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5 Health Benefits of Tapioca You Probably Never Knew

by Matt Weik, BS, CSCS, CPT, CSN

Tapioca, a gluten-free starch, is derived from the storage root of the cassava or yuca plant. Originating in Brazil, it is an everyday dietary staple in tropical countries due to its quick source of carbohydrates.

During World War II, some Southeast Asian countries relied primarily on tapioca for survival. Today, tapioca can be found in various forms, such as flakes, flour, or pearls. It is often used as a thickener and can be sweetened and dyed to make boba for bubble tea, tapioca pudding, and other sweet desserts.

Tapioca flour is also a key ingredient in gluten-free products like bread. However, it should be noted that while yuca (cassava) does provide some protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, tapioca has little to no nutritional value besides carbohydrates. Despite this, tapioca remains a beloved ingredient for its versatility and unique texture in many dishes across the globe.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any condition. It is recommended that you speak with your doctor before changing your current nutrition plan.

What is Tapioca?

Tapioca is a starch that comes from the cassava root, a tuber native to South America. The cassava root is easy to grow and a dietary staple found in many countries in Asia, Africa, and South America. Tapioca is naturally gluten-free, so it serves as a wheat substitute in baking and cooking for those on a gluten-free diet. Tapioca is a dried product usually sold as flakes, white flour, or pearls.

The Nutritional Value of Tapioca

The U.S. Department of Agriculture provides the following nutrition information for a 100g serving of dry tapioca pearls.

  • Calories: 358
  • Sodium: 1mg
  • Fat: 0.02g
  • Carbs: 88.7g
  • Sugar: 3.35g
  • Fiber: 0.9g
  • Protein: 0.2g

5 Health Benefits of Using Tapioca

Not many people think about the health benefits of consuming tapioca. Let’s look at some of the most common benefits of Tapioca.

1.      Tapioca’s versatility in restricted diets

For people who suffer from allergies or intolerances to wheat, grains, and gluten, following a restricted diet is essential. Tapioca, being naturally free of grains and gluten, is an excellent alternative to wheat- or corn-based products.

Its versatility allows it to be used as flour in baking and cooking, as well as a thickener in soups or sauces. However, it is important to note that tapioca has limited nutritional value. Therefore, it may be beneficial to combine it with other flour, such as almond or coconut flour, to increase the nutrient content of your diet. With tapioca’s versatility and suitability for restricted diets, it is a great ingredient to have on hand.

2.      Easy to digest

Tapioca is widely known for its reputation as a stomach-friendly food. Compared to flours derived from grains or nuts, tapioca is often easier to digest, making it a popular alternative for individuals with digestive issues.

Healthcare professionals may even recommend tapioca as a source of calories for individuals with conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or diverticulitis, which can cause digestive symptoms. The gentle nature of tapioca can help reduce symptoms and alleviate discomfort caused by these conditions.

3.      Helps to gain weight

Tapioca can be a great solution if you are looking for ways to gain weight. One cup of tapioca pearls contains 544 calories and 135g of carbohydrates. Consuming a couple of bowls of tapioca pudding daily improves a person’s likelihood of gaining weight without increasing any risk of adverse effects from consuming excess fat and cholesterol. You can also add tapioca to other food dishes to improve their calorie and carb content.

4.      Good source of calcium

Calcium is a vital mineral that plays a significant role in various bodily functions, including maintaining strong bones and teeth, supporting muscle and blood vessel function, nerve communication, and blood clotting.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends that individuals consume adequate amounts of calcium daily since the body loses it daily through sweat, urine, feces, and skin.

Therefore, it’s essential to include calcium-rich foods in our daily diet. One cup of tapioca pearls contains 30.4mg of calcium, making it a reasonable source of this vital mineral for those looking to increase their calcium intake.

5.      Help in the nourishment of babies

The nutrition in tapioca makes it an excellent food for a growing child who requires an ample amount of nutrients. Tapioca helps young children gain weight, which is essential for their normal development. Since tapioca is high in carbs, it can also be used as a weaning food for kids older than a year.

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