You’re the Cream in My Coffee

Americans love their coffee, there’s no doubt about it, and there’s been lots of good news for us coffee lovers on the health front lately. One study has connected coffee drinking with reduced risk of strokes in men, another with reduced risk of heart attacks in women and yet another suggests that coffee may help improve those stricken with Multiple Sclerosis. Other studies suggest that coffee consumption reduces the risk of liver cancer – and no one has mentioned the old canard about coffee stunting growth in recent memory. Before you start congratulating yourself and topping up your supersized mocha-latte, though, here are a few tidbits from the April 2008 issue of Nutrition Action Healthletter, which warns that it’s not coffee we need to worry about, but what we put into it.

For example: specialty coffees are the largest growing segment of the coffee market. Here’s what the Nutrition Action Newsletter has to say about a popular favorite in the specialty coffee market:

The Starbucks Venti (20 oz.) Caff?? Mocha with whole milk and whipped cream is more than a mere cup of coffee. Think of it as a Quarter Pounder with Cheese in a cup. Few people have room in their diets for the 450 calories and 13 grams of bad fat that’s what this hefty beverage supplies. But you can lose all the bad fat and all but 170 calories if you order a tall (12 oz.) with nonfat milk and no whipped cream

Maybe you thought you were avoiding all that sat fat because you opt for creamy goodness via powdered coffee creamers or whiteners. Probably not, say the folks at the newsletter. There are some things you should know about non-dairy coffee creamers.

– Fat-free doesn’t REALLY mean fat-free. Federal regs allow a manufacturer to round down to 0 grams if a food contains less than .5 grams of trans or sat fat per serving. That 0 grams per serving could be as high as .49 grams per serving. In fact, Coffeemate Fat Free non-dairy creamer contains .27 grams of saturated fat. Not so horrible, right? Combine that with fact #2…

– Your idea of a serving does not equal their idea of a serving. For example, a ‘serving’ of Coffeemate Original Fat Free non-dairy powdered creamer is one level teaspoon. When’s the last time you measured out your Coffeemate with a teaspoon – and leveled it? That’s the recommended amount to whiten a cup of coffee.

That’s a six ounce cup of coffee. Do they even sell six ounce coffee cups any more? The average coffee mug is 8 or 12 ounces, and few people use one teaspoon of creamer to whiten their coffee. In fact, the average recommended amount in most flavored coffee creamers is one tablespoon – for a six ounce cup of coffee.

Now let’s put those two facts together with the average coffee drinkers experience. Three 12 ounce cups of coffee a day with two tablespoons of powdered coffee creamer and you’ve just downed a quarter of your recommended fat allowance for the day.

If you really can’t stomach your coffee with skim or fat-free milk (which I can’t), the folks at the Nutrition Action Newsletter recommend International Delight Fat Free flavored coffee creamers or Land O Lakes Fat Free Half and Half.