Q: How does tapioca rate nutritionally? Does it fall under the refined food category? I like to use it to make tapioca pudding with Splenda and nonfat Lactaid milk and eat about one cup of the pudding as a dessert twice a day. Should I cut back?


Answer :People have been eating tapioca at least since the heyday of the Mayans, who first figured out how to process the root of the cassava plant (also called manioc or yuca) to eliminate its naturally occurring cyanide. Technically, yes, tapioca is a refined food in the sense that the packaged tapioca you buy is made from reconstituted, processed root; being a root starch, rather than a grain, however, theres no such thing as whole tapioca. Nutritionally, tapioca is pretty much as neutral as it tastes: The dry mix used to make one cup of tapioca pudding (not counting milk or any sweetener) contains 170 calories, 43 grams of carbohydrates, 219 milligrams of sodium, and only tiny amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. So, if tapioca pudding satisfies your craving for dessert, youre probably not doing yourself any harm, but youre not gaining much nutritionally, either. By comparison, while not ordinarily considered dessert, a bowl of oatmeal offers much the same consistency plus a whole-grain nutritional bonanza: One packet of instant oatmeal also has 170 calories, but adds 4 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and a healthful mix of minerals and vitamins. So you might try opting for oatmeal at least once a day instead of tapioca.


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