I have a very happy memory of sipping a cup of really good cappuccino on a giant leather sofa and feeling like everything was right in the world. I had no where I had to go, nothing I had to do. Everything I could ever want or need was right there in that moment. I’d like to say this was an isolated incident, but I have to admit that coffee regularly elicits this blissful effect for me. If you love coffee, too, then you know I am not exaggerating, and although we may not always take the time to enjoy coffee in this way, I’m here to tell you that it actually can have benefits beyond the utopia it conjures.
Recently, Harvard researchers found that coffee may help reduce diabetes risk. It can also improve cognitive function and may even help reduce the risk of certain cancers.
So coffee, in and of itself, may not be the villain that it’s always made out to be. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for what you might add to it, which brings us to Abom-Edible #1: Coffee Creamer.
Coffee creamer, aka non-dairy creamer, is one of those things that seems fairly innocuous. “I just use a little,” most people tell me. However, just a little is still too much because coffee creamer simply ruins a good thing.
Whether liquid or powdered, the main ingredient in most creamers is hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) oil, which is code word for trans fat. This type of fat is the worst-of-the-worst according to, well, everyone. Even the FDA is banning it from the food supply because they know that trans fat increases the level of inflammation in the body along with our risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes. The recommended amount of trans fat we should get in a day, by the way, is zero.
“But Julie,” you say “I read the nutrition facts label on my coffee creamer and it says there are zero grams of trans fat?” Not so fast. A company can list a “0” if there is less than ½ gram of something per serving. So if they set the serving size small enough, as is the case with the one tablespoon serving on non-dairy creamers, you can end up with many grams of trans by the end of the day. I’ve had clients use more than ¼ cup of creamer in giant mugs of coffee, and when these are consumed multiple times per day you get way more than ½ gram!
Let’s say you happen to find a creamer made without hydrogenated oils – you may think you are home free. But hydrogenated oils aren’t the only thing responsible for abom-edible status. There are also the added sugars (even the sugar-free varieties often contain corn syrup) and other additives that are detracting from the health benefits of your coffee.
Instead of creamer, why not just use milk? Or a plant-based variety of milk like soy or almond? My suggestion is to start with whole milk, or even real cream, then gradually reduce: 2% milk, 1%, skim, non-dairy milk, maybe even try it black!
PS: In case you were wondering, this list of abom-edibles is in no particular order. Someone once asked me what I see as the worst offenders in people’s diets. This list sprung from that question, and the foods on it are based on my observations when looking at my patients’ food records.