Tapioca is the starch extracted from the roots of the cassava (Manihot esculenta) plant native to South America. It is a popular gluten-free alternative for people with celiac disease and a staple for millions around the world. This carbohydrate-rich starch is available in the form of flour, pearls, and flakes and can be used to make pudding or bubble tea. It is ideal for people who are on restricted diets. So, how does tapioca actually benefit your health?
In this article, we explore the health benefits of tapioca, its nutrition, possible side effects, and a few simple recipes to try.
In This Article
What Is Tapioca?
It is produced by squeezing the liquid out of ground cassava roots. The liquid is then allowed to evaporate, leaving behind a fine tapioca powder.
Tapioca is used as a thickening agent in soups and sauces as it has a neutral flavor and strong gelling power. Pearls are the most common form of tapioca, which are opaque when raw but become translucent when cooked in boiling water. You can find tapioca in the gluten-free section of supermarkets and food stores.
So, what nutrients does tapioca provide? Keep scrolling to know.
Tapioca Nutrition Facts
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one cup (152g) of dry, pearl tapioca contains (1):
This nutrient-rich profile of tapioca is sure to benefit your health in many ways. We explore its four major benefits in the following section. Keep reading.
Health Benefits Of Tapioca
1. May Improve Digestion
Trista Best, RDN, says, “Tapioca is quite easy to digest and easy on the gut since it is not inflammatory in nature. This allows it to help mitigate and prevent gastrointestinal issues common to other flours and thickeners.” Besides, the fiber in tapioca may help improve digestive health. A review published in the World Journal of Gastroenterology suggests that dietary fiber intake may increase stool frequency in people with constipation (2). Moreover, high fiber intake may also reduce the risk of distal colon cancer (3).
2. May Support Weight Gain
Lisa Richards, a nutritionist, says, “There are times when weight gain is necessary for an individual whether it be for personal fitness goals or to improve health. Tapioca makes an excellent aid to a diet focused on weight gain”. “A cup of tapioca pearls is over 500 calories and approximately 135 grams of carbohydrates. One of the most beneficial aspects of using tapioca for weight gain is the fact that it will not cause an increase in cholesterol like other means of weight gain tend to do,” she adds.
3. May Promote Heart Health
Tapioca contains no saturated fat. Long-term trials found that reduced saturated fatty acid intake may decrease the risk of combined cardiovascular diseases by 21 percent (4). Another study found that flavonoids and alkaloids in cassava help manage cardiovascular complications, including heart disease. Furthermore, fiber is anti-dyslipidemic – it helps reduce the risk of abnormally high cholesterol levels in the blood. This also contributes to a reduced cardiovascular disease risk (5). However, more studies are needed to understand this phenomenon of tapioca in humans.
4. Is Suitable For People On Restricted Diets
According to research, one in every 141 persons has celiac disease in the United States (0.711%) (6). Tapioca is grain-, gluten-, and wheat-free and is the best option for people with gluten sensitivity. Therefore, it is the best substitute for wheat flour in baking.
Tapioca flour is also often used by those on a paleo diet or an autoimmune protocol diet. In addition, lactating mothers consume cassava leaf products to boost their breast milk production (7).
As with many other healthy foods, tapioca too may have some side effects. Scroll down to know.
Side Effects Of Tapioca
There are no documented reports on the side effects of tapioca. However, consuming improperly processed cassava products can be dangerous as they may contain cyanogenic glycosides (that can cause cyanide poisoning) (8). Moreover, several deaths were reported in Nigeria after consuming improperly processed cassava (9). A study by Faro Central Hospital (Portugal) found that it may also cause a neurological disease called konzo (10). Cassava may also cause anaphylaxis (serious allergic reaction) in people with latex allergies due to cross-reactivity (11). Tapioca starch does have a high glycemic index that can cause a spike in insulin and blood sugar and may therefore be unsuitable for those with pre-diabetes and diabetes.
Since tapioca is made from only the starch content of cassava, it is generally considered safe. But how can you include it in your diet? Here are a few ways to consider.
What Is Tapioca Used For?
- Tapioca flour makes gluten-free and grain-free bread, and is often used to make casabe (a type of flatbread). Tapioca can also be eaten as breakfast, dinner, or dessert with different toppings.
- Tapioca pearls are used to make puddings, snacks, or bubble tea.
- Tapioca can be used as a thickener for soups, sauces, and gravies. It has a neutral flavor and does not alter the taste of the original dish.
- You can also add it to burgers, nuggets, and dough to improve their texture and moisture.
You can also prepare some delicious recipes with tapioca. In the following section, we list three simple tapioca recipes to try at home.
1. Tapioca Pudding
What You Need
- Small pearl tapioca – ½ cup
- Large eggs – 2
- Whole milk – 3 cups
- Sugar – ½ cup
- Salt – ¼ teaspoon
- Vanilla extract – 1 teaspoon
- Combine the tapioca, milk, and salt in a 1½ quart pan on medium-high heat.
- Stir while bringing to a bare simmer.
- Lower the heat and add sugar gradually until the tapioca pearls have plumped up and thickened.
(Note: It will take anywhere from 5 minutes to 45 minutes of cooking based on the type or brand of tapioca you are using)
- Stir occasionally to avoid the tapioca sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Beat eggs in a separate bowl.
- Whisk in some of the hot tapioca very slowly to equalize the temperature of the two.
- Slowly add the eggs to the remaining tapioca in the pan.
- Increase the heat to medium and stir for several minutes until you get a thick consistency.
- Do not let the mixture boil, else the tapioca egg custard will curdle.
- Cool it for 15 minutes.
- Stir in vanilla and serve either warm or chilled.
2. Bubble Tea
What You Need
- Black tea – 8 bags (loose-leaf black tea – 3 tablespoons)
- Quick-cooking tapioca pearls – ¾ cup
- Hot water – 4 cups
- Whole milk – to serve
- Simple syrup – to serve
For The Simple Syrup
- Water – ½ cup
- Sugar – ½ cup
- Steep the tea bags or leaves in four cups of freshly boiled water. Let the tea sit in water until it cools completely.
- For the syrup: Dissolve sugar in water in a saucepan on medium-high heat (stirring well). Remove from heat and let it cool before transferring to a jar.
- Bring about four cups of water to boil and add the tapioca pearls.
- Stir the pearls and wait for them to float.
- Cook for another 5 minutes. Continue cooking if the pearls are still stiff.
- Use a slotted spoon to remove the pearls from the hot water. Rinse them with water quickly and transfer into a bowl. Mix the pearls with a few tablespoons of the simple syrup.
- Strain the tea into a pitcher. Divide the cooked tapioca pearls into four large glasses and add a few ice cubes.
- Pour one cup of tea into each glass.
- Add 1½ tablespoons of milk and 1½ tablespoons of simple syrup into each. Stir and taste the milk tea. Add more milk or simple syrup to your taste.
3. Blueberry Tapioca Pie
What You Need
- Sugar – 7 tablespoons
- Tapioca granules – 2 tablespoons
- Fresh blueberry – 4 cups
- All-purpose flour – 1 tablespoon
- Lemon juice – 1 tablespoon
- Pre-made pie crusts – 2
- Milk – 1 tablespoon
- Vanilla ice cream – for serving
- Preheat the oven to 425o
- Combine six tablespoons of sugar, flour, and tapioca granules in a medium bowl.
- Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the blueberries in a large bowl.
- Stir in the lemon juice.
- Line an 8-inch (20-cm) metal pie tin with one of the pie crusts.
- Spoon the blueberry mixture into the crust. Place the other crust on top.
- Press the edges of the crusts together with a fork and trim any excess dough around the sides with scissors.
- Brush the milk over the top crust and sprinkle with the last tablespoon of sugar.
- Cut a few slits in the top to release steam as the pie bakes.
- Bake the pie for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 350oF and bake for 30 to 35 minutes more until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbling.
- Cool the pie on a wire rack for at least 2 hours to let the filling set.
- Slice and serve with ice cream.
How do you store tapioca effectively to avoid spoilage and extend its shelf life? Scroll down to know.
How To Store Tapioca?
Tapioca pearls can last for about 6 to 12 months if left unopened. Tapioca flour stays good for years if sealed tightly. Keep it in a cool, dry area but not in the refrigerator or freezer. If you soak and sweeten tapioca pearls to make boba, consume within four hours.
Tapioca is a pure starch extracted from the roots of cassava. This gluten-free food source is available in different forms, like flour, pearls, and flakes. Tapioca benefits your health in a multitude of ways. The intake of tapioca may improve digestion, aid in weight gain, promote heart health, and boost breast milk production. However, improperly processed tapioca may cause poisoning and allergic reactions. Therefore, buy it only from trustworthy brands and add it to your diet to reap its health benefits to the fullest.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can tapioca help you lose weight?
No. Tapioca, instead, may help in healthy weight gain due to its high carb content without adding any unhealthy cholesterol.
Is tapioca good for your stomach?
Yes. Tapioca is good for your stomach. It can be included in the low-FODMAP diet, and its intake can improve the symptoms of Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) (12).
- Tapioca is used in soups and sauces as a thickening agent.
- It may help you gain weight, enhance digestion, and promote heart health.
- Tapioca pudding, bubble tea, and blueberry tapioca pie are some tapioca dishes.
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- Tapioca, pearl, dry
- Effect of dietary fiber on constipation: A meta analysis
- Dietary fiber intake and risk of colorectal cancer and incident and recurrent adenoma in the Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial
- Reduction in saturated fat intake for cardiovascular disease
- Ethnopharmacological values of cassava and its potential for diabetes and dyslipidemia management: Knowledge survey and critical review of report
- The prevalence of celiac disease in the United States
- Herbal medicine use during breastfeeding: a cross-sectional study among mothers visiting public health facilities in the Western area of Sierra Leone
- Outbreak of Cyanide Poisoning Caused by Consumption of Cassava Flour — Kasese District, Uganda, September 2017
- The toxic effects of cassava (manihotesculentagrantz) diets on humans: a review
- Konzo: from poverty, cassava, and cyanogen intake to toxico-nutritional neurological disease
- Allergy to cassava: a new allergenic food with cross-reactivity to latex
- Low-FODMAP diet in the management of irritable bowel syndrome
- 26 Amazing Benefits Of Cassava For Skin, Hair, And Health
- 8 Side Effects Of Eating Too Many Dates
- 9 Side Effects Of Spirulina
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