As is customary, I begin my days hankering, like an addict, for coffee. Like clockwork, I wake up, shuffle to my kitchen, switch on my electric kettle, grind a small handful of beans, question my existence, load my French press and wait, impatiently. After a few blurry minutes, I eagerly press down on the plunger, fill my treasured thermos to the brim, then this:
I usually take my coffee with a dash of soy milk. Lately, though, my taste buds have grown weary, fatigued from wave after wave of soy-flavored java (on most days, I drink more than I should, usually with disappointing results). There are heaps of coffee creamers out there, though, and because I want to at least convince myself that my choices are healthy, I asked Cate Shanahan, biochemist, past director of the L.A. Lakers PRO Nutrition program and author of Deep Nutrition as well as The Fatburn Fix, to help me pick the absolute healthiest coffee creamer.
I emailed her a list, and she quickly (and expertly!) ranked them in order of healthiness, from healthiest to unhealthiest:
- Omega PowerCreamer
- Dunkin’ Donuts Extra Extra Creamer
- Nutpods Creamer
- Califia Farms Better Half
- Silk Soy Creamer
- So Delicious Oatmilk Creamer
- Coffee-Mate Creamer
- International Delight Creamer
Shanahan’s explanation for this ranking is fairly simple: “Healthy fats brought the winners to the fore, as did considerations over the lack of artificial ingredients and stabilizers,” she says. “Least sugar helped order the losers: Coffee-Mate has one of the Hateful Eight [unhealthy fats, including soybean/canola oil], and International Delight has an okay palm oil, but it lost out due to excessive sweetener and high calories.” A single tablespoon of International Delight creamer boasts a relatively hefty five grams of sugar, which adds up if you have a few cups.
Basically, “Toward the bottom, most of them have bad fats,” Shanahan explains. Specifically, they contain refined oils that deliver polyunsaturated fat, which Shanahan says “is increasingly understood to be unhealthy.” Worse yet, the low-ranking creamers boast chemical stabilizers and other artificial ingredients, like dipotassium phosphate (which is also featured in Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme). “Your body can’t really process this stuff, and it certainly isn’t good for your gut flora,” Shanahan warns.
On the flip side, the healthier choices — or at least, the healthiest choice — contains healthy fats. “Ghee, coconut oil and MCT oil are all super chemically stable, and that makes them much better suited for processed foods than the unstable seed oils that I’m always telling people not to eat,” Shanahan says. “It also makes them much more suitable for morning energy, because your body loves those kinds of fats.” She says MCT oil in particular, which contains chains of healthy fats called triglycerides, is processed quickly by the body (unlike unstable, unhealthy fats), resulting in a noticeable increase in energy.
Because of all those healthy fats — and because creamers like Omega PowerCreamer aren’t watered down, unlike International Delight, which boasts water as its first and primary ingredient — Shanahan says it works as fuel for your body, contributing to the positive, energizing effects of coffee. “If you’re using this, you could almost use it and have a very light breakfast,” she says. “You’d be pleasantly surprised to see how it sustains you.”
Bottom line: When it comes to choosing the best cream for your coffee, look for those that contain substantial, healthy fats, and avoid anything with a bunch of added sugar and extra ingredients.
Now excuse me, I need to go grab myself another cup of coffee.