Are Nondairy Creamers Like Coffee-mate Bad for You?

nondairy creamers

When companies introduced nondairy creamers either in the late 1950s or early 1960s, people didn't know that one of the ingredients isn't good for you at all.

The use of nondairy creamers peaked in the 1980s, but there are people who have always used one form of milk or another instead.

The bad ingredient I'm talking about is partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Hydrogenation is what happens to vegetable oil when it's cooked. Shortening, and I don't see it around as much as I used to, already contains hydrogenated vegetable oil.

Dairy Creamers

I grew up in the 1960s, watching the older folks drink coffee with a dairy creamer of one kind or another. I don't even remember a nondairy creamer being used before my family moved to Hawaii in the seventies.

Evaporated milk from a can is what I remember the most. It's milk with a lot of the water removed, and it still needs refrigeration after opening. You have to add your own sweetener if you want your coffee sweet. Condensed milk, also called "sweetened condensed milk", already includes a sweetener. It's basically evaporated milk plus a sweetener. It also needs refrigeration after opening.

Some people think that regular whole milk is thick enough to serve the purpose. I know UHT milk works well because it's what I use on rare occasions. Since I learned of the trans fat issue surrounding partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, I've been drinking coffee black with a little added sugar more than any other way.

Nondairy Creamers

One of the first makers of nondairy coffee creamers was the Carnation company (now Nestlé), with Coffee-mate in 1961. A bunch of other companies saw how lucrative sales were and started marketing their own brands. I can't even begin to name names.

I suppose people who are lactose intolerant are left with a choice of either black coffee or coffee with a nondairy creamer. Fortunately, Nestlé came out with nondairy creamers that are low in fat. Some supposedly contain no partially hydrogenated vegetable oil at all.

The trick is to read the label. Some brands of nondairy creamer will say "no trans fat" when they have just little enough to legally say none. The Nestlé Corporation has no reason to skew this information, since they're marketing health-conscious products as much as possible. Nevertheless, a profit motive is way more powerful than complete honesty, so take it for what it's worth.

Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable Oils and Trans Fats

I'm no chemist, and I only know what I've learned through various sources. The process of hydrogenating vegetable oil produces trans fats. Scientists have linked trans fats to heart disease as well as the increased size of people's abdomens.

People use nondairy creamers in tea as well as coffee. The trans fat that nondairy creamers introduce outweigh the benefits of drinking tea. You need to do your research and read the labels when you decide to buy nondairy creamers. It's your health you should worry about, not the taste.

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