Boba, also known as bubble tea, has gained a lot of popularity around the world in recent years. In fact, it’s safe to say that boba has not only become a trend, but something of a craze.
There’s no denying that bubble tea tastes (see also: What Does Bubble Tea Taste Like?)delicious, and that there definitely are some nutritional benefits to this popular drink. However, some nutritional experts have expressed concern regarding boba’s nutritional profile and health impacts.
If you love your bubble tea but want to be as informed as possible about its impact on your health, read on.
We’ll be debunking some myths and raising some valid concerns about boba before letting you know how you can continue to enjoy your favorite drink with minimal negative consequences for your health!
Boba Nutrition Overview
Let’s start with a general overview of what ingredients make up the average cup of boba and what nutrients you can expect to find in your drink.
First of all, it’s worth noting that bubble tea is a pretty high-calorie drink. In fact, your average cup of boba tea can start at 430 calories and go all the way up to 616 calories if you add extra cream or sugar.
Even when you look at the calories in the tapioca pearls alone, you’re talking about almost 200 calories right there. A cup of boba drink with no sugar usually comes to around 375 calories, which is a lot for a sugar-free drink.
The pearls you’ll find in bubble tea are actually tapioca pearls, and these are made out of cassava plant starch.
The starch from this plant was originally sourced from Brazil at the time of the Japanese occupation and was imported into Taiwan, in case you’re interested.
Anyway, back to nutrition. The cassava starch itself is pretty healthy. It doesn’t contain any fat or cholesterol, and since it’s a starchy food, it also provides fiber.
However, it’s also high in carbs and since the cassava root needs to be processed in order to extract the starch and then make it into pearls, a lot of the original nutritional value is lost.
On the other side of the coin, it’s true that boba can provide a variety of health benefits. It’s high in antioxidants, particularly flavonols, which are known to lower individuals’ risks of developing cancer and other inflammatory illnesses.
Additionally, the pearls in bubble tea are gluten-free and vegan-friendly, which also makes them dairy-free.
Therefore, since bubble tea drinks also tend to be made with dairy-free creamers, these drinks are suitable for people with various dietary requirements.
Health Myths Surrounding Bubble Tea
Depending on how much research you’ve done into boba or bubble tea,(see also: The Best Of Bubble Tea: A Guide To Best Boba Toppings And Bubble Tea Flavor Combinations) you may have come across a few myths about this drink’s health impact.
The Stuck Pearls Myth
Probably the biggest myth surrounding bubble tea is the idea that boba pearls will get stuck in your stomach and intestines. This myth started when an x-ray image circulated all over social media.
This x-ray showed a large quantity of tapioca pearls which had collected in the patient’s stomach.
Understandably, this alarmed a lot of people, but medical experts have weighed in to clarify that in order for this to happen, a person would need to drink boba in very large quantities.
Also, it is thought that cooked boba should not cause this issue and that the girl in the x-ray had probably consumed uncooked boba.
Basically, as long as you drink boba in moderation and only consume cooked tapioca pearls, this shouldn’t happen.
The Cancer Myth
One prevalent myth surrounding boba is that it is directly linked to the development of cancerous cells in the body. This claim is based on a German study conducted in 2012 which implied a link between cancer and boba tea.
In fact, this study caused quite a lot of panic and led to many people giving up boba altogether.
However, according to the FDA as well as Taiwan’s Consumer Protection Committee, there is no evidence that boba is directly linked to cancer.
So, if it’s not true that bubble tea causes cancer, why is this still such an accepted myth? Well, it all comes down to sensationalism.
When you actually look into the study that made this claim in the first place, it was never peer-reviewed, which is very important in scientific publications because peer-reviewing helps to prevent misinformation.
In other words, this study should not be trusted because it hasn’t been through the necessary review processes and health experts have rejected the claims presented in the study.
Legitimate Health Concerns Around Boba
While it’s true that some of the biggest concerns about bubble tea are based on myth rather than fact, there are some legitimate concerns surrounding the potential health impacts of drinking too much boba.
Calories And Sugar
We’ve already discussed the amount of calories and sugar in bubble tea as part of our overview, and it’s definitely true that you should consume boba in moderation to avoid weight gain and complications from excess sugar consumption.
Consuming too much sugar has been known to cause not only weight gain but also potentially type 2 diabetes and some kinds of cancer.
There have also been some concerns that drinks containing a lot of sugar could be linked to ADHD, but there’s not enough evidence to confirm that sugar drinks directly cause ADHD.
Unfortunately, while you can reduce the overall calorie count and sugar content of your bubble tea by not adding any extra cream or sugar and choosing lower-calorie options where possible, you can’t remove the tapioca pearls since they’re a fundamental part of the drink.
Unfortunately, the pearls themselves contain a lot of calories and sugary carbohydrates, so you can only reduce the calories in your boba to a certain extent.
Earlier, we mentioned that many bubble tea drinks are made with dairy-free milk and creamer alternatives, which makes them suitable for people who are vegan or lactose-intolerant.
That’s great if you’re not able or don’t wish to consume real milk products in your diet, but the negative health effects of some dairy-free alternatives shouldn’t be overlooked when discussing the health impacts of boba.
Non-dairy milk and creamer may contain a lot of glucose as well as ingredients such as dipotassium and sodium caseinate. Since they obviously don’t contain milk fat, they often contain vegetable fat instead.
Unfortunately, the overall fat content in non-dairy creamer as well as the sugar content frequently ends up being higher than in dairy products, and there are some concerning ingredients to think about as well.
For instance, many dairy-free alternatives are high in something called hydrogenated palm oil. Unfortunately, studies have shown that hydrogenated palm oil is linked to heart disease and an increased risk of having a stroke.
How To Decrease Health Risks From Bubble Tea
The bottom line is that when consumed in moderation, bubble tea can provide some health benefits thanks to its antioxidant content. However, even when all the myths are ruled out, there are some health concerns surrounding bubble tea, too.
Bearing that in mind, you might be wondering how you can ensure that your boba doesn’t increase your risk of developing health conditions or gaining weight.
Thankfully, there are a few different ways you can make your boba healthier so you don’t have to worry about your health every time you enjoy this delicious drink.
1. Order Sugar-Free Boba
Since sugar and overall calories are one of the biggest concerns related to boba, the easiest way to make your bubble tea order healthier is to order without sugar.
If you’re used to drinking sugary boba, you might find it too difficult to get used to the sugar-free taste straight away, so it may be best to cut down gradually.
Alternatively, you could ask if your boba shop of choice has an option for sugar-free sweetener instead.
2. Choose Low-Calorie Toppings
Toppings are a big contributor to the overall calorie count in bubble tea. If you usually order boba (see also: Can You Order Boba From Starbucks? Find Out Here)with cheese foam on top, consider choosing a different topping or just trying the tea without any toppings at all.
You might be surprised by how delicious bubble tea is even without toppings.
3. Skip The Creamer
Again, creamer is one of the least healthy ingredients in bubble tea. Both dairy and non-dairy creamers are high in fat and the dairy-free options can contain harmful ingredients, so we recommend skipping the creamer altogether.
4. Avoid Mainstream Boba Shops
It’s much easier and often cheaper to get your boba fix from mainstream stores, but we recommend trying to find different boba stores that use healthier ingredients and make their boba themselves.
You will also find it easier to customize a healthier order outside of the mainstream stores because most of the bigger boba shops pre-mix their drinks, making it more difficult to adjust the recipe.
5. Make Your Own Boba!
Making your own boba at home might sound like a lot of effort, but you’ll actually find that buying the ingredients and making your own drink works out cheaper, and it also means you can be in full control of what goes into your bubble tea.
It doesn’t take very long to make a good cup of bubble tea, either. You just need to steep your choice of loose leaf tea to make it nice and strong before adding a little milk and the tapioca pearls.
You can drizzle syrups or sweeteners into the drink if you want. The result will be a much lower-calorie drink that costs less and doesn’t keep you up at night worrying about the ingredients.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Boba Tea Safe To Drink?
Yes, as long as you only consume boba that is made with cooked tapioca pearls and don’t overindulge in massive quantities, boba is safe to drink.
The only time you would have to worry about pearls accumulating in your stomach would be if you drank an enormous quantity of boba that was made with uncooked pearls, which don’t dissolve as well in the stomach.
However, if you do experience any unusual symptoms after consuming bubble tea, it’s best to consult your doctor.
Is Boba Tea Addictive?
The myth that boba tea itself is addictive is less prevalent than the cancer myth or the ‘pearls will get stuck in your digestive system’ myth, but a lot of people still believe that tapioca pearls are addictive.
This is not the case, although it’s true that a lot of people start to feel like they are addicted to boba after a while.
The reason for this is simply because boba tea is high in sugar. It’s not the tapioca in the pearls that is addictive, but the high sugar content definitely can be. The same is true for any high-sugar food or drink, however.
Is It Okay To Drink Boba On A Daily Basis?
We would not recommend drinking bubble tea on a daily basis if you buy from a mainstream boba (see also: What Is The Difference Between Boba And Bubble Tea?)shop. It’s especially not a good idea if you like to order full-sugar boba with creamer and cheese foam toppings.
If you do so, you’ll be consuming a lot of extra calories and sugar throughout the week.
However, if you make boba yourself at home without any extra sugar, drinking a cup per day shouldn’t negatively affect your health in a noticeable way.
The tapioca pearls in bubble tea may be high in antioxidants, but that’s pretty much the only health benefit you’ll get from boba. Often, the sugar and overall calories in bubble tea outweigh the benefits.
Although you don’t have to worry about boba causing cancer or pearls getting stuck in your stomach (as long as you consume only cooked tapioca pearls in moderation), you should try to make your boba healthier if you drink it regularly.
Try asking for no sugar, no creamer and no toppings, or make boba at home using natural sweeteners and lower-calorie tapioca pearls. This way bubble tea won’t be so bad for you.