If the jolt of a dark cuppa joe isn’t for you, you’re probably
a coffee creamer fan. For some, those sweet, velvety additives are key
to the morning coffee ritual. And who can resist fun flavors like pumpkin
spice, buttered caramel and peppermint mocha delight?
While flavorful, many coffee creamers contain ingredients that, upon closer
look, might make you rethink what’s in your cup. While there’s
obviously no dairy in non-dairy products, there is plenty of oil, sugar
(or artificial sweetener), thickeners and other chemicals that could make
that morning cup a bit less delightful.
“The bottom line is to read the labels of these creamers and all
the foods you purchase,” says Ruby Schuler, RD, a registered dietitian at
Queen of the Valley Medical Center in Napa. “Look for terms like ‘partially hydrogenated oils’
and words that sound more like a chemistry lab. Additionally, remember
that ingredients are listed in descending order of predominance. The first
two or three ingredients are the ones that matter most."
Let’s break down what’s crammed into most creamers:
Starting with the oils, most are partially hydrogenated, or trans fats.
Trans fats are laboratory manufactured, designed to add texture to food
and pro-long shelf life. While they may make food taste good, trans fats
raise your bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol
levels. Consuming trans fats also increases your risk of developing heart
disease and stroke and may also put you at a higher risk of developing
type 2 diabetes, as well decrease your immune function.
As for the sweeteners, some creamers contain high amounts of sugar while
others attempt to reduce calories by adding chemicals like sucralose.
Once sucralose is ingested, the body does not recognize it as food, which
is why it has no calories. However, sucralose is believed to cause many
side effects, including skin rashes, swelling, headaches, bladder issues
and stomach pain. If consumed in very high doses, it may increase blood
sugar levels, which again could put you at risk for type 2 diabetes.
Now about those thickeners. That rich, velvety taste comes from emulsifiers
like carrageenan, which is also associated with inflammation and digestive
problems. Other typically added ingredients won’t make you ill,
but might make you wonder whether or not you want to eat them. Fillers
such as cellulose gel and cellulose gum are made from wood pulp or cotton.
The emulsifier Polysorbate 60 is also in your cosmetics to keep water
and oil from separating.
Finally, let’s talk about artificial flavors and preservatives. Some
flavors in those creamers may be from natural ingredients, but chances
are that inviting smell comes from the lab. Also, unlike cream, many processed
coffee creamers have much longer shelf lives thanks to mold inhibitors
like sodium stearoyl lactylate and dipotassium phosphate.
Also, while the typical coffee drinker uses only a splash of creamer each
morning, consider the fact that most Americans rely on at least one serving
of coffee per day. Over time, daily use of these products can add up.
You may want to consider going back to cream, half and half or low and
non-fat milk (your best bet).
Or, if you really need that alternative creamy taste, try a homemade variety
of non-dairy creamer, using a 14 ounce can of coconut milk, and one teaspoon
of vanilla, plus one teaspoon of sweetener such as sugar or maple syrup.
You can also experiment with cinnamon, cocoa powder or caramel sauce to
achieve that fancy flavor appeal. Blend the ingredients well to ensure
the coconut milk doesn’t separate.
Now, go ahead and enjoy your new cuppa healthier brew.
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