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What Is The Nutritional Value Of Boba Tea?

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Boba Tea Has Low Nutritional Value

Boba tea has no nutritional value. A 16 oz glass gives 299 Cals, thanks to the starchy tapioca pearls that lack other nutrients. Added sugar, high-fructose corn syrup to sweeten the pearls, condensed milk, and artificial fruit jellies raise the sugar count to 38 g/16 oz or higher and counter the effects of tea antioxidants. Make your own at home with brown sugar, low-fat milk, and fresh fruit.

Boba, bubble tea, bubble milk tea, pearl milk tea, BBT, tapioca tea, ball drink, momi – there are sundry names for boba milk tea. The history of this drink has it that boba tea was the result of a Taiwanese lady pouring a traditional sweetened tapioca pudding called Fen Yuan into iced tea. This accidental culinary invention is now available all over the world in a variety of flavors and with different toppings.1 Many claim that it is their favorite thirst-quencher. But the question is, what is the nutritional value of boba tea?

What Does Boba Tea Contain?

Bubble tea is a sweet, cold, and chewy beverage served with a fat straw so that the tapioca pearls can pass through into your mouth. It gets its name from the bubbles you can see on top of the glass as a result of shaking the beverage before pouring and from the bubbles of tapioca pearls at the bottom. The white or black tapioca pearls used in boba milk tea are balls of starch made out of the cassava plant and are soft and chewy to eat.

Black, green, and jasmine teas are usually used as the base, along with milk and a variety of fruit, fruit jelly, and other flavors.

6 Reasons For Low Nutritional Value Of Boba Tea

Tea equals good health, thanks to the polyphenolic antioxidants. Or is it? Unfortunately, it is not the case with boba. Boba tea is too high in carbohydrates like starch and sugar for the tea antioxidants to have any beneficial effect.

1. Has A High Sugar Content

According to a study, the tapioca pearls are sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, while the fruit jelly is sweetened with cane or beet sugar. With so much sugar, bubble tea is definitely in the category of sugar-sweetened beverages or SSB. The US Department of Agriculture defines SSBs as liquids sweetened with various forms of sugars that add calories.

As far as these guidelines are concerned, boba milk tea is right up there with soda, fruit-ades, fruit drinks, and sports beverages, with a 16 oz glass serving 38 g sugar. The quantity of sugar can also increase depending on flavorings and toppings. This takes care of the maximum daily intake of sugar for men and over 150% of that for women.2

Added sugars in these type of beverages are strongly linked to increased body weight, type 2 diabetes, metabolic disease, and sundry other obesity-related comorbidities.3 The carbohydrates in boba milk tea mainly come from starch and act as simple sugars that provide us instant energy. Unfortunately, it also leads to a spike in blood sugar.

2. Has A High Calorie Value

Research also indicates that a 16 oz (473 ml) glass of bubble tea packs in a minimum of 299 Calories.4 Most of it comes from the tapioca pearls and can be considered empty calories.

3. Can Contain High-Fat And Sweeter Milk

Worse still, sometimes sweetened condensed milk is used instead of regular milk to impart a creamy texture to the tea. This makes the sugar content even higher. You can try to make a healthier version at home by using low-fat milk, soy milk, or coconut milk and choosing brown sugar in place of white sugar.

4. Tapioca Pearls Offer No Nutrition

The tapioca pearls in themselves have no nutritional value other than a high calorie content. Though derived from cassava, the pearls have no vitamins, minerals, or fiber to boast of. Further, to make them taste better, the tapioca pearls are often soaked in sugar syrups, even if not the high-fructose corn syrup kind.

5. Tapioca Pearl Sweeteners May Cause Cancer

In 2012, German researchers from University Hospital Aachen claimed that bubble tea tapioca pearls may contain cancer-causing substances like polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs. However, the FDA refuted this claim saying that the chemicals in tapioca balls do not fall under the PCB category.5

Do note, however, that while the tapioca pearls do not contain carcinogens in themselves, sweetening them with high-fructose corn syrup has several health risks, including obesity, diabetes, and cancer.

6. Tapioca Pearls Can Be Risky For Kids

Bubble tea is especially popular among children and teenagers. A study by The Federal Institute of Risk Management (BfR) in Germany has found that the tapioca pearls in the tea could expose the children to “aspiration”, which means children could accidentally suck the bubbles into their lungs. This is especially true among children below 4 years of age.6

Make A Healthy Boba Tea At Home

Sure, bubble tea is a delicious drink, but it is by no means a replacement for your daily cuppa. It is best described as a dessert beverage. Make it an occasional indulgence, not an everyday affair. And even then, make it at home and escape the ill effects:

  • Use fewer and unsweetened tapioca pearls
  • Use fresh fruit chunks or juice
  • Use brown sugar or allow the fruits to sweeten your tea
  • Use low-fat milk, soy milk, or coconut milk

References   [ + ]

1. Teo, Tang Wee, and Rong Lun Khoh, eds. Teaching Science in Culturally Relevant Ways: Ideas from Singapore Teachers. World Scientific, 2014.
2, 3. Min, Jae Eun, David B. Green, and Loan Kim. “Calories and sugars in boba milk tea: implications for obesity risk in Asian Pacific Islanders.” Food Science & Nutrition (2016).
4. Min, Jae Eun, David B. Green, and Loan Kim. “Calories and sugars in boba milk tea: implications for obesity risk in Asian Pacific Islanders.” Food Science & Nutrition (2016).
5.Tapioca Pearl Problems. University of California.
6.Trend Drink Bubble Tea: Health Risk for Small Children. The Federal Institute of Risk Management.

Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional.

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