Global coffee consumption has reached new heights; it's now the second most popular drink in the world, behind water. The coffee industry estimates that 1.6 billion cups of coffee are consumed daily, with Americans alone drinking an average of three cups a day. Asking anyone to give up coffee is akin to asking him or her to give up a first-born child. It's not an option.
The good news for all of us coffee addicts is that under most circumstances, coffee is a perfect way to start the day. But, the beneficial properties of coffee are diminished by adding dairy and sugar, which more often than not are part of the addiction. For many of us, coffee just tastes better with a dash of cream and spoonful of sugar. Trying to separate creamer from the morning coffee ritual is almost as tricky as prying the warm cup of joe from the grasp of the person drinking it. Just like trying to replace coffee, it's historically been difficult to replace the creamer.
The Benefits of Coffee
Dairy and sugar aside, coffee is good for you in reasonable amounts. Keeping up with its popularity as the drink of choice, black coffee is now one of the most densely studied beverages in the world.
A few decades ago, there was no good news about coffee. It was demonized in the literature as having no dietary benefit. Times have changed, and scientists have uncovered much more benefit to coffee than previously thought.
In fact, the World Health Organization revised its opinion in 2016 and no longer considers coffee a known carcinogenic substance. Also, a study published in “Circulation” in 2015 opined that coffee consumption was associated with an 8 percent to 15 percent decrease in risk of death. Other possible benefits include:
- Lower risk of type 2 diabetes
- Lower risk of heart attack and stroke
- Lower risk of certain cancers (uterine and liver)
- Lower risk of Parkinson’s disease
The Problem with Dairy
Unfortunately for those of us still diligently diluting our coffee with dairy products, those many health benefits may also be weakened or even worse, inhibited, by our reliance on cream.
Speaking from experience, many people would rather give up coffee altogether than drink it black. The cream (and sugar) is often as much an integral part of the morning ritual as the caffeine. But, what if there was an issue with dairy, specifically when consumed with coffee? Adding a dash of cream to your morning coffee definitely adds a bit of unnecessary animal fat to your diet, but it also may inhibit the benefits of the coffee itself.
Coffee is an antioxidant, with compounds similar to those found in green tea. The hydroxycinnamic acid, ferulic acid and polyphenol in coffee help get free radicals under control, preventing illness and disease during aging.
Considering the quantity of coffee most people drink regularly, it's how most of them get the majority of their antioxidant intake. You wouldn’t necessarily eat three cups of blueberries a day, or three cups of kale, but most people regularly drink three cups of the antioxidant-packed coffee day in and day out.
Unfortunately, some research indicates that cream-loving coffee drinkers may be missing out on those beneficial antioxidant compounds.
Studies show that dairy proteins bind to many known antioxidants, reducing their overall effectiveness. That means a yogurt blueberry bowl may not be as chock full of antioxidants as we have been led to believe.
According to the science, over time the antioxidants found in pomegranates, blueberries, strawberries and other fruits essentially lose their potency when combined with a dairy product. And, the antioxidant reduction is extreme. In a study looking at pomegranate antioxidants and milk, researchers discovered that more than 80 percent of the various antioxidants were bound to dairy proteins. That's an 80 percent reduction in available antioxidants!
As of yet, there is no published research on whether that is the case with the antioxidants in coffee. We may be able to draw parallels, however, between ferulic acid found in blueberries and coffee. In one study of blueberries with water and blueberries with milk, antioxidants appeared only in the water mixture. The milk mixture had virtually no antioxidant activity.
Sourcing A Quality Non-Dairy Coffee Creamer
If the primary benefits of coffee come only from its antioxidants, it makes sense to try to boost their properties instead of inhibiting them. Fortunately, many more non-dairy options are on the market today. There is no need to replace the experience of cream with a subpar almond milk concoction.
Coconut oil and medium-chain triglyceride (MCT)-based coffee creamer are perfect examples. Both replicate the creaminess many of us find so hard to give up, but without reducing the antioxidant powers of coffee. Plus, unrefined coconut oil and MCT coffee creamer are excellent sources of the healthy fats we need a little more of in our diets.