What’s Really In Coffee Creamer?

What’s Really In Coffee Creamer?

Written By: Kristi Caruana

Welcome to the world of coffee creamers, where the term "cream" can be misleading. In reality, most coffee creamers don't contain any cream at all! Instead, they are cream-like imposters derived from seed oils and other creepy ingredients. Today, we'll take a closer look at these additives that may not only compromise the taste of your coffee but also your health. 

Seed Oils Are Cream-like Imposters:

When you reach for that coffee creamer, have you ever wondered why it's so creamy despite the absence of real cream? The answer lies in the inclusion of seed oils, such as soybean oil, corn oil, and palm oil. These oils serve as a substitute for the richness of actual cream. However, there's a catch – they come with a high content of omega-6 fatty acids.

Seed oils, often marketed as "heart-healthy" alternatives, are actually anything but. 

Consuming excessive omega-6 fatty acids leads to an unhealthy imbalance in the body's omega-3 to omega-6 ratio. The ideal ratio is thought to be around 1:1 to 4:1, but the typical Western diet often has a ratio of 10:1 to 20:1 or even higher. Studies have shown that this imbalance promotes inflammation, increased risk of metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, and other inflammatory diseases. 

The high composition of polyunsaturated fatty acids in seed oils makes them particularly susceptible to oxidation when exposed to heat and light. Oxidized fats promote oxidative stress throughout the body, which is considered to be the precursor for all modern diseases, from diabetes, to heart disease, to neurodegenerative conditions and even cancer. 

Artificial Flavors & Sweeteners Are Addictive & Carcinogenic:

To enhance the taste of coffee creamers without adding extra calories, many manufacturers turn to artificial flavors and sweeteners. The problem with these additives lies in their potential to create addictive behaviors. By stimulating our taste buds with intense sweetness and flavors, they leave us craving more, which has been shown to lead to the overconsumption of primarily processed products.

Additionally, some studies have raised serious concerns about the link between artificial sweeteners and cancer. As we sip something as wholesome as our morning cup of coffee, the thought of unintentionally exposing ourselves to these health hazards is truly astonishing.

Preservatives Extend Shelf Life at a COST:

Ever wondered how some coffee creamers stay shelf-stable for so long? The answer lies in the use of preservatives like BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) and TBHQ (tert-Butylhydroquinone). These synthetic antioxidants help prolong the creamers' shelf life, but they come with serious concerns. BHT and TBHQ have been subjects of concern due to their potential allergic reactions and toxic effects on the body. While approved for use in small quantities by regulatory authorities, it's essential to be aware of the presence of such additives in our daily coffee ritual! Their link to hormone imbalance is one area of primary concern, along with other impacts on the liver, kidneys, and strong association with severe allergic reactions. 

Various studies, particularly those conducted on animals, have indicated that BHT acts as a tumor promoter, leading to concerns about its carcinogenic properties. Animal studies have revealed that BHT can even enhance the effects of other carcinogenic compounds, resulting in a compounded risk of tumor development. These findings have sparked significant debate among researchers and health experts about the safety of BHT in human food products. 

Despite these concerns, BHT is still permitted for use in a variety of American products, from fast food packaging to the coffee creamer we use on a daily basis. This has raised questions from consumers about the legitimacy of existing regulations and the need for further research to fully confirm the risks posed by this man-made antioxidant.

Gums/Emulsifiers Are Trouble for the Gut: 

Gums and emulsifiers play a vital role in stabilizing the mixture of oil and water-based ingredients in coffee creamers. They create an emulsion that prevents separation and enhances overall mouthfeel. However, their inclusion may come at a cost to our digestive health. Research has shown that certain emulsifiers may alter the gut microbiome, the ecosystem of beneficial bacteria residing in our intestines. Disruptions to the sensitive bacteria in the gut have been linked to various health issues, including severe gastrointestinal inflammation, metabolic disorders, immune system imbalances and other chronic digestive issues, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

Emulsifiers have even been shown to influence the gut barrier, allowing for harmful substances to pass into the bloodstream, also known as “leaky gut syndrome”. This has raised serious concerns from consumers about their contribution to chronic health conditions, including obesity, metabolic syndrome, and even autoimmune disorders.

Hydrogenated Oil Danger:

These oils, often derived from vegetable sources, undergo a chemical process called hydrogenation to transform them into semi-solid fats, mimicking the consistency of cream. While they provide the desired creamy taste and texture, the use of hydrogenated oils comes with significant cardiovascular and metabolic risks. 

Hydrogenated oils are a major source of trans fats, which are particularly well-known for their negative impact on heart health, as they increase LDL cholesterol (commonly known as "bad" cholesterol) and decrease HDL cholesterol ("good" cholesterol"). Trans fats found in some creamers can harm our heart health and are linked to increasing inflammation and risk of heart disease, coronary artery disease, and stroke. Inflammation in the body causes oxidative stress, which is a key player in various chronic diseases including cardiovascular conditions and certain types of cancer. These fats promote the development of plaque in the arteries, narrowing blood vessels and impeding blood flow to the heart and other vital organs.

Whereas other countries have implemented regulations to limit or ban the use of partially hydrogenated oils, the primary source of artificial trans fats, the FDA currently allows products that contain < .5 grams of trans fat per serving to be labeled as “trans fat free”. So the next time you see a serving size for only 5 chips or 1 tablespoon of creamer at a time now you know why! 

Artificial Flavors & Sweeteners Concerns: 

The allure of a perfectly flavored and sweetened cup of coffee often leads us to artificial flavors and sweeteners in creamers. They wreak havoc on our bodies, leading to cravings, weight gain, metabolic disruption, type II diabetes and other long-term health issues. They’ve even been shown to harm the body's metabolism and gut bacted is. Some research associates artificial flavors and sweeteners with an altered balance of natural gut bacteria, which has compounding effects on digestion, immune function, and overall health.

Artificial sweeteners provide the illusion of sweetness without the caloric content of sugar, however studies show that consuming artificial sweeteners leads to increased cravings for sweet-tasting foods and beverages. The intense sweetness of these additives actually conditions our taste buds to prefer overly sweet flavors, leading to overeating and a greater desire for highly processed, sugary treats.

Emerging research indicates that artificial sweeteners disrupt the body's natural metabolic processes, which has been shown to contribute to metabolic disorders, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Some studies have even shed light on the impact of artificial sweeteners on brain health. Research in animals has shown that certain sweeteners physically affect neurotransmitter levels and impact cognitive function, memory, and behavior. 

The top tier and best way to avoid the pitfalls of store-bought coffee creamers is to make your own at home! It’s simple and allows you to control the ingredients. Combine  raw cream/milk (or plant milks without synthetic additives) with natural flavors like vanilla extract or cocoa powder and natural sweeteners such as stevia, agave syrup, or honey! 

Remember, the power to transform your coffee ritual lies in choosing ingredients that contribute to a balanced and nourishing lifestyle.

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