While I typically drink my coffee black, I’ll occasionally throw in some sweetener. A little brown sugar, a splash of simple syrup, even a tablespoon of hot cocoa mix. But there’s one thing I will NEVER touch: coffee creamer.
Sure, it’s universally beloved all over the country—you see it almost every cafeteria, bodega, and office refrigerator. But that doesn’t mean it’s good for you or your morning cup of coffee. Here’s why you should think twice before polluting your coffee with coffee creamer’s milky fingers:
It doesn’t actually contain cream. That’s right: coffee creamer doesn’t have any cream in it. In fact, it contains zero dairy whatsoever. According to Dr. Amy Lee, head of nutrition for Nucific, its color is only white “to make you feel better.” In reality, most creamers are a combination of corn syrup, water, and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. The ingredients are carefully formulated to hit all the right milky-sweet notes.
It’s full of chemicals. Creamers also contain a crazy concoction of thickeners and preservatives. Thickeners like carrageenan and cellulose gum help the creamer achieve that thick, luscious texture that we expect from dairy products. Preservatives like butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) enable creamer bottles to stay in the office fridge without spoiling much longer than any self-respecting carton of cream ever could. What’s wrong with that? As Dr. Lee says, “Our body hasn’t had enough time to figure out what these [chemicals] are, so it…induces our system to get all revved up.” Thickeners like carrageenan have been known to cause inflammation and gastrointestinal issues, and preservatives like BHA and BHT can damage the reproductive system.
Creamers can be full of sugar. Unless you’re using the sugar-free variety (more on that below), creamers are loaded with added sugar. Some popular brands contain five grams per tablespoon, which is 10 percent of your daily recommended sugar. And for the record, hardly anyone uses just one tablespoon of creamer at a time. More likely, you’re pouring about 30 percent of your daily sugar intake in your 9 a.m. coffee.
And it makes you crave even MORE sugar. Consuming lots of sugar early in the morning sends your blood sugar on a roller coaster, leaving you vulnerable to sugar cravings for the rest of the day. As Dr. Lee explains, “If you start your day with a lot of sugar, your baseline of satisfaction and fullness is gonna be elevated. The likelihood of you feeling cravings…is going to be much higher.” The result? You’ll probably be heading to the vending machine for a soda or a candy bar by noon.
Sugar-free creamers are even worse. No worries, you might think. I use sugar-free creamer, so I don’t have to worry about any of THAT. Think again. In the world of processed foods, “sugar-free” just means that instead of corn syrup, the companies use artificial sweeteners to achieve that sweet flavor. This means more chemicals! “Similar to [other] preservatives…our bodies haven’t acclimated to it,” says Dr. Lee. Not surprisingly, artificial sweeteners can have negative impacts on your body over time, such as reducing the good bacteria in your gut biome and increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. “Sugar-free” is hardly a get-out-of-jail-free card.
It’s almost impossible to consume in moderation. Our country runs on coffee. Most of us drink it (and whatever sweet substance we doctor it with) every day, sometimes multiple times a day. If creamer is part of your coffee routine, all those chemicals and added sugar will add up over time in a big way.
There are other options! There are many ways to lighten your coffee without reaching for chemically-loaded creamer. Try actual cream (there’s a thought!). Or, if you prefer dairy-free, use oat milk or almond milk. If you like your coffee sweeter, stir in a little brown sugar or simple syrup. True, all these options also contain sugar or fat, just like creamer. But their ingredient lists are short and recognizable, so you always know what you’re putting in your body. Let’s face it: with everything else you have going on, the last thing you need to worry about is a strange substance in your morning coffee.
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