Tapioca Pearls (Boba) Calories, Nutrition, and Benefits

Last Updated on December 14, 2021 by Dr Sharon Baisil MD

Boba tea is almost all over social media as one of the most popular drinks. Its unique flavor and texture have taken over many. This beverage is not only tasty but also fun to drink.

Boba or bubble tea is made from tapioca pearls that are poured into several types of tea. Apart from teas, it is also being used in different types of dessert recipes.

Although boba/ tapioca pearls make a tasty drink or food, they are still a little risky for health. There are a few health-related facts that you must know about boba before making it a frequent beverage choice.

What is boba?

Boba or tapioca pearls are small round-looking edible spheres that are translucent in appearance. It is made using the starch – tapioca derived from the cassava plant.

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These pearl-like softballs are tasteless on their own but can absorb other flavors due to which they are used in milkshakes or teas. It gives the drinks or desserts a chewy and thickened texture.

The review towards tapioca pearls is mixed. The total amount of starch present in tapioca pearls is very high, due to which it is considered a great source of energy. Including this can supply instant energy to the body and prevent conditions like fatigue.

On the other hand, it is disliked for some unhealthy factors discussed further in this article. Let us first have a look at if tapioca pearls are healthy.

Are tapioca pearls healthy?

Bubble tea with the addition of tapioca pearls makes a rather tasty drink, but what about its health factors?


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To be precise, tapioca pearls do not contain a lot of nutrients. They are neither too bad nor too good for your health. The effects of tapioca pearls depend on your prevailing health condition and frequency of consumption.

When it comes to tapioca pearls, they are made of pure starch and, therefore, consist mostly of carbohydrates. Moreover, tapioca pearls in desserts and sweet drinks make the entire dish even richer in carbohydrates.

The presence of caffeine in bubble tea also stimulates the body to be more active and energetic. Caffeine, when consumed in controlled amounts, can be helpful for the body.

Hence, bubble tea with tapioca pearls can increase your overall consumption of carbohydrates. This can be unhealthy for many health types and conditions.

Other than that, tapioca pearls do not have many other nutrients that can harm or benefit the body. Although, bubble tea and tapioca pearls are not advised to have regularly.

Let us have a look at what the effects of tapioca pearls can be on diabetic patients.

Can diabetic patients have tapioca pearls?

As available in bubble tea, Tapioca pearls are not advisable for diabetic patients due to excess sugar.

When it comes to tapioca, it is best when avoided as it is a pure form of starch. Tapioca is a debatable food item for people with diabetes as it has many carbohydrates that can increase blood glucose levels in the body.

Diabetes is a disease of metabolic functioning that is chronic. It affects the levels of sugar in the body, which in turn can hamper health management.

Hence diabetic patients must include safe foods and proper portion control to maintain better blood sugar levels to prevent risks.

On the other hand, tapioca also includes a lot of dietary fiber, which is great for the body. The fiber in the body helps to keep the metabolism properly functional and healthy. However, when processed to form tapioca pearls, most dietary fiber is removed from the tapioca.

But when included in desserts such as – puddings and sweet beverages like bubble tea, these can only lead to rises in the amounts of sugar in the blood.

Moreover, regular or frequent consumption of tapioca pearls can also lead to rises in the bodyweight. Keeping a normal and healthy body weight is very important for diabetic patients to ensure no harm to the body.

The number of calories found in tapioca pearls is also very high. This is the major factor that can affect the body’s weight and overall blood glucose levels. We will discuss the number of calories available in tapioca pearls later.

The addition of any food item high in starch can trigger the already persistent diabetic symptoms manifested in the body.

The glycemic index of tapioca is already pretty high at 94. This is high enough to prove that the impact of eating tapioca can be harmful to blood sugar levels. In addition to this, the process of making or manufacturing tapioca pearls can again influence the number of carbs present in tapioca that leads to raises in its glycemic index, making it even more unfit for consumption by diabetic patients.

Due to the reasons mentioned above, it is clear that tapioca pearls are not so good for diabetic patients. They are best avoided as the dishes and desserts that they are included in also stand as threats to the blood sugar levels of diabetics and can lead to overall harm to the body.

Calories in tapioca pearls

Calories in tapioca pearls

A cup of dry tapioca pearls has around 544 calories, which is a huge amount. Although tapioca pearls in the famous bubble tea drink are much lesser than a cup, the calories also add to the drink and make it unsafe.

This can take up a lot of the daily advised calorie intake of an individual and increase the overall regular calorie intake. Such disturbances can lead to imbalances in blood sugar levels and cause other severe complications.

Let us have a look at the other nutrients found in tapioca pearls in the coming section.

Nutritional information of tapioca pearls

The following table will help you to understand whether tapioca pearls are healthy or unhealthy for you. It lists down the many macro and micronutrients available in 100 grams of dry tapioca pearls.

Sl. No.Nutrients available in 152 g dry tapioca pearlsAmount available
 Carbohydrates Dietary fiber Sugars134.81 g – 1.4 g – 5.09 g
 Fats0.03 g
 Proteins0.29 g
 Water16.70 g
 Cholesterol0 mg
 Folate6.08 mg
 Choline1.8 mg
 Pantothenic acid0.205 mg
 Thiamine0.006 mg
 Calcium B63.040 mg
 Vitamin B60.012 mg
 Copper0.030 mg
 Magnesium1.52 mg
 Iron2.40 mg
 Phosphorus10. 64 mg
 Manganese0.167 mg
 Selenium1.2 mcg
 Potassium16.72 mg
 Zinc0.18 mg
 Sodium1.52 mg

From the above table, it is clear that apart from just calories and carbs, tapioca pearls also have several other helpful vitamins and nutrients that help the body in various ways.

Next, let us talk about the health benefits of tapioca pearls.

What are the benefits of tapioca pearls?

Whether you include tapioca pearls as puddings, in shakes, or as bubble tea, it can have some or the other benefit when done right. Here is a list of advantages of having tapioca pearls:

  1. Tapioca pearls are often used as a substitute for grains that are filled with gluten. Individuals with a gluten allergy can resort to tapioca pearls as one source of alternative.
  • It is very high in carbs and, thus, an instant source of energy. Tapioca pearls are usually had during fasts in India as it is vegetarian and keeps the body active.
  • Tapioca pearls are easy to digest and do not harm the metabolism.
  • Tapioca is also a good source of supplying iron, which avoids the vulnerability towards many diseases.
  • Tapioca is also good for the skin and combats usual skin issues such as – dullness, spots, scars, dehydrated skin, etc.
  • The availability of resistant starch in tapioca pearls helps feed the gut bacteria, which aids better digestive functioning.
  • Tapioca pearls can be a good agent for weight gain. If you want to add to your body weight, you can resort to healthy tapioca pearl recipes.

Can tapioca pearls cause cancer?

Can tapioca pearls cause cancer

The studies conducted have mixed results to find out if boba/ tapioca pearls have cancer-causing factors. The answer is that when had in moderation, tapioca pearls may not have any such harmful effects, but increased and over-intake of tapioca pearls can add to cancer risks.

Some studies have found carcinogenic chemicals in boba that are not supposed to be in any food. To be on the safer side, it is best not to have these regularly or too frequently.

Individuals with diabetes, cholesterol, or weaker immune systems must stay away from tapioca pearls.

What are some tapioca pearls substitutes?

The chewy and soft texture of tapioca pearls in bubble tea or desserts adds extra deliciousness to it. However, as tapioca pearls are too healthy, they can be alternated with some healthy substitutes such as:

  1. Young coconut meat – this has a similar chewy soft texture and adds extra sweet flavor as well.
  • Blueberries – the addition of a healthy fruit makes the dish even more healthful.
  • Jelly strips – edible sweet candy or jelly strips or balls can also have a similar feel to boba. However, they are also rich in sugar and calories and must be done with prior attention.




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