Decoding Labels: Good Kind Natural Coffee Creamer

I love a warm cup of creamy, sweet, nutty, roasted dark beverage in the morning. Depending on the season and my mood, I may indulge in a cup of fair-trade, organic coffee, or perhaps a mug of Teeccino Caffeine-Free Herbal Coffee. Sometimes a nice Rooibos chai or Dandelion Root tea will suffice.

But no matter what I’m drinking, I stir in either real cream from grass-fed cows or coconut milk. I haven’t bothered with a flavored creamer in ages.

But guess what? A lot of other people do. They love their flavored creamers. Sadly most are full of genetically-modified corn syrup solids and partially hydrogenated oils (read: TRANS-FATS). Some brands have opted out of the trans-fats bandwagon and replaced the hydrogenated oils with palm or coconut oils. I guess that’s a step in the right direction….

If you love flavored creamers but want an all-natural product free of GMOs, growth hormones, and trans-fats, you may have tried out this week’s product: Good Kind Natural Coffee Creamer French Vanilla.

Good Kind Natural Coffee Creamer is marketed as an all-natural coffee creamer, free of GMOs, rBST, trans-fats, gluten, and artificial flavors. Seriously, what’s not to love?

Here’s what the manufacturer claims:

“We use no artificial flavorings or preservatives, and our milk is certified free of artificial hormones like rBST. Our creamers are made from real milk and cream. We use natural vanilla flavor and organic cane sugar for our vanilla creamers, and to prevent spoilage we use natural forms of Vitamins E and C. That’s our entire ingredients list!”

Good Kind Natural Coffee Creamer: Ingredients

  • Non-fat Dried Milk,
  • Organic Sugar,
  • Cream Powder (Cream, Non-fat Milk Powder, Tocopherols, Ascorbyl Palmitate),
  • Natural Flavors.

Good Kind Natural Coffee Creamer: DECODED

All things considered, this product is a step in the right direction. After all, how many shelf-stable foods can claim to be free of GMOs? How many coffee creamers are completely natural or use organic sugar? How many dairy products can advertise themselves as being rBST-free?

So, let’s get down to the nitty gritty.

In her ground-breaking book, Nourishing Traditions, author Sally Fallon Morell had this to say about Non-fat dried milk :

Commercial dehydration methods oxidize cholesterol in powdered milk, rendering it harmful to the arteries. High temperature drying also creates large quantities of cross-linked proteins and nitrate compounds, which are potent carcinogens, as well as free glutamic acid [MSG] which is toxic to the nervous system (p. 35).

Even Wikipedia has cited studies that demonstrate that powdered milk contains excess oxidized cholesterol, which contributes to the hardening of your arteries:

Commercial milk powders are reported to contain oxysterols (oxidized cholesterol)[9] in higher amounts than in fresh milk (up to 30 μg/g, versus trace amounts in fresh milk).[10] Oxysterols are derivatives of cholesterol that are produced either by free radicals or by enzymes. Certain free radicals-derived oxysterols have been suspected of being initiators of atherosclerotic plaques.[11] (source)

So, even though this product is “natural,” we can all agree that commercially dried milk is simply not a thing found in nature, nor is it good for you. In fact, chances are good it would contribute to the inflammation and hardening of your arteries and accelerate the onset of heart disease!

While I’m happy to see the sugar is organic, meaning it’s GMO-free and better for the environment, it’s still a refined sweetener. But, given that this is a commercially prepared product, I’m not going to count this little tidbit against them. They’re going to great lengths to include an organic ingredient here when they’re not even a certified organic product, so KUDOS to them.

And, you may even be surprised to learn that I’m not upset by the presence of tocopherols or ascorbyl palmitate. Those are just isolated forms of naturally occurring vitamins C & E. While I don’t usually condone isolating nutrients like this, I will give them props for why they chose to do it. According to the manufacturer’s website, these antioxidant-rich vitamins act as preservatives in lieu of other artificial preservatives or synthetic compounds.

But the final ingredient does give me pause: the dreaded natural flavors. It’s so ambiguous! It could be anything. It could be hiding MSG or some other dangerous, but “natural” chemical. Once again, a bit of sleuthing at the product’s website showed me that this is simply natural vanilla flavor.

Before you breathe a sigh of relief, notice that it’s not actual vanilla or vanilla extract. It’s vanilla “flavor.” This is usually made in either a glycerin or propylene glycol base (anti-freeze) and can be derived from all sorts of odd ingredients — anything from wood pulp to the macerated castor sac scent gland of a beaver (I kid you not!). So, while it may be “natural” and taste like vanilla, it isn’t made from vanilla beans!

Good Kind Natural Coffee Creamer: THE VERDICT

So, what should you use instead?

Of course your first option should be to not worry about whether or not the product is shelf-stable and just use real cream from grass-fed cows. Or, for those who seek a non-dairy alternative, use coconut milk.

(Where to buy coconut milk.)

Alternatively, if you absolutely want a shelf-stable creamer, consider buying powdered coconut milk. The good news is that because coconut milk contains so few proteins and such stable fats, the drying process doesn’t create unusually high amounts of oxidized cholesterol. And, you can use just a spoonful or so at a time instead of having to open up a whole can or tetra-pack at once. All powdered coconut milks will contain trace amounts maltodextrin (a necessary ingredient to keep the oil from separating), but the good kinds will make sure this is GMO-free maltodextrin from a benign and traditional starch like cassava root.

(Where to buy powdered coconut milk.)

Want Your Labels Decoded?


In this series on Decoding Labels, I’m highlighting deceptive labeling practices, hidden ingredients, and more! If you’ve got a particular label pet-peeve you’d like me to share, please feel free to email me with your idea. It may just turn into a blog post!

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Comments

  1. Betsy says

    I saw recently that Coffee Mate came out with a new line – Natural Bliss. Ingredients in the Vanilla flavor are nonfat milk, cream sugar, and natural flavors. At least the dairy isn’t dried! Much better than their regular stuff, I’d imagine. I’ll have to check the label on the super-sized jug in the break room at work. Can’t believe I used to use that stuff!

    • KristenM says

      Maybe if it were organic milk, I’d feel a little better about it. Then, at least you’d know it was from cows who weren’t routinely administered antibiotics and growth hormones. (I think hoping for a creamer made from grass-fed milk is a bit of a reach. Maybe a few co-ops can make that in limited batches, but I’d be willing to bet we’re only likely going to get that at home.)

      As it is, I can’t ever condone the use of non-fat milk, even if it’s not dried. Perhaps the only exception would be the cheeses that require skim milk as a base. (They usually can’t be made with full fat milk.)

      And then there’s still the use of those “natural flavors” — whatever they are. Really, the FDAs definition of that leaves a lot to be desired. Pretty much any flavoring that isn’t fully synthetic and completely artificial can be put into that category — regardless of how it was made or what it was made from.

      • Michelle says

        Organic Valley makes flavored creamers:
        http://www.organicvalley.coop/products/cream/half-and-half/french-vanilla-pint/

        The write up on their french vanilla: “Organic Valley Half & Half delivers a rich combination of organic cream and whole milk, which comes from pastured cows on family farms, produced without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones or pesticides. With immense care and culinary attention, our French Vanilla Half & Half is crafted with organic, Fair Trade vanilla, and sweetened with Fair Trade unrefined organic sugar.”

        Now, if only I could find it in stores…

        • KristenM says

          Now, if only I could find it in stores…

          Exactly my point! The Organic Valley co-op may make these, and some other pastured dairy co-ops may as well. BUT, the supply is super limited. So limited that I bet only a handful of stores in major cities nationwide has them, and even then they may not have them all year round.

          • KristenM says

            P.S. My hubby recently brought home some Horizon Organic Half & Half Hazelnut flavor from the store thinking he was doing me a big favor.

            Eeek. Ultra-pasteurized cream? Organic, but not necessarily grass-fed cows? And “natural flavors” for the hazelnut?

            It’s better than most creamers; I’ll give them that. But it’s still nowhere near ideal.

          • says

            You know, I do love alot of the OV products. Their PR rep sent me a sample of some of these half and half creamers last year. But seriously, they were SO sweet that they gave me a headache. Plus they had some other wacky preservatives and they were ultra pasteurized. As someone who doesn’t normally put sugar in their coffee, I was not impressed. I think it is easier and more yummy to just add cream and some vanilla if you really want the flavor fix.

            • KristenM says

              Right, or you could add any other natural extract besides vanilla. I’ve enjoyed experimenting with both cinnamon and almond extracts. YUM!

  2. Lisa says

    I like to make my own creamer that I found on someone’s website but I can’t remember who.
    1/2 cup coconut milk
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    8 oz coffee
    Sometimes I also add 1 tsp cocoa and/or 1 tsp honey. If the coconut milk is cold I warm this mixture on the stove before adding it to my coffee.

    • KristenM says

      It’s not too hard to make your own flavored creamers using cream and a few drops of extract or essential oils. In fact, it’s seriously easy. Thanks for sharing this for those who want to take the leap into flavoring their coffee naturally!

  3. says

    Just to contribute to the conversation – unfortunately the powdered coconut milk also has trace amounts of casein (milk protein). It is in the powdered coconut milk to keep the fat from separating, but it sadly makes the product not usable for GAPSers and those (like me!) who are super sensitive to dairy. Coconut milk in cans doesn’t have this however so that is what we use instead. Not as convenient, but at least it lets me have some delicious creamy flavors!

    • KristenM says

      That’s an excellent point. I spoke with Annette from Wilderness Family Naturals a while back and she said they’re in the process of developing a GAPS-friendly powdered coconut milk, but they haven’t started manufacturing it yet. So, maybe you all could look forward to it in the not-too-distant future.

  4. Stacey says

    I put raw honey in my coffee sto sweeten it..sounds gross but when a friend told me about it and I tried it I am hooked. Honey and raw cream…yum!

  5. says

    “This is usually made in either a glycerin or propylene glycol base (anti-freeze)”

    Actually, the super poisionous anti-freeze that we use in our cars is ETHELENE glycol. While propolene glycol has some antifreeze qualities, it is considered to be non-toxic. Like any chemical, one small change in molecular structure can bring about profound differences in how the molecule acts in nature.

    I don’t make the callout to say that propolene glycol is an okay ingredient, I don’t want to eat it either. It isn’t food. But I would maybe not label it as antifreeze, since conventional automotive antifreeze is NOT propolene glycol.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antifreeze#Propylene_glycol

    • KristenM says

      Well, it may not be used as an anti-freeze in cars, but it’s still used as an anti-freeze in other systems — like air conditioning units. It’s also used in deicing airplanes, as a coolant in liquid cooling systems, and more. Sadly, though, because it’s not considered as toxic as ehtylene glycol, it also gets added into all kinds of foods, moisturizers, shampoos, and pharmaceuticals where it functions as a solvent or humectant.

  6. Diane says

    Hope this isn’t a dumb question, but when you say you use “real cream” is that the same as heavy whipping cream? Or are you using the cream from non-homoginized milk? I’m pretty new to this and have been using half and half and I know that is not the best option. Thanks!

    • KristenM says

      Real cream *could* be heavy whipping cream, so long as it was 1)from grass-fed cows, and 2)not ultra pasteurized.

      Personally, I use raw cream from grass-fed cows.

      Half and half is a fine option, so long as it doesn’t have strange additives and meets the requirements for heavy whipping cream above. Lots of people prefer the lighter feel of half and half to that of a full-fat cream.

  7. says

    We also have a recipe for homemade non-dairy coffee creamer on our blog. You can easily make it from scratch in minutes (I use just a regular blender). Also, I love the idea of coconut milk. Clearly this is something you can be flexible and creative with. I am fine with dairy for my occasional treat of coffee so I just use heavy whipping cream… someday I will have my own cow and it will be even better!

    http://twobluehouses.blogspot.com/2011/04/homemade-non-dairy-creamer.html

  8. says

    I just discovered roasted dandelion root tea. It’s amazing!!! It also has sarsaparilla root, and chicory. Bought it off a guy on Etsy, handle is ‘dreamweavershop’.

    I can’t have any raw honey or any sweetener of any kind right now (damned candida!), but this tea doesn’t need it. It’s seriously delicious.

    Back on topic: years ago when I also enjoyed creamy, flavoured stuff to put in my coffee, I nearly died of shock when I read what they put in it: hydrogenated oils. Seriously? I guess it helps the creamy factor, but it just grosses me out now.

    I’ll bet…you could simmer some coconut milk for a while, reduce it, and add a whole vanilla bean to it, maybe some cinnamon, nutmeg. Then bottle that stuff and make your own ‘flavoured creamer’.

    Also: Wilderness Family Naturals = AWESOME! They have the best coconut oil I’ve ever tried, AND their coconut spread is addictive. Like crack.

  9. says

    The FDA doesn’t have any standards about what the claim ‘natural’ means. So the vanilla freaks me out – if it doesn’t say vanilla extract, I wouldn’t touch it. I thought the beaver thing was just a rumor but I did a ton of research (and eventually an entire post) about it. Sad, but true.

  10. Mary Able says

    Okay, I’ll bite: Would you explain what is wrong with ultra-pasteurization? Isn’t Organic Valley milk ultra-past.? Thanks for your reply….

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