Creamer vs Creamer vs Creamer

Several years ago, lured by labels with lower levels of saturated fat and cholesterol, I ditched traditional Half & Half for soy creamer in my 2-cups-a-day hazelnut coffee habit.

It might not have been the right decision.

Or it might have been the right decision – but only for one particular soy creamer brand.

In reading the many articles about how even though the FDA has banned trans fats in the American food supply, they are lurking in many foods.  In fact, coffee creamers are one key culprit: non-dairy creamers (and other foods) can be labeled as containing 0g trans fat PER SERVING when in fact if you eat more than 1 serving (very likely) you will be consuming real amounts of trans fats.  This happens because, as Prevention author Caroline Praderio explains,

“Manufacturers are allowed to say a food contains no trans fat if each serving has 0.5 g or less. But eat more than one serving size of, say, chips—and really, who sticks to nine measly chips?—and you could be eating 2 g or more of trans fat in no time, which is over the limit for good health, according to the World Health Organization.”

Articles like this abound:

This propelled me to reconsider my Half & Half versus Soy Creamer decision. I compared the nutritional labels for Land O Lakes Half & Half and compared them with the two soy creamers I purchase: Silk Soy Creamer and Trader Joe’s Soy Creamer.  While I was not surprised to find that the soy creamers both delivered significantly less saturated fat per serving (a lo-co plus), there was a big difference between the two soy creamers.

This shocked me.

The chart below shows the nutritional values per serving pulled directly from the product label this morning (website or actual label) and to the right of that I’ve included what a 3 TB serving of each delivers.  Both soy creamers had dramatically less cholesterol and saturated fat.  But Silk Soy Creamer has 1.5 grams of saturated fat in a 3 TB serving while Trader Joe’s Soy Creamer has zero.

HalfHalfvsSoyCreamer

Why the difference?  A quick comparison of ingredient listings shows the reason:  Silk Soy Creamer uses PALM OIL while Trader Joe’s uses CANOLA OIL:

Silk Soy Creamer Ingredients: Soymilk (Filtered Water, Whole Soybeans), Palm Oil, Cane Sugar, Maltodextrin (from Corn), Soy Lecithin, Potassium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Tapioca Starch, Carrageenan, Natural Flavor.

Trader Joe’s Soy Creamer Ingredients: Organic soybase (filtered water, whole organic soybeans), expeller pressed organic canola oil, organic cane sugar, organic maltodextrin (from corn), potassium phosphate, soy lecithin, natural flavors, carageenan, sodium citrate, organic tapioca starch.

Palm oil is not considered a heart-healthy oil. In NPR’s Palm Oil In The Food Supply: What You Should Know, Allison Aubrey explains, “There are environmental concerns about how palm oil is produced. And what’s more, from a health perspective, palm oil is high in saturated fat.”

Ah. So the fact that Silk Soy Creamer uses Palm Oil, which is a SATURATED FAT explains why a 3 TB serving of Silk Soy Creamers has 1.5g of saturated fat, versus the 0g of saturated fat from Trader Joe’s Soy Creamer – which uses Canola Oil, a more heart-healthy oil according to many (though not Dr. Andrew Weill, but that’s another story).

While I’m shocked by this huge difference in what I thought were comparable products, I now know to pay more attention to the specific ingredient listings rather than assume a product like a soy creamer is healthier than full fat half & half, and that all soy creamers are equivalent.

To that end, I searched for a handy tool for what oils are more heart-healthy – as I can’t ever seem to remember which are the oils to use and which are the oils to avoid (just this week I stood perplexed in the grocery store wondering which is the most heart-healthy oil for popping corn and left with nothing.)

The Cleveland Clinic obliged with an article, Heart-Healthy Cooking: Oils 101 which confirmed the goal of AVOIDING PALM OIL and where I learned that I should have purchased canola oil for corn popping (I also learned that I need to bring reading glasses to the grocery store to read my iPhone). This article is wildly helpful, actually, with oils by smoke point and information on how to store and use oils.

In fact, on the Heart-Healthy Cooking Oils page, there’s an infographic where you can download a very handy tool with best oils for:

ClevelandClinicTopHeartHealthyOilsInfographic

  • Browning, Searing and Pan-Frying: almond, sunflower, canola, and olive
  • Stir-Frying, Baking and Oven Cooking: canola, grapeseed, and peanut
  • Sauteeing and Sauce Making: olive, walnut, and sesame
  • Dressing, Dips and Marinades: olive, toasted sesame, flaxseed, walnut, and avocado
  • Best All Around: extra virgin olive oil

You can click on the graphic to download the handy PDF or by clicking on this graphic in the Cleveland Clinic article.

In th end, I guess I’m happy that I switched to soy creamer as I still believe it best to avoid full-fat dairy in my quest to keep my cholesterol down via a healthy diet and exercise.

But now I need to choose only Trader Joe’s Soy Creamer so I can avoid palm oil. Oh, and bring my reading glasses to the grocery store in case Trader Joe’s is out of soy creamer.

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