5 Plant-Based Alternatives to Coffee Creamer

creamer
Coffee creamer is as essential to some coffee drinkers as the coffee cup itself. In fact, black coffee is preferred by only 35% of coffee drinkers. The traditional creamer is actual cream, either heavy cream or half and half. Heavy cream is exactly what it sounds like -- cream with at least 36% butterfat, which makes it much heavier than other options.

Half and half is a mixture of equal parts heavy cream and whole milk. Because it contains whole milk, half and half has a butterfat content of about 12%. Doctors believe that the saturated fat in dairy products may cause an increase in blood cholesterol levels which can contribute to heart disease. Moreover, the lactose in dairy products is known to cause mild to severe stomach cramps in people who are lactose-intolerant.

Non-dairy creamer was invented in the 1950s. Most non-dairy creamers contain corn syrup, hydrogenated vegetable oils that produce a "creamy" texture, and sodium caseinate, a milk protein to give non-dairy creamer its white color and a hint of dairy flavor. Non-dairy creamer has a longer shelf life than dairy products, but hydrogenated oils are thought to raise cholesterol levels. Since sodium caseinate is derived from milk, some do not consider non-dairy creamer to be kosher or vegan.

This raises the question: what alternatives to creamer exist? Here are five plant-based alternatives to coffee creamer:

Soy Milk

Not surprisingly, soy milk is derived from soybeans. Soy milk is lower in saturated fat than dairy products or non-dairy creamer. Soy milk is also sustainable and vegan since it is derived from plants, making it a great option for people with sensitive or limited diets.

Soy milk has a comparable amount of protein to dairy products. Significantly, soy is a complete protein because it supplies all the amino acids that the body needs, but does not produce by itself. Most soy kinds of milk are fortified with calcium and vitamin D to compete with the other benefits that dairy provides. Unsweetened soy milk has no added sugars, although some people prefer the taste of sweetened soy milk for added flavor.

Almond Milk

Almond milk is made by crushing almonds into water. Once the almonds grow soft and mix with the water, producers are able to filter the almond solids out, leaving only the "milk" behind. Almond milk is sustainable, but almond trees require a lot of water and are commonly grown in areas where water can be scarce, like California. Almond milk is vegan and kosher since it is derived from nuts but it does not contain as much protein as soy milk or dairy. Like soy milk, almond milk is often fortified with calcium and vitamin D to compete with dairy.

Cashew Milk

Cashew milk is made in a similar way to almonds. After crushing cashews in water, the solids are filtered out to get clean cashew milk. Cashew milk is sustainable and cashew trees are grown in regions where water is not as scarce. Cashew milk is vegan and kosher. Cashew milk is lower in protein than dairy or soy milk and is often fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Both almond milk and cashew milk can trigger an allergic reaction in people with tree nut allergies, one of the most common food allergies in America.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is made by grating coconut meat, soaking the coconut in water, and filtering the coconut out. Coconut is a type of sustainable milk product and coconut trees require very little water. Coconut milk is vegan and kosher. Coconut milk is much higher in saturated fat than soy milk or almond milk, which means that it can have the same effect in increasing cholesterol as dairy products. Coconut milk contains no protein and, like soy and almond, is often fortified with calcium and vitamin D. However, coconut milk has a creamy texture and naturally sweet flavor that some prefer.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is made from milled rice (typically brown rice) and water, making it both sustainable and vegan. Rice milk is less likely to cause an allergic reaction than dairy, soy milk, or tree nut milk. Rice milk is low in fat, but high in carbohydrates. Rice milk is also lower in protein than soy milk and dairy products. Rice milk is typically fortified with calcium and vitamin D and has a naturally sweet flavor.

When you're ready to make your cafe or restaurant shine, try these increasingly common creamer alternatives.