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10 Toxic Ingredients Hiding In Your Coffee Creamer (plus which coffee creamers to avoid)

Drinking coffee is more than a morning habit—it's a ritual.

 

From the sound of it brewing to the rich aroma that fills the house...it provides a grounding, comforting feeling like no other.

 

However, if you take your coffee with a few splashes of coffee creamer, it may turn that comforting cup into toxic sludge.

 

I know, I know, you’re probably thinking, “It’s just a couple of tablespoons a day, Dr. Chad—how bad could it be?"

 

Well, there’s a strong chance that your coffee creamer—even if it says “organic” or “sugar-free”—contains one or more toxic ingredients.

The History of Coffee

The age-old phrase, “How do you take your coffee?” is one that everyone has answered at one point or another.

 

Do you take it with cream, or without? With sugar, or without? Just black? You got it.

 

Coffee has been a global phenomenon since the beginning of time—the 15th century to be exact (1).

 

It first made its rounds through Northeast Africa—most likely originating in the Middle East—and then traveling west to Europe and beyond.

 

Just like many of the prized supplements we use today, coffee was stumbled upon by accident.

 

In fact, rumor has it that it all started with a goat…

 

On a warm, sunny day, a goat herder named Kaldi noticed that his goats ate berries from an unknown tree and became so energetic that they weren’t able to sleep at night.

 

Confused, Kaldi went to the abbot of the local monastery to explain what happened. The abbot proceeded to make himself a drink with the berries and saw that he too had increased energy and alertness.

 

The abbot went on to share his findings with the other monks. Soon after, coffee and its energizing effects spread across the globe (2, 3).

 

Coffee’s popularity has skyrocketed in the past six centuries. However, what’s added to coffee has drastically changed…

10 Toxic Ingredients Hiding In Your Coffee Creamer

What used to consist of just one ingredient—the coffee bean itself—has transformed into toxic, sugary sludge.

 

Here are the 10 most common coffee creamer ingredients you need to look out for...

1. Thickeners (Carrageenan, Gellan Gum, Cellulose Gum)

Carrageenan

Did you know that most coffee creamers aren't actually made with cream?

 

Instead, they get their rich, velvety taste from thickening agents and emulsifiers like carrageenan—a thickener, stabilizer, and texturizer found in non-dairy products that’s known to cause inflammation, digestive problems, and cancer (4).

 

In one long-term animal study, animals were fed a concentration of 0.1 to 5% carrageenan and in just 6 to 12 weeks, colitis and tumors began to appear (5).

 

Further research indicates that this food additive causes the gut to become irritated and inflamed—creating holes in the lining of the gut (i.e. leaky gut syndrome). When food gets caught in these holes, it wreaks havoc on the digestive system, leading to chronic illness.

Store-bought coffee creamer brands that contain these nasty thickeners include:

 

  • Califia Farms
  • Coffee-Mate
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • Silk
  • So Delicious
  • So Nice by Meijer Organic
  • Trader Joe’s (Trader Joe’s products vary, so be sure to double-check the ingredient label)
  • Wildwood Soy Milk Creamer

What do allergies, autoimmune disease, and brain fog all have in common? They can all be caused by leaky gut syndrome.

2. Fillers (Locust Bean Gum)

Fillers like locust bean gum—while generally considered safe, are just unnecessary.

 

Don’t worry, locust bean gum is NOT made from locusts (a type of grasshopper). It’s a natural food thickener derived from the seeds of carob trees (6). Although safe to consume, some individuals may be allergic to it, causing breathing problems and asthma (7).

Store-bought coffee creamers containing locust bean gum include:

 

  • Califia Farms
  • Coffee-Mate
  • Starbucks

What do allergies, autoimmune disease, and brain fog all have in common? They can all be caused by leaky gut syndrome.

3. Hydrogenated Oils (Vegetable Oil or Palm Oil)

Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil

Hydrogenated oil is a type of trans fat that food manufacturers use to keep their food and beverages fresher, longer.

 

So, if an ingredient label contains the word “hydrogenated” in it, stay away. In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that removing it from one’s diet could prevent thousands of heart attacks each year (8, 9).

 

Two of the more popular hydrogenated oils include vegetable oil and palm oil.

 

At first glance, vegetable oil may seem promising. I mean, the word “vegetable” is in it—it must be good for you, right?

 

Wrong.

 

Vegetable oil is high in linoleic acid—an omega-6 polyunsaturated fat—which is linked to a variety of health issues including coronary heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and asthma (10). Yikes!

 

The reason linoleic acid is so detrimental to one’s health is because it can’t be synthesized—AKA, it builds up within your body when too much is consumed.

Store-bought coffee creamers containing vegetable oil include:

 

  • Coffee-Mate
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • International Delight
  • Starbucks

What do allergies, autoimmune disease, and brain fog all have in common? They can all be caused by leaky gut syndrome.

4. Artificial Flavors

It’s likely that you see the words “Artificial Flavors” smacked on the majority of packaged food and beverages you buy.

 

But, what does it really mean?

 

Artificial flavors are just that—flavors created in a lab that mimic the flavor of the real thing. Think: Caramel, vanilla, mocha, strawberry...all the wonderful flavors that a company wants in their products, but doesn’t want to pay for.

 

In 2012, consumers were outraged to learn that Starbucks used cochineal extract (a color additive derived from insect shells) to dye their strawberry Frappuccino drinks. Thankfully, after the outrage, the company decided to transition to lycopene, a pigment found in tomatoes (11).

Store-bought coffee creamers containing artificial flavors include:

 

  • Coffee-Mate
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • International Delight

What do allergies, autoimmune disease, and brain fog all have in common? They can all be caused by leaky gut syndrome.

5. Dipotassium Phosphate

There’s a lot of contradicting controversy surrounding dipotassium phosphate—an emulsifier derived from the element phosphorus.

 

What started out as GRAS (generally recognized as safe) shifted into being hazardous, and is now up for debate yet again (12).

 

Natural phosphate is completely safe—healthy even. However, inorganic phosphate can heighten one’s levels of phosphate, which is of utmost concern in those with chronic kidney disease.

 

In addition, it has been linked to an increase in mineral deposits on the walls of arteries and veins (i.e. vascular calcification) and mortality among dialysis patients (13, 14).

Store-bought coffee creamers containing dipotassium phosphate include:

 

  • Coffee-Mate
  • Dunkin’ Donuts
  • International Delight
  • Starbucks

What do allergies, autoimmune disease, and brain fog all have in common? They can all be caused by leaky gut syndrome.

6. Calcium Carbonate

Calcium carbonate is derived from ground limestone (15).

 

It’s often used as an antacid, and although it’s generally recognized as safe (GRAS), if an overdose occurs, it can cause abdominal pain, bone pain, irregular heartbeat, and more (16, 17).

Store-bought coffee creamers containing calcium carbonate include:

 

  • Califia Farms

What do allergies, autoimmune disease, and brain fog all have in common? They can all be caused by leaky gut syndrome.

7. Polysorbate 60

Although polysorbate 60 has been identified as safe by the FDA and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), one of its main ingredients is ethylene oxide—a highly flammable irritant that becomes toxic when consumed in high amounts (18).

 

Its main purpose is to act as an emulsifier, foaming agent, dough conditioner, dispersing agent, and wetting agent (none of which sound like something I want in my coffee creamer) (19).

 

Essentially, it’s an additive with many different uses—and health is not one of them (it makes an appearance in Twinkies as well).

Polysorbate 60 in Twinkies

Store-bought coffee creamers containing polysorbate 60 include:

 

  • International Delight

What do allergies, autoimmune disease, and brain fog all have in common? They can all be caused by leaky gut syndrome.

8. Chemical Preservatives

Chemical Preservatives in Food

Preservatives protect your food from mold, air, bacteria, fungi, yeast, and food contamination.

 

Here’s the catch: There are preservatives that are natural and one’s that are chemically manufactured...

 

Two chemically manufactured preservatives include:

  • Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
  • Butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT)

 

These two preservatives keep foods from changing color, changing flavor, or becoming rancid.

 

One study found that BHA and BHT negatively affected sleep by altering serotonin and norepinephrine levels (a stress hormone released by the brain when it perceives a stressful event has occurred) (20).

 

In addition, the use of BHA and BHT have been linked to endocrine-disrupting effects and reproductive disorders.

 

Although they’re generally recognized as safe in the U.S., they’re BANNED in many other countries including Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, and throughout Europe.

 

Bottom line: No amount of delicious creamy goodness is worth the risk when there are healthy alternatives free from dangerous chemical preservatives (like this creamer my clients and I use).

9. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial Sweeteners: Aspartame, Sucralose, Saccharin

“Sugar-free”...but at what cost?

 

Artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, Sucralose, and Acesulfame Potassium are sugar substitutes that duplicate the effect of sugar in taste, but usually have little to no calories (21).

 

Side Note: Zero calorie products actually lead to weight gain (22).

 

Side effects of artificial sweeteners include (21):

  • Allergic reactions such as hives and swelling

  • Bladder cancer

  • Bloating

  • Brain tumors

  • Diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Infertility

  • Seizures

  • Weight gain


To see a full list of artificial sweeteners, check out 10 Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners, Plus Natural Alternatives You Can Turn To.

Store-bought coffee creamers containing artificial sweeteners include:

 

  • Most "sugar free" coffee creamers

What do allergies, autoimmune disease, and brain fog all have in common? They can all be caused by leaky gut syndrome.

10. Sugar

Woman Putting Sugar in Her Cup of Coffee

Did you know that Americans consume 152 pounds of sugar each year (23)?

 

The reason for this is because sugar goes by dozens of different names.

Names for sugar include:

  • Dextrose

  • Maltose

  • Glucose

  • Fructose

  • Corn sweetener

  • Honey

  • Corn syrup

  • Sucrose

  • Sorghum syrup

  • Sorbitol

  • Brown sugar

  • Lactose

  • Molasses

  • Syrup

  • Fruit juice concentrate

  • High-fructose corn syrup

 

The FDA’s recommended daily amount (RDA) of sugar is 50 grams (or 12.5 teaspoons) (24).

 

This is quite high, considering the fact that the United Kingdom recommends no more than 30 grams of sugar per day (25).

 

If we stuck to the U.K. guidelines, that would equate to approximately 24 pounds of sugar per year rather than 152 pounds.

Side effects of sugar include (26, 27, 28, 29):

  • Acne

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Elevated cholesterol levels

  • Elevated uric acid

  • Fatigue

  • Inflammation

  • Insulin resistance

  • Metabolic syndrome

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Weight gain

 

NativeTip: Check the ingredient label of not only your coffee creamer, but your milk, ketchup, salad dressing, yogurt, and anything else that’s packaged in a box, bag, can, or carton.

Store-bought coffee creamers containing sugar include:

 

  • Coffee mate
  • Coffee mate Natural Bliss
  • Chobani
  • Dunkin' Donuts
  • International Delight
  • Starbucks
  • Silk

What do allergies, autoimmune disease, and brain fog all have in common? They can all be caused by leaky gut syndrome.

6 Harmful Coffee Creamers to Avoid at All Costs

The number of toxic coffee creamers is growing. Here are 6 that currently dominate the market...

1. Coffee mate

Coffee mate originated in 1961, with its original product being made up of just 3 (very unhealthy) ingredients: Corn syrup solids, hydrogenated vegetable oil, and sodium caseinate (30).

 

Now, over six decades later, their creamers include flavors like Cinnamon Toast Crunch, Funfetti Vanilla Cake, and Glazed Donut. Which means a whole lot of artificial flavors, artificial colors, and artificial sweeteners.

 

If it seems unfathomable to give up your beloved Coffee mate, just remember: It’s banned in numerous countries including Switzerland, Hungary, Austria, Denmark, Norway, and Iceland.

2. Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts Original Coffee Creamer is jam packed with sugar, corn syrup, cream, artificial flavors, artificial colors, palm oil, dipotassium phosphate, potassium citrate, and last but not least—carrageenan (31).

 

That’s 5 out of the 10 toxic ingredients mentioned above.

3. Starbucks

Starbucks released their first creamer collection (Caramel, White Chocolate, and Cinnamon Dolce) in August of 2019 (32).

 

Although they may contain less sugar than their top lattes, macchiatos, and Frappuccino's (which range from 35 to 69 grams of sugar), most Starbucks Coffee Creamers contain 6 grams of sugar PER tablespoon. So with just 3 tablespoons, you’re already at 18 grams of sugar (33).

 

When you take into account that the recommended daily amount of sugar for men and women is 25 and 30 grams respectively, 18 grams first thing in the morning isn’t the best choice.

4. International Delight

International Delight made its grand appearance in 1987 and is dubbed “the world’s first flavored liquid non-dairy coffee creamer” (34).

 

They were, in fact, the gateway creamer that brought a new intention to the coffee creamer industry: Creamers could be more than just a substitute for milk.

 

Each tablespoon of International Delight Coffee Creamer includes a whopping 5 grams of sugar. And that’s not all…

 

Its ingredient list includes water, cane sugar, and palm oil, and contains 2% or less of: sodium caseinate* (a milk derivative), dipotassium phosphate, carrageenan, mono and diglycerides, natural & artificial flavors, sodium stearoyl lactylate, salt (35).

 

That’s NINE ingredients in just one tablespoon of creamer (and that’s not including the natural and artificial flavors...whatever those could be).

5. Silk

Silk may be a plant-based coffee creamer, but it still contains all the nasty ingredients of traditional coffee creamers.

 

For instance, ingredients in Silk’s Vanilla Almond Creamer include almond milk, cane sugar, high oleic sunflower oil, pea protein, potassium citrate, baking soda, sunflower lecithin, natural flavor, sea salt, gellan gum (36).

6. Any “Sugar-Free” Coffee Creamer

Any coffee creamer that has “sugar free” slapped on its label should be avoided.

 

Sugar free usually implies artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, Sucralose, Erythritol, and more.


For a complete list of artificial sweeteners to avoid, read 10 Dangers of Artificial Sweeteners, Plus Natural Alternatives You Can Turn To.

6 Healthy, Brain-Boosting Ingredients to Add to Your Coffee

I’m not going to tell you all the coffee creamers to avoid without giving you A+ alternatives to turn to!

 

Here are 6 ingredients you can add to your coffee—that also come with their own health benefit:

1. Collagen Coffee Creamer

NativePath Collagen Coffee Creamer

Packed with MCT powder, collagen, and a dash of natural sweetener, collagen creamer is the best decision you could make in the morning.

 

Medium chain triglycerides (MCTs) are known to enhance cognitive function, increase your fat-burning metabolism, and bless you with a balanced mood throughout the day (37, 38, 39).

 

Collagen boasts an array of benefits like strengthening bones, renewing the elasticity of skin, and strengthening hair and nails.

 

Monk fruit—a natural sweetener—is a plant native to southern China (40). It rates zero on the glycemic index, is rich in antioxidants, and comes with no weird aftertaste. You could say monk fruit is giving sugar a run for its money.

2. MCT Oil Powder

MCT Oil Powder

If you’re someone who doesn’t care for the sweet taste of coffee creamer, MCT oil powder can be a flavorless addition to your coffee while giving you and your brain a boost.

 

Known to promote weight loss, increase brain energy, and reduce anxiety when taken daily, MCT oil powder is an optimal way to start your day (37, 38, 39).

3. Grass-Fed Collagen

NativePath Grass-Fed Collagen Powder

Grass-fed collagen is an essential supplement for men and women over the age of 40 (or 30, if you want to be one step ahead of aging).

 

What most people don’t realize is that one-third of the protein in their body is collagen. But as you get older, that plethora of collagen starts to diminish (beginning as early as your 20s) (41).

 

From a statistical point of view, your body starts out at 100% collagen. And by the time you reach 50 years old, your collagen levels have plummeted to just 50%.

 

So, when you begin to see fine lines and sagging skin or feel achy joints and bone-on-bone pain, your collagen levels are likely depleted.


And supplementing with a grass-fed collagen product has never been more important.

4. Grass-Fed Ghee

Grass-Fed Ghee

Ever heard of “butter coffee”?

 

If not, it’s a steaming cup of joe with quality fats like MCT oil and grass-fed ghee.

 

These ingredients team together to give you steady energy levels—without that mid-morning slump.

 

As a forewarning, it will taste more buttery than you’re used to, but the benefits can’t be beat.

 

Grass-fed ghee (also known as clarified butter) has stood the test of time. Spanning back thousands of years ago, ghee was used in Ayurveda (a traditional Hindu medicine) as a therapeutic remedy.

 

Studies show that ghee reduces the risk of coronary heart disease, prevents liver damage, reduces epileptic fits, enhances memory, and improves wound healing (42).

 

If you want to reap these enticing benefits, froth the following ingredients in your coffee cup:

 

NativeTip: Grass-fed ghee can be found at your local health food store. When purchasing, make sure the ghee is both grass-fed and organic.

5. Powdered Cinnamon

Powdered Cinnamon

Cinnamon is an underrated spice packed with health benefits.

 

Add a dash to your morning coffee to partake in its high antioxidant content, anti-inflammatory properties, blood sugar stabilizing properties, antimicrobial effects, and more (43, 44, 45, 46).

6. Pumpkin Spice Powder

Powdered Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkin spice powder doesn’t have to be limited to the months of October and November.

 

The 5 spices that make up pumpkin spice—cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and allspice—have the ability to stabilize blood sugar, reduce inflammatory pain, and fight off colds, menstrual cramps, and upset stomachs (43, 47, 48, 49, 50).

 

One way I like to incorporate pumpkin spice is by adding a few dashes onto the ground beans in my coffee filter. Then, when your coffee brews, you’ll have a whole new flavor profile awaiting your taste buds!

The Bottom Line

What used to be one of the healthiest beverages in the world has turned into a cup of sugar, thickeners, artificial flavors, and more.

 

Coffee by itself is rich in health benefits like reducing the risk of heart failure, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes, while also strengthening your DNA and protecting your liver (51).

 

However, when bogged down by coffee creamers like Coffee mate, Dunkin’ Donuts, and International Delight, it takes on a whole new identity. An identity that leads to weight gain, bloating, and fatigue, among others.

NativePath Collagen and MCT Coffee Creamer

When choosing a coffee creamer, look for the following 3 things:

  1. The ingredients on the ingredient label—How many are there? Can you pronounce them?
  2. The amount of sugar stated on the Nutrition Facts label.
  3. If it says “sugar free”, ensure that it’s not filled with artificial sweeteners like Aspartame, Sucralose, and Erythritol.

 

Your coffee creamer should be free of sugar, artificial sweeteners, nasty thickeners, unnecessary fillers, and artificial flavors—like this creamer here.


Want to learn the difference between organic and non-organic coffee? Read this next.

As a doctor of Physical Therapy, Senior Wellness Expert, and co-founder of NativePath, Dr. Walding has helped hundreds of patients improve their quality of life from the inside out—by speaking, writing, and educating others on how to live life a little more #onthepath.

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Medical Disclaimer
This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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