Tapioca is a starchy product made from cassava tubers. These tubers are native to Brazil and much of South America. Tapioca is available as flour, meal, flakes, and pearls. Tapioca pearls are commonly used to make tapioca pudding and bubble teas. Tapioca is also used as a thickener.
Tapioca is almost entirely starchy carbohydrates (carbs). People who limit their consumption of carbs or who are concerned about how starches impact blood sugar levels may perceive tapioca as unhealthy. Tapioca is high on the glycemic index scale. The glycemic index measures how fast blood sugar levels increase after eating.
Here’s a look at the nutritional information for tapioca.
Tapioca is gluten-free, nut-free, and grain-free. It won’t cause problems for people with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, and nut allergies. Tapioca flour can be found in many gluten-free products. It’s a good option for allergen-free baking at home. It’s also an alternative to white flour for thickening soups, sauces, and pie fillings.
Tapioca is cholesterol-free. High cholesterol may cause a buildup of plaque in your arteries, which is known as atherosclerosis. Left unchecked, atherosclerosis may lead to angina, heart attack, and stroke.
A cup of tapioca pearls has about 1.5 grams of dietary fiber. It’s not a lot, but it can help you meet the daily recommended value of 21 to 38 grams. Most people don’t consume nearly enough fiber. Yet fiber offers many health benefits such as lowering cholesterol, maintaining blood sugar levels, and preventing constipation.
Tapioca is known for being easy on the stomach. Many people find it easier to digest than flours made with grains or nuts. Tapioca may be recommended as a source of calories and energy during digestive flares from conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis.
If you need to gain weight fast, tapioca may help. One cup of tapioca pearls has 544 calories and 135 carbs. If you eat a couple of bowls of tapioca pudding (which contains additional calories, carbs, and fat) a day, and add tapioca to other foods, you have a good chance of packing on pounds without the negative effects of consuming too much fat and cholesterol.
You have more calcium in your body than any other mineral. Calcium is important for strong bones and teeth. It also:
- helps blood vessels and muscles contract and dilate
- helps nerves send messages
- helps blood clot
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, you lose calcium each day through your skin, sweat, urine, and feces. Your body can’t make calcium to replace what’s lost. Calcium must be obtained through the foods you eat. One cup of pearl tapioca has 30 milligrams (mg) of calcium, about 3 percent of the daily recommended value. Again, it’s not an impressive amount, but it counts toward your daily intake.
Most people eat too much sodium. Especially since sodium is hidden in plain sight in processed snacks, soups, and condiments. A high-sodium diet is associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Tapioca contains a very small amount of sodium. One cup of tapioca pearls has just 2 mg.
Folate is a B vitamin that your body needs to make DNA and for cell division. Folate is also critical for women in their childbearing years to prevent neural tube defects such as spinal bifida. Folate deficiency may also cause anemia. One cup of tapioca pearls has 6 micrograms of folate, which is 2 percent of the daily recommended value.
One cup of tapioca pearls provides 8 percent of the manganese your body needs each day. Manganese is an essential trace mineral that helps your body metabolize carbs, cholesterol, and amino acids. It also supports bone and connective tissue development.
Tapioca is a good source of iron. One cup of tapioca pearls provides over 13 percent of the daily recommended value. Iron is found in hemoglobin, a protein that carries oxygen to all parts of your body. If you don’t get enough iron, you may develop iron-deficiency anemia. This condition may cause serious side effects such as shortness of breath, fatigue, and chest pain.
The carbs and fiber in tapioca are filling. While tapioca can’t be hailed as a weight loss food, it may keep you fuller longer and suppress hunger. This can decrease the chances of overeating.
It’s high in carbs and calories, so tapioca can’t be called healthy. Still, it can help you meet the recommended daily allowance of several important nutrients. And it’s a tasty food to enjoy if you need to gain weight.
Tapioca can fit into your healthy eating plan when eaten in moderation. Keep in mind that many tapioca recipes, like tapioca pudding and bubble tea, are loaded with additional calories and fat from added sugars and milk or cream. Make lighter versions by substituting almond milk or fat-free milk for whole milk. You can substitute liquid stevia or erythritol for sugar.