The popularity of bubble tea, also known as boba milk tea, has exploded recently. A delicious and revitalizing beverage is created by the combination of chewy tapioca pearls with sweet, creamy iced tea. But many wonder – can these sugary boba drinks actually be healthy? While high in calories from sugar, boba beverages also contain antioxidants, vitamins, and other beneficial substances from their tea and milk components. When made properly, boba can be part of a balanced diet. You’ll explore the benefits of healthy boba drinks.
Provide Antioxidants from Tea
Most boba drinks are made with strong black tea as the base. Black teas like Assam, Ceylon, and English Breakfast are brimming with antioxidants called polyphenols. These include beneficial compounds like thearubigins, theaflavins, and catechins. Studies show that antioxidants in tea may help:
- Reduce cellular damage from oxidative stress
- By enhancing blood vessel performance, reduce risk of heart disease
- Decrease inflammation that is linked with chronic diseases
- Protect cells against damage from UV radiation
So while the tapioca pearls don’t contain many antioxidants, the tea itself in boba beverages can provide these important compounds linked with health benefits. Just be mindful of added sugar content, which can counteract benefits.
Supply Protein from Milk Options
Traditional bubble tea recipes call for sweetened condensed milk, though variants may use dairy alternatives. Condensed and evaporated milk both contain protein – about 8 grams per cup. Some plant-based options like soy or nut milks also supply protein. Getting adequate protein is important for:
- Building and repairing muscle tissue
- Supporting immune system function
- Preserving your sense of fullness between meals
Adding a scoop of protein powder to your boba drink takes it to the next level for a muscle repairing post-workout beverage. The protein works synergistically with tea antioxidants to help your body recover.
Provide Calcium, Vitamin D, and Other Nutrients
One potential benefit of boba drinks is they can provide important bone-supporting nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, potassium and phosphorus. This is thanks to the use of dairy milk or dairy-based ingredients. Cow’s milk naturally contains high levels of these minerals and vitamins essential for building and maintaining strong, healthy bones. Just one cup of plain 2% dairy milk supplies about 300mg of calcium, which is 30% of the recommended daily value. It also has 100 IU of vitamin D, which aids calcium absorption and bone growth. Besides calcium and vitamin D, milk also contains potassium, which regulates fluid balance, and phosphorus, a mineral that makes up bones and teeth alongside calcium.
While sweetened condensed milk has lower amounts of these nutrients per cup due to the removal of water content, it still provides a concentrated dose. Evaporated milk also retains calcium and vitamin D after water removal. The exact amounts will depend on the brand, but most dairy-based ingredients used in boba deliver key bone-benefiting compounds. Even plant-based milks like soy or almond that are sometimes used contain added calcium and vitamin D to mimic dairy’s nutritional profile.
Benefits Dependent on Customization
While boba drinks contain some healthy components like tea antioxidants and milk nutrients, their overall nutrition profile can vary greatly depending on customization. There are many ways to modify boba beverages to make them healthier options.
One of the simplest is choosing a lower sugar level, such as 25-50% sweetness rather than full sugar. This significantly cuts down on empty calories from added sugar that provide little nutritional benefit. Trading out candy or chocolate syrup toppings for fresh fruit add-ins like blueberries, mango, or lychee jelly also boosts vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Opting for mineral-rich brown sugar rather than nutritionally void white sugar is another easy swap. Using low fat milk provides the same vitamins and minerals as full fat milk without unnecessary saturated fat and calories. And skipping empty calorie toppings like chocolate chips or oreo cookies prevents packing in excess sugar and fat.
Best Boba Options for Health Benefits
Focus on the following to maximize possible nutritional benefits from your boba order:
High Antioxidant Tea Base
Opt for black, green, white, oolong, or pu-erh tea. Herbal teas don’t have the same antioxidants.
Milk or Milk Substitute
Whether dairy or plant-based, choose options with protein, calcium, vitamin D if possible.
Moderate Sugar Level
Order 25-50% sweetness and avoid added sugary toppings.
Fresh Fruit Toppings
Berries, mango, lychee jelly have vitamins, minerals. Skip candy or cookies.
Brown Sugar Over White Sugar
To create white sugar, brown sugar’s minerals are taken out.
Add Protein Powder
Whey or plant protein turns boba into a protein-packed drink.
Low Fat Milk
Still has nutrients but less unhealthy saturated fat.
Are Boba Drinks Ultimately Healthy
Boba drinks contain some beneficial nutrients from ingredients like milk and tea, but they are too high in sugar to be considered truly healthy. The tea provides antioxidants that are linked to positive health effects. Milk ingredients like condensed milk supply protein for muscle building along with calcium and vitamin D for bone strength. However, most boba drinks also pack in high amounts of added sugar, which counteracts potential nutritional benefits. The copious amounts of sugar flood the body with empty calories devoid of nutrition.
Another downside is premade boba mixes often contain artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives. These chemical additives are questionable for health. Finally, the tapioca pearls themselves lack nutritional value. The pearls are nearly pure carbohydrates with no protein, vitamins, minerals or fiber. These “empty carb” pearls spike blood sugar without providing complete nutrition. So the pearls negate much of the potential goodness from the tea and milk components.
Boba drinks are a tasty treat that have exploded in popularity, but they come with tradeoffs. The tea and milk provide antioxidants, protein, vitamins and minerals. However, the boba drink price is so affordable, Moreover, high sugar content and lack of nutrients in the tapioca pearls mean boba can’t be considered healthy. While enjoyable in moderation, boba shouldn’t replace more nutritious beverages as a daily habit. Customizing your drink with healthy add-ins can help tip the scales towards a more balanced beverage.