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Sabudana, also known as tapioca pearl or sago, is starch extracted from the roots of tapioca.

It’s an energy booster and a source of calcium, iron, and potassium. But although a healthy carbohydrate, it’s also a high carb food. So if you have diabetes, you might ask: Is sabudana safe to eat?

The body breaks down most carbs from food into sugar, or glucose, and insulin helps the cells in your body absorb this sugar. If you have diabetes, though, your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or respond to insulin properly. In which case, eating high carb foods can cause an accumulation of glucose in your bloodstream.

Can sabudana have this effect on blood sugar? Here’s what you need to know about this healthy carb, including whether it’s safe to eat if you have diabetes.

Sabudana is native to countries like Asia, South America, and Africa. This is because tapioca roots can grow easily in these regions.

Sabudana is produced by first extracting starch from the root of the tapioca plant. The starch is then processed into small, pearl-like spheres.

It has a neutral flavor, so some people use it to add texture to breads or cakes, or they’ll add it to drinks, soups, and sauces as a thickener. As an ingredient, it can be roasted, boiled, or fermented.

While someone without diabetes might eat sabudana without thinking about their blood sugar, people with diabetes need to be a bit more aware of the carbs they eat, particularly if they take insulin.

As a high carbohydrate food, sabudana can pose a risk if you have diabetes. The starch rapidly converts to sugar, thus triggering a blood sugar spike.

But this doesn’t mean that it’s completely off limits.

Although some people with diabetes might stick with a low carb diet, they can also enjoy sabudana from time to time. The key is moderation.

Eating sabudana on a daily basis can lead to frequent high blood sugar. When eaten in moderation, it only causes a moderate increase in blood sugar.

It’s important to always eat sabudana with fiber-rich, low calorie vegetables. This helps increase your overall fiber intake for that meal and keeps your blood sugar stable. Because fiber slows the absorption of glucose, it prevents dangerous blood sugar fluctuations.

Gluten-free option

Sabudana is one option if you’re looking for a gluten-free food. If you have a gluten intolerance or Celiac disease, gluten can cause constipation, diarrhea, bloating, and fatigue.

Sabudana is also useful when you need a quick energy boost.

Some people living with diabetes experience frequent tiredness, fatigue, or constipation. Sabudana might relieve some of these issues.

It’s also important to eat sabudana in moderation because it’s high on the glycemic index (GI).

The glycemic index ranks the carbohydrates in foods based on how slow or how fast they raise blood sugar levels. The scale ranges from 0 to 100, with foods higher on the scale increasing blood sugar at a faster rate.

Knowing the glycemic index of foods can help you determine which carbs can be better for keeping your blood sugar more stable. Since foods with a lower GI ranking digest more slowly, they don’t usually cause a spike in blood sugar. Eating these foods can help you successfully manage diabetes.

Eating carbohydrates that absorb too quickly, on the other hand, might cause a blood sugar spike. This makes it harder to control your diabetes, and puts you at risk for diabetes complications, like:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • kidney damage
  • skin conditions
  • nerve damage

The glycemic index breaks foods into categories based on the grams of carbs:

  • Low: 55 or less
  • Medium: 56 to 69
  • High: 70 or more

Sabudana has a glycemic index of 67. Although it doesn’t have a high ranking, it isn’t exactly low, either. So it can have a moderate impact on blood sugar if you consume too much.

Ideally, people with diabetes should eat foods that rank lower on the glycemic index.

Sabudana is pure starch, so it contains more carbohydrates than any other nutrient. It’s also a source of:

  • protein
  • fiber
  • calcium
  • iron
  • magnesium

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 1 cup of tapioca pearl contains:

  • Calories: 544
  • Protein: 0.29 grams (g)
  • Fat: 0.03 g
  • Carbohydrates: 135 g
  • Fiber: 1.37 g
  • Calcium: 30.4 mg
  • Iron: 2.4 mg
  • Magnesium: 1.52 mg
  • Potassium: 16.7 mg

If you’re living with diabetes, it’s important to eat a healthy, balanced diet to keep your blood sugar within a healthy range.

Of course, this isn’t only important for people with diabetes. Eating a balanced diet benefits everyone. It can lower the risk of developing diabetes later in life.

If you have diabetes, you don’t have to avoid carbohydrates. You need carbs for energy. However, you should focus on eating healthy carbohydrates. These carbs include:

  • vegetables
  • fruits
  • whole grains
  • low fat dairy
  • legumes

Some of these foods are excellent because they’re also fiber-rich, which helps slow the absorption of sugar.

As a general rule, eat fewer unhealthy carbohydrates. This includes foods and drinks with added sugar or high amounts of fat and sodium.

If you take insulin, monitor the amount of carbs you eat per meal so that you take the right dose of medication.

You can count carbs before eating, and then take the appropriate amount of insulin before meals.

If you’re having difficulty managing your blood sugar, or if you need assistance figuring out your insulin-to-carbohydrate ratio, speak with your doctor. You can also ask for a referral to a dietitian, a nutritionist, or a diabetes educator.

They can offer advice and teach you how to count carbohydrates and how to adjust your insulin. You can also get tips on creating a meal plan to keep your blood sugar under control.

Sabudana is a healthy carbohydrate that’s gluten-friendly and provides a much needed energy boost. But if you’re living with diabetes, too much of it can be harmful to your health.

So while sabudana is okay to eat if you have diabetes, moderation is key. Make sure you pair it with fiber-rich vegetables to avoid blood sugar spikes.