Why I Love This Healthy, Homemade Creamer Recipe
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Skip the highly processed and sugar-laden creamers by making homemade creamer instead. Your coffee will be chock-full of flavor and nutrients with this healthy creamer recipe from registered dietitian and plant-based diet specialist, Cynthia Sass.
How to make a healthy coffee creamer
Finding a healthy creamer can be tricky, especially if you want something flavorful and made with all-natural ingredients and healthful fat. When I face the wall of creamers at my local market, the first thing I do when I pick up a bottle is turn it over and read the ingredient list.
I love to see the variety of new plant-based options, but there are a handful of deal-breaker ingredients I don’t want in any creamer I use or recommend.
For example, after water, the next ingredient in many creamers is sugar. One level tablespoon of creamer can provide 4 grams of added sugar, just about a teaspoon worth. If you use a quarter cup of creamer in your coffee (or coffees if you drink more than one cup), that adds up to 4 teaspoons worth of added sugar.
That’s getting close to the American Heart Association’s recommended daily cap of no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day for women and nine for men.
Other red flags include artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, and preservatives, additives commonly found in highly processed foods. A 2019 study, published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, raises concerns about the potential link between processed foods and obesity.
Researchers theorize that processed foods, and the additives they include, may create an imbalance in the gut by affecting bacteria in ways that alter their metabolism, and subsequently increase chronic disease risk.
A study published in the July 2020 journal Nutrients, also agrees and concludes that a high consumption of ultra-processed foods is linked to health risks. Of 43 previously published studies scientists reviewed, 37 showed that exposure to ultra-processed foods was associated with at least one adverse health outcome. Among adults, these included obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression.
An instant alternative
For an instant alternative to creamer, start with a plain, unsweetened plant-based milk made from simple ingredients. One of my favorites is Elmhurst 1925 unsweetened almond milk ($45 for 6 1-quart containers). The only two ingredients are water and almonds.
I also like Trader Joe’s Non-Dairy Oat Beverage, made from just water and hydrolyzed oats. To sweeten, add one teaspoon of pure maple syrup per quarter cup of plant milk. This two-ingredient version won’t be as thick as a creamer, but it’s fast, flavorful, and much more healthful than a highly processed product.
Homemade creamer recipe
If you want something homemade, you can opt for my DIY creamer recipe. After all, the healthfulness of a food becomes even more important the more frequently you consume it.
If you start every day with coffee, and you typically add creamer, consider this recipe with just a few simple ingredients and steps. Here’s my DIY creamer recipe for a nutrient-rich whole food option that will keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.
Courtesy Cynthia Sass, MPH, MA, RD, CSSD
Cashew Chia Creamer
The three ingredients that form the base of this creamer are each nutrient powerhouses. In addition to heart-healthy fat, cashews provide 5 grams of plant protein per ounce (1/4 cup), and a range of nutrients, including B vitamins, magnesium, zinc, iron, manganese, and antioxidants.
That’s because they’re considered a fresh fruit, since no water is removed and the dates are unprocessed. Dates also provide a wide range of antioxidants, in addition to vitamins and minerals, like potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure, and supports nerve and muscle function and heart rhythm.
1/2 cup whole raw cashews
1 teaspoon chia seeds
2 whole, pitted Medjool dates
Pinch sea salt
3/4 cup brewed and chilled chai tea or plain, filtered water
Place the cashews, chia seeds, and dates in a medium bowl and add enough water to cover the mixture. Soak in the refrigerator for at least two hours or as long as overnight.
Drain off the water and transfer the mixture to a blender. Add the sea salt, and either the chai tea for flavor, or plain filtered water.
Blend on high until smooth. Strain the milk through a nut bag until all of the liquid has been extracted and the pulp is left behind.
Tip: Use decaffeinated chai if you’re a decaf drinker.
A nut-free version
If you have a nut allergy or sensitivity, you can make a nut-free version of this same recipe.
Replace the cashews with 1/2 cup of organic old-fashioned rolled oats. Do not drain after soaking.
Add just 1/4 cup of water or chai tea, blend, and strain. Each version makes about one cup of thick, rich creamer.
- American Heart Association: "Added Sugars"
- Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition: "Food processing, gut microbiota and the globesity problem"
- Nutrients: "Ultra-Processed Foods and Health Outcomes: A Narrative Review"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Nuts, cashew nuts, raw"
- Nutrition Research Reviews: "Tree nut phytochemicals: composition, antioxidant capacity, bioactivity, impact factors. A systematic review of almonds, Brazils, cashews, hazelnuts, macadamias, pecans, pine nuts, pistachios and walnuts"
- Food & Function: "Chia seeds: an ancient grain trending in modern human diets
- Frontiers in Plant Science: "Date Palm Tree (Phoenix dactylifera L.): Natural Products and Therapeutic Options"
- Medline Plus: "Potassium"
- USDA FoodData Central: "Creamer"