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Is coffee creamer bad for you? 4 ingredients to avoid

What you need to know about your coffee creamer

iced-coffee-with-cream
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As much as many of us love drinking a freshly roasted cup of coffee black — it’s certainly not for everyone. A recent 2024 study estimates that about 76% of coffee drinkers are drinking their coffee with some type of coffee cream or creamer with sweetener as well.

Yet, although a smooth and creamy cup of coffee is an everyday event for such a large part of our population, many people are not truly aware of the ingredients hiding in their coffee creamers. This leaves many to wonder, “Is coffee creamer bad for you”? In its simplest form, coffee cream doesn’t have to be bad for you. However, it is important to pay close attention to the ingredients in your creamer that may be harmful. Below, discover 4 ingredients to avoid when shopping for a healthy coffee creamer.

Is coffee creamer bad for you?

flat white coffee
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Most coffee creamers contain so much more than just cream and are heavily processed. You can up nearly any packaged creamer in the dairy section of your grocery store and find added sugars and hydrogenated seed oils amongst a long list of ingredients.

Even non-dairy options such as plant-based coffee creamers contain these additives, which can make it tough to shop for a coffee creamer if you’re not sure what to look for. Coffee creamer doesn’t have to be bad for you when you know what ingredients to avoid.

4 ingredients to avoid

iced espresso
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Hydrogenated seed oils

Hydrogenated seed oils may be listed on your coffee creamer ingredient list under a variety of different names. For example, oils may be called palm oil, canola oil, or soybean oil. These oils contain unhealthy trans fat but are added to coffee creamers by manufacturers to help products maintain their freshness for longer.

If your coffee creamer contains any of these oils, it’s time to find a new brand! Hydrogenated oils contain high amounts of Omega-6 fatty acids that are linked to a variety of chronic health issues. Many of the brands you’re likely to know (and love) contain these oils, such as Starbucks and Dunkin’ branded creamers.

Calcium carbonate

Calcium carbonate is another ingredient to run from when shopping for a coffee creamer. This ingredient is added to creamers to stabilize the mixture. However, it is made of ground limestone. Although it’s safe to consume in small doses, it may cause health issues in some people such as irregular heartbeat, abdominal pain, or bone pain.

Thickeners

Another huge category of harmful ingredients found in coffee creamers is known as thickeners. You may see these listed under different names on an ingredient list, such as carrageenan, cellulose gum, or gellan gum. These additives act as emulsifiers and thickeners, yet are linked to dozens of health issues. Many research studies have found a link between these ingredients and chronic inflammation, digestive problems, and even cancer. Commonly used coffee creamer brands such as Coffee Mate and Califa Farms use these thickeners in many of their products.

Artificial sweeteners

Lots of store-bought coffee creamer products also boast delicious flavors, such as vanilla or hazelnut, that can enhance the taste of your morning cup of joe. However, beware of the artificial sweeteners hiding in these products, such as sucralose or aspartame. Although these sweeteners do not contain any calories, many studies have questioned their long-term health effects.

Choosing a healthier coffee creamer

Pouring milk from a glass bottle into a glass with a black background
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These ingredients are four of the main ingredients found in coffee creamers that could be harmful to your health, but there are also other ingredients that may cause symptoms in some people. For example, calcium carbonate can cause digestive issues or irregular heartbeat. Therefore, it’s important to keep your own health needs in mind when shopping for a coffee creamer.

Dairy coffee creamer

For those who can tolerate dairy, using real milk or cream (without any added ingredients) is the cleanest option to add creaminess to your coffee with no extra ingredients. Organic half-and-half has no added sugars, oils, or flavors — leaving you with a fresh creaminess you can feel good about. When possible, opt for grass-fed half-and-half, which contains an extra boost of healthy Omega-3 fatty acids. By giving up your favorite creamer flavor to switch to wholesome dairy, you’ll also reduce your sugar consumption per cup of coffee as well.

Non-dairy coffee creamer

If you cannot tolerate dairy, shopping for a healthy coffee creamer may be slightly more challenging, but not impossible. Many plant-based options such as almond, coconut, oat, and soy creamers contain a high number of additives, so be mindful of ingredient lists as you shop. Brands like Nut Pods or Elmhurst 1925, found in health food stores like Whole Foods, offer clean, safe coffee creamer alternatives.

Emily Caldwell
Emily is a freelance writer with a special focus on health, fitness, lifestyle, food, and nutrition topics. She holds a B.S…
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