Is Boba Bad for You? Uncovering the Facts and Myths

Boba tea, also known as bubble tea, has exploded in popularity in recent years, becoming a trendy beverage option in many countries worldwide. The drink typically consists of tea mixed with milk or fruit juice, which is then combined with small, chewy tapioca balls known as “boba.” 

While boba tea may be delicious, there has been some debate regarding its health implications. Some argue that the sugar and calorie content in boba tea is quite high, while others suggest that the tapioca balls used in the drink may be unhealthy.

In this context, the question arises: is boba tea bad for you? With so many people enjoying this delicious treat, you might be wondering if there are any health concerns associated with consuming boba tea regularly.

To answer this question, it’s essential to examine the nutritional profile of boba tea, as well as the potential health implications of its various components. While the tea base itself can provide some health benefits, it’s essential to be aware of the potential drawbacks that come with this beverage.

In this article, we will explore the potential risks and benefits of consuming boba tea and evaluate whether it should be considered a healthy beverage choice.

What is Boba?

Is Boba Bad for You

Boba, also known as bubble tea or pearl milk tea, is a popular Taiwanese drink that combines tea, milk, sugar, and tapioca pearls. The key ingredient, tapioca pearls, are made from the starch of the cassava root and provide a unique texture and taste to the drink.

When you enjoy a cup of boba tea, you’ll often find the chewy pearls at the bottom, meant to be consumed along with the liquid through a wide straw.

Now, you might be wondering about the health implications of boba tea. As with any food or beverage, moderation is key. Unfortunately, boba itself provides very few health benefits, and its calories and carbohydrates can give you a temporary energy boost.


The main ingredients in boba are:

  1. Tapioca pearls: These are small, chewy balls made from tapioca starch and water. They have a neutral flavor and a slightly gummy texture, which makes them a popular addition to bubble tea drinks.
  2. Tea: Bubble tea usually starts with a base of tea, which can be black, green, or oolong. The tea is brewed and then mixed with other ingredients to create the final drink.
  3. Milk: Some bubble tea recipes call for milk or creamer to create a creamy, smooth texture. Milk tea can be made with dairy milk or non-dairy milk alternatives like almond milk, soy milk, or coconut milk.
  4. Sweeteners: Many bubble tea drinks are sweetened with sugar or honey to balance out the bitterness of the tea and add flavor. Some bubble tea shops also offer sugar-free or low-sugar options.
  5. Flavorings: Bubble tea can be flavored with a variety of syrups, such as fruit syrups, caramel syrup, or chocolate syrup. Flavorings can also come from the tea leaves themselves or from added ingredients like matcha powder or coffee.

Overall, boba tea is a customizable drink that can be made with a variety of ingredients to suit different tastes and preferences. However, it’s important to be mindful of the added sugars and calories in the drink and choose healthier options when possible.

Nutrition Information

Cooked boba pearls

Here are the nutritional values for 1/4 cup of cooked boba pearls (around 40 grams) alone:

  • Calories: 130
  • Total Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 5mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 31g
  • Dietary Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 5g
  • Protein: 0g

Boba tea drink with boba pearls

For a whole boba tea drink with boba pearls, this is the approximate nutrition facts for a 16-ounce serving

  • Calories: 250-400
  • Fat: 3-8g
  • Saturated fat: 2-5g
  • Cholesterol: 0-20mg
  • Carbohydrates: 45-70g
  • Sugar: 30-50g
  • Protein: 3-7g

Keep in mind that the specific nutrition facts can vary depending on the recipe and ingredients used. For example, using non-dairy milk or reducing the amount of sweetener can help reduce the calorie and sugar content of your drink.

Additionally, boba pearls themselves can be high in sugar, so it’s important to be mindful of portion sizes and enjoy them in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

Health Benefits of Boba Tea

While boba itself does not have any significant health benefits, the tea or milk tea that it’s often paired with can have potential health benefits depending on the ingredients and preparation method.

Here are some possible health benefits of boba tea:

  • Antioxidants. Tea leaves contain antioxidants that can help protect against cell damage and reduce the risk of chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.
  • Polyphenols. Tea leaves also contain polyphenols, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
  • Calcium. Some boba tea recipes contain milk, which is a good source of calcium that can support bone health.
  • Hydration. Drinking boba tea can help with hydration, especially if the tea is brewed with water and contains little to no added sugars. According to researchers, drinking moderate amounts of caffeinated beverages, such as tea, can be as hydrating as drinking water.

When it comes to the tapioca pearls in boba tea, they are made from tapioca starch – derived from the cassava root. They provide a small amount of nutrients such as calcium, iron, and folate. However, remember that these amounts are too small to significantly contribute to your recommended daily intake.

Pros and Cons of Boba

Despite its popularity, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons before indulging in this delicious beverage.


  1. Taste and variety: Bubble tea is undeniably delicious, and with numerous flavors and toppings, you’ll never run out of options to enjoy. You can experiment with different tea bases, milks, and additional ingredients to create your perfect drink.
  2. Tea benefits: The primary base of bubble tea is tea itself, which is known to be rich in antioxidants and have numerous health benefits. Depending on the tea used (green, black, oolong, etc.).


  1. High sugar content: Unfortunately, the high amounts of sugar found in boba can lead to significant health complications. Consuming high levels of sugar has been linked to obesity, cardiovascular disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The sugar content comes from the sweetened syrup, fruit flavors, and toppings, which contribute to the drink’s high calorie count.
  2. Tapioca pearls: The characteristic tapioca balls in boba, while fun to chew, can be problematic. Their chewy texture results from being cooked in sugar syrup, which only adds to the drink’s sugar content. Additionally, the balls themselves do not offer any significant nutritional value.
  3. Limited nutritional value: Aside from the tea base, the other ingredients in bubble tea, such as artificial flavor and sweeteners, reduce the drink’s overall nutritional value.

Scientific Studies

One research suggests that boba milk tea drinks are a type of sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) due to their high sugar content, which could exacerbate the obesity epidemic and increase the risk of various diseases.

The study experimentally determined the sugar composition and caloric values of boba milk tea drinks and their components, finding that a 16-ounce boba drink exceeds the recommended upper limit for added sugar intake by the 2015 US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee.

The findings provide valuable data for public health practitioners to educate Asian populations on the potential health risks associated with consuming boba beverages and to recommend moderate consumption of these beverages.

There is also another study that aimed to investigate the association between bubble tea consumption and symptoms of anxiety and depression in a population-based sample in China.

The study concluded that bubble tea consumption may increase the risk of experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety in Chinese young adults, but additional longitudinal research is required to elucidate the possible reverse causation from bubble tea consumption on symptoms of depression and anxiety.

On the positive side, many boba teas use green tea as a base. Studies have shown that drinking green tea can lower blood pressure and total cholesterol, thus reducing the risk of developing serious conditions like heart disease.

As you can see, there’s both positive and negative research surrounding boba tea. It’s essential for you to be aware of the potential health effects and make informed decisions when enjoying this popular beverage.

What Do Medical Experts Say About

As a boba lover, it’s essential to be aware of both the pros and cons of this popular beverage. Moderation is key, and you can always opt for lower sugar levels and healthier toppings to make it a more health-conscious choice.

The ingredients in boba tea greatly affect its nutritional value. The base of boba tea typically consists of black or green tea, which may offer some health benefits due to the presence of antioxidants. However, when combined with certain other ingredients, boba tea’s nutritional profile takes a significant downward turn.

When it comes to sweeteners, boba tea is often sweetened with sugar syrups, honey or artificial sweeteners. High levels of sugar in boba tea not only lead to increased calorie count but may also contribute to the risk of certain health issues such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. To make a healthier choice, look for a boba tea with reduced or no added sugar.

Many boba tea shops also provide a variety of flavorings and toppings, such as fruit jellies, flavored syrups, and fruit purees. While these may seem like innocent additives, they can also contribute to the high sugar content in your boba tea. Be mindful of these additions and try to choose natural, less sugar-filled options when creating your perfect boba tea.

Health experts agree that like any treat, boba tea is fine to enjoy on occasion but may not necessarily be nutrient-dense. To make boba tea healthier, try choosing a tea without milk or requesting lower sugar options, such as half sugar or one-third sugar. Additionally, avoid adding ingredients like pudding, jelly, and tapioca to keep the calorie count lower.

To make your boba tea creamy, milk or milk alternatives like almond or soy milk are often added. Be cautious with these additions, as some milk alternatives contain added sugars and preservatives that can negatively impact your health. Remember to check product labels and choose options with minimal added sugars and artificial ingredients.

To maximize the health benefits of boba tea, consider opting for a lower sugar level or even no added sweeteners. Some boba shops offer lower sugar options, such as 35%, 25% or 0%. Additionally, you can choose tea sourced from real tea leaves instead of a concentrate, allowing you to reap the potential benefits of naturally-occurring polyphenols.

Who Should Avoid It

Although boba tea can be a delicious treat for many, there are certain situations where you should consider avoiding it.

People with allergy to root vegetables

Firstly, if you have a known allergy to root vegetables, you should steer clear of boba tea since the tapioca pearls are made from cassava, a root vegetable.

People who who want to maintain a healthy weight

Additionally, if you are watching your weight or trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, boba tea might not be the best choice for you. A 16-ounce serving of boba can contain as many as 400 calories.

The drink is also high in sugar, with a 16-ounce (475-mL) bubble tea containing around 76% of your daily sugar allowance on a 2,000-calorie diet.

Alternatives to Unhealthy Boba

If you’re looking to enjoy bubble tea without the high calories and sugar content, consider opting for healthier alternatives. By swapping some ingredients and choosing different options, you can still savor the unique taste of bubble tea while staying mindful of your health.

Low-sugr boba

First, you can request for a lower sugar level in your boba tea. Many shops allow you to customize the sweetness of your drink, so take advantage and ask for less sugar or use alternative sweeteners like Stevia or yacon syrup.

Boba with other milk options

Another option is to choose dairy alternatives such as almond milk or soy milk. These milk substitutes can help reduce the calorie content in your drink while still providing a creamy texture.

Boba tea minus the artificially-flavored syrupy options

When it comes to the type of tea, you can go for healthier tea bases such as oolong, green, or black tea. These teas offer more health benefits compared to artificially-flavored syrupy options. In addition, you can try fruit teas that use fresh fruit and avoid adding extra flavors or syrups.

Replace boba pearls with chia or slices of fruits. 

Lastly, be selective with your toppings. While tapioca pearls are a staple in bubble tea, they can be high in calories and offer little nutritional value. Instead, consider adding ingredients such as chia seeds or fruit pieces that deliver more nutrients and help keep the calorie count down.

By making these adjustments, you can enjoy a healthier version of bubble tea that aligns with your health goals and still delights your taste buds.


Boba tea can have adverse health effects if consumed excessively due to its high calories and sugar content. Drinking it occasionally as a treat shouldn’t pose much harm to your health, but moderation is key. Remember that the most nutritious aspect of boba tea is the actual tea itself. 

To minimize the negative impact of boba tea on your health, pay attention to the customization options that many shops offer. Adjusting sweetness levels can dramatically decrease the calorie and sugar content in your drink. Also, remember that healthier variations with less sugar and fewer additives are available for guilt-free enjoyment.

Ultimately, incorporating boba tea into a balanced diet is possible, as long as you remember its potential health drawbacks and consume it mindfully.


Is boba bad for you?

Yes, boba can be bad for you, mainly due to its high calorie and sugar content. The calories in boba milk tea can range for up to 500 calories, depending on how the boba pearls are prepared (in honey or syrup) and the milk tea recipe. Regular consumption can lead to issues like obesity and diabetes.

Are there any health benefits of boba tea?

The most nutritious part of boba tea is the tea itself, which may provide some health benefits, such as antioxidants from green tea. However, these benefits are often outweighed by the high levels of sugar and artificial flavorings added to the drink.

Can you make boba tea healthier?

Yes, you can make boba tea healthier by:

  • Choosing a lower sugar level or skipping added sweeteners
  • Opting for a smaller size
  • Selecting a healthier base tea, such as green or black tea
  • Asking for fewer toppings, such as boba pearls, jelly, or fruit pieces

This way, you can still enjoy boba tea without consuming excessive calories and sugar.

How often should you drink boba tea?

It’s important to consume boba tea in moderation due to its high calorie and sugar content. Ideally, limit your boba tea consumption to an occasional treat rather than a daily or frequent habit. This can help minimize the risks associated with high sugar and calorie intake.


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  • Marixie Manarang, MT, undergrad MD

    Marixie Manarang is licensed Medical Laboratory Scientist and an undergraduate of Doctor of Medicine (MD). For one year, she completed her internship training in a government hospital, primarily catering to retired veterans and their dependents. Through her preceptorships in medical school, she gained exposure to patients from various medical departments. Marixie’s passion for writing stems from her excellent medical background, being a mother, and a strong desire to assist the elderly and others in need. Education: Our Lady of Fatima University Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Medicine (2012-2015), Angeles University Foundation Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Medicine (2009-2011), Angeles University Foundation Bachelors, Medical Technology (2004-2009)






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