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Posted at 7:00 AM ET, 03/ 4/2011

Is that right? La Creme: 100% dairy, 0% shame

By Jennifer LaRue Huget

Are you ashamed of your coffee creamer?

If your TV's on the fritz, you may have missed the suddenly ubiquitous ad for La Creme, a new flavored coffee creamer. The gist of the ad is that, unlike non-dairy coffee creamers, La Creme is made from milk produced by real cows. The La Creme Web site says La Creme is "100% dairy. 0% shame," adding that:

Other creamers use stuff best left unsaid. While our creamer uses naturally flavored, rBST- and lactose-free ingredients. This will both ease your mind and please your palate. All the things you'd expect from one of the only flavored, real dairy creamers on the market.

The site also provides the Nutrition Facts panels for the four different flavors of La Creme and parses out the ingredients they contain.

I don't have a horse in this race, as I don't see why anyone would dump creamer of any kind into a perfectly good cup of black coffee. But from where I sit, it looks as though La Creme is splitting hairs.

Non-dairy creamers make no secret that they don't contain dairy products. The lack of dairy lengthens their shelf life and makes them friendly to those who are lactose-intolerant. Their ingredient lists aren't especially appealing: Liquid CoffeeMate original flavor, for contains water, corn syrup solids, partially hydrogenated soybean or cottonseed oil, sodium caseinate, dipotassium phosphate, mono- and diglycerides, sodium aluminosilicate, artificial flavor and carrageenan. Lots of long words, but nothing -- except the partially hydrogenated oil -- to get worked up over.

La Creme is also free of lactose by virtue of its containing lactase, listed last among its ingredients. If you were to read the rest of that list, without the explanations offered on the Web site, you might find it not much more appealing than CoffeeMate's: milk, cream, sucrose, less than 1% of (water, natural French vanilla flavor, disodium phosphate, sodium citrate, carrageenan, lactase).

The Web site engages in some silliness at the expense of non-dairy creamers' ingredients, pointing out that sodium caseinate, for instance, is used in making glue, that non-dairy creamer can be flammable, and that some contain cellulose gel and gum, ingredients used in making shampoo and shaving cream. The site also makes a vague claim linking non-dairy creamer to paint. To which I say, so what? I use baking soda to deodorize my fridge. That doesn't make it a bad cookie-dough ingredient.

As for La Creme's charge that non-dairy creamers contain trans fats (in the form of that partially hydrogenated oil), well, that's true. And the company rightly notes that while each 1-tablespoon serving of the stuff may contain only half a gram or less of artery-clogging trans fat, people likely use more creamer than that, perhaps enough to add up to a dangerous daily dose. That's a good point.

But what La Creme doesn't mention is that it contains 1 gram of saturated fat and half a gram of cholesterol per 1-tablespoon serving. CoffeeMate contains none of either of these fats, each of which may contribute to cardiovascular disease.

In the end, both liquid CoffeeMate Original flavor and La Creme Original add 20 calories per tablespoon to your cup of joe. In the former, half of those calories come from fat; in La Creme, 75 percent do.

I say save yourself a few calories, skip the whole trans/sat fat gig, and learn to enjoy your coffee unadulterated -- and calorie-free.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  | March 4, 2011; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right?, Nutrition and Fitness  
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