Non-dairy creamers are an easy way to get coffee shop flavors such as hazelnut,
mocha or caramel in your home-brewed cup of joe. But what you gain in
taste you can lose in health benefits, says
Lisa Gorman, RN
, director of worksite wellness,
St. Joseph Health
“In recent years, research has come out showing coffee may help people
guard against certain types of diseases such as type 2 diabetes and liver
cancer, and it has antioxidants,” Gorman says. “But once you
pour in non-dairy creamer, you are adding sugar and fats, among other
Non-dairy creamers such as Coffee-mate and International Delight contain
sugar, artificial flavors and colors, according to nutrition labels available
online. Just one tablespoon of liquid creamer can equal 35 calories, 5
grams of carbohydrates and 1.5 grams of fat. Powdered creamers can go
up even higher, with 60 calories, 9 grams of carbs and 2.5 fat grams (and
two of those grams are saturated fat).
Also of concern, Gorman notes, is the presence of partially hydrogenated oils.
“Those are responsible for trans fats, which can cause numerous health
problems. Now, most non-dairy creamers will list zero trans fat grams
on their labels, but that’s because they are under the mandated
labeling minimum of 0.5 grams. The presence of partially hydrogenated
oils means there are some trans fats in the product, and the more non-dairy
creamer you drink, the more that amount can add up.”
If you don’t like the taste of straight black coffee, Gorman recommends
almond milk or just a bit of real cream—even a tiny amount of the
latter will pack a flavor punch. If you are lactose intolerant, try an
organic non-dairy creamer, which can use soybeans or coconut milk. These
can also have slightly fewer calories, carbs and fat than regular non-dairy
creamers. However, some organic creamers, as well as regular non-dairy
creamers, can contain carrageenan. While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
states that the seaweed-based additive is safe, some scientists question
whether it causes inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract.
“A morning cup of coffee is a popular choice for starting your day;
skipping the non-dairy creamer is a smart choice,” Gorman says.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.