 2011, Tate & Lyle launched a range of carob powder ingredients which it said could reduce dairy, bakery and ice cream production costs through cocoa replacement.
Carob germ flour, a byproduct from the seeds’ 'gum' can also be used for dietetic supplements and as a celiac-friendly ingredient in cereal-based products.
Source: Food Chemistry
Vol. 153, 15 June 2014, pp. 109–113, doi: 10.1016/j.foodchem.2013.12.045
“Nutritional characterization and bioactive components of commercial carobs flours”
Authors: A. Durazzo, V. Turfani, V. Narducci, E. Azzini, G. Maiani and M. Carcea