Loving the BITE: Chemical-Free Coffee
This week I’m on a mission. A pantry purge, if you will. When I shop for foods that are not completely whole food (for whatever reason), I generally try to avoid: high omega-6 oils like soybean oil and corn oil, artificial sweeteners with the exception of occasional stevia, colorings and fake flavorings, monosodium glutamate, high fructose corn syrup, and partially hydrogenated oils (transfats). Pretty long list. Pretty dismal shopping experience, huh?
Actually, since even within “processed foods” I’m looking for minimal ingredients, and I only buy a few of these, it’s not the hard. And, luckily, more and more food manufacturers are accommodating picky patrons like me. Now, I can find dressings without soybean oil, ketchup and jelly without high fructose corn syrup, and an ever-growing list of foods with natural, minimal ingredients. And as you know, if I can’t find, I’m heading to the kitchen and making it.
But, I love my coffee. And (gasp), I l-o-v-e my flavored coffee creamer. I know that many of you do, too. If you don’t already realize it, most commercial flavored creamers are loaded with junk chemicals and partially hydrogenated oils. In fact, some brands include almost every one of the ingredients I try to avoid. So, I’m happy that there’s a brand or two now made up of milk, cream, sugar, and vanilla. Still, to add to the food pickiness that is me, I want organic dairy. Or, maybe no dairy in this one. I’ve found a good answer in this week’s Loving the Bite Recipe, and it’s the perfect opportunity to discuss partially hydrogenated oils. I hope all you proud coffee drinkers, and even closet Coffeemate adders, find the same enjoyment.
Recipe of the Week: Easy Maple Coffee Creamer
- 1 can organic coconut milk OR 14 oz. organic half and half
- 1/3 cup real maple syrup or organic honey
- 2 Tbsp real vanilla
- 1 tsp cinnamon
Mix well and store in refrigerator.
Nutrition info: 18 servings (1 Tbsp each). Approximately 45 calories, 5 grams carbs, 5 grams sugar, 0 grams fiber, 0 grams protein per serving.
Yes, like other creamers, this one is creamer is still high calories and sweetened. And for some, it’s a no-go, especially if trying to lose a considerable amount of weight. However, for many, a small portion or this minimal-ingredient, all-natural satisfying creamer is a delightful treat within a healthy diet. And to me, as long as these clients are meeting their overall goals, this is fine.
Partially-hydrogenated-creamer? Not fine. Why do I try to avoid partially hydrogenated oils like the plague? For the most part, they are manipulated, processed chemical fats with correlations to more and more chronic disease. And, while it seems that most food manufacturers, fast food chains, and even legislators are identifying them and omitting them, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. Here’s what partially hydrogenated oils are and how to give them the ax:
Partially hydrogenated oils are liquid fats (such as vegetable oils) that have been chemically altered to become solid at room temperature (such as margarine). This alteration actually changes the “shape” of the bonds (from cis to trans) in the fat. They occur only in very small amounts in nature. They are found in man-made processed foods such as shortening, margarine, baked goods, boxed foods, candies, snack foods, fried foods, and salad dressings. Basically, if a foods not in the form in which it was grown, it’s suspect. These oils have become more common with the increase of processed foods, and are now becoming less common with consumer demand for less, or so it seems.
They have been strongly linked to increased LDL (bad) cholesterol and heart disease. They are positively correlated to systematic inflammation in our bodies, which increases our risk for all many of chronic disease. What’s more, some animal studies have linked them to (non-alcoholic) fatty liver disease and scarring on the liver, especially in diets that also contain high amounts simple sugars. While most natural fats are becoming more and more exonerated, these processed ones need to be dropped.
Here’s some strategies to get rid of them:
- Choose fresh, whole foods for snacks and meals. Snack foods like fruits, veggies, raw or dry roasted nuts, seeds, and yogurt instead of boxed and processed foods such as crackers, cookies, and chips. And even with “healthy snacks,” check out the label and ingredients lists.
- Make your own condiments, sauces, and products like creamers if you’re not willing to use a purely whole food.
- Make baked goods & dinners from scratch using olive oil, coconut oil, nut & seed oils, nut butters, applesauce, pureed fruits or small amounts of butter instead of margarine or boxed mixes.
- Pack your lunch instead of eating Fast Foods, and make quick, easy and delicious dinners at home instead of eating Fast Foods.
- Avoid “convenience dinners” such as Hamburger Helper, Rice-o-Roni, and frozen meals that contain partially hydrogenated oils.
- Double check “sports nutrition” foods and bars to make sure they do not contain “partially hydrogenated fats.”
- Within the “Total Fat” section of a nutrition label, you’ll usually find the amount of saturated fats and transfats. Although it may be confusing, even when a type of fat is listed as “0,” it may actually be anywhere from 0-0.4 grams (they are allowed to round down). Of course, once a food manufacturer has the amount low enough to label it as zero, you bet your spandex it will claim (in big letters) on the packaging that it is free of transfats. This small labeling situation is a big problem because even small amounts are potentially harmful. So, go beyond the nutrition label to the ingredients list. Anytime you see partially hydrogenated oil, the product has trans-fats – avoid these products as much as possible!
- With this knowledge, read labels/ingredients lists and choose foods that do not contain trans-fats. The use of these fats may even vary between food brands. For instance, some brands of microwave popcorn have transfats whiles others do not.
Buyer Beware: Anytime you buy food in a package or box, look for partially hydrogenated oils. Even in “healthy foods.” Yogurts, cereals, breads, energy bars, whey proteins, and more may have them.
A healthy athlete is a strong athlete. Protect your heart, liver, and overall health by using natural, healthy fats, from real, whole foods, rather than processed ones. If you need a food ”product,” consider making it yourself or being extra picky in the grocery aisle. Maybe even spend more time picking your creamer than your lube – okay, equal time.
Fuel Your Ride. Nourish Your Body.