A healthy lifestyle blog by ACE Certified Group Exercise Trainer.

The Dangers of Your Coffee Creamer

One of the hardest things for me to let go of when transitioning to eating "cleaner" was my beloved Coffee-Mate creamers. Even just thinking about it has me salivating! Liquid gold, I tell you! But these liquid and powdered creamers you find at the grocery store are basically just a crap storm of oil and chemicals...yummy.

Not to mention, most people use way more than the recommended serving size of a tablespoon of liquid or  2-4 teaspoons of powder. The calories and fat content in creamers add up quickly, sabotaging your diet for the day!

Let's talk ingredients. Here's an image of the nutritional info for one of my favorite liquid creamers, Thin Mint. First unknown ingredient on the list is.... Partially hydrogenated soybean oil. What is this, you ask? Just a fancy name for Trans Fats. Unlike other fats, trans fat — also called trans-fatty acids — both raises your "bad" (LDL) cholesterol and lowers your "good" (HDL) cholesterol. Can you say heart-attack?

As quoted by the Mayo Clinic, "Scientists aren't sure exactly why, but the addition of hydrogen to oil increases your cholesterol more than do other types of fats. It's thought that adding hydrogen to oil makes the oil more difficult to digest, and your body recognizes trans fats as saturated fats."

That's comforting!

Not all fats are "bad" for you, and you really do need the "good" kind of fat in your diet. A great article explaining fats is on the Harvard School of Public Health page. But medical groups across the board agree on limiting out intake of trans fats is important for heart health and cholesterol. Very important. Especially for women - heart disease is still the #1 killer!

Next on the list we have mono and diglycerides. Monoglycerides and diglycerides are food additives commonly used to combine ingredients containing fats with those containing water, two types of ingredients that don't ordinarily combine well. Food manufacturers typically use them to extend a product's shelf life. Made in part of fatty acids, they are similar to triglycerides, the predominant fat in food according to the Harvard School of Public Health, except they are classified as emulsifiers rather than lipids. No studies found that they are harmful to people, but still it's another chemical that we are ingesting which is not in line with clean eating principles.

Then we have a few more ingredients we can't pronounce: Dipotassium phosphate is a chemical used as an ingredient in foods to control acidity and prevent coagulation. It is most commonly used in the production of cheeses and non-dairy creamers, not to mention fertilizers. Yep, fertilizers. 

Lastly, we have good ole' carrageenan. This stuff is a derivative of Irish moss, a type of seaweed found along the west coast of Ireland and the east coast of North America. It is used as a thickener, emulsifier, and stabilizer in many foods and drinks.  Researchers debate the safety of carrageenan, and several studies link it to malignancies and digestive problems. Bottom line, is that there are researchers who think this is bad for you. Eat at your own risk.

So lets think about this for a minute....in order to make coffee creamer last a long time, mix well with our coffee and not clump up, and maintain a thick consistency, we have to add a bunch of processes chemicals. And if you think the powdered kind is better, it's not! One of the ingredients in powdered creamer is even flammable

Don't worry, you do have a few alternatives! Plain old half-and-half, milk, or cream. Sure you are getting a small dose of animal fats, but at least no sugar or transfats or processed chemicals. And we do need some fats in our diet.

Or you could go for coconut milk/cream, almond or rice milk. Both can be quite flavorful. One thing to remember is that even healthy almond milk or rice/coconut milks can contain the chemical additives to extend their shelf lives. So look at labels and decide for yourself. Maybe you can find an almond milk that doesn't have the carrageenan, but it might have the dipotassium phosphate and the mono/diglycerides, but it's a healthier trade-off. It's up to you, but make informed choices!

Need some sweetness added to your cup o joe? I prefer the natural sweetener stevia, or even just plain sugar. One sugar packet is only 15 calories. I say 15-30 calories is better than eating cancer causing sweet'n'low. Skip artificial sweeteners or syrups they are just plain bad for you. They are also linked to making people feel more hungry after eating them, which defeats the purpose!

*Note- I am not a dietician or nutritionist. Always consult your physician when making changes to your diet/exercise plan. This blog provides opinions for informational purposes only.

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