Do You Really Need to Add Corn Fiber and Protein to Your Coffee?

If you shop at Kroger, maybe you’ve come across the Cup Start Creamer.

Image result for cup start creamer hazelnut

You might think, “Well, this looks delicious. Who doesn’t love ‘rich tasting, creamy and satisfying coffee’? Moreover, it has 7 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber in a packet. Sign me up.” as you toss two boxes into your cart.

You might not bother reading the ingredient list, which consists of “sugar, whey protein isolate, soluble corn fiber, palm oil, corn syrup solids, contains less than 2% of: sodium caseinate (a milk derivative), silicon dioxide, dipotassium phosphate, soy lecithin, mono- and diglycerides, natural and artificial flavors”.

You might not notice that you’re adding 110 calories, 3 grams of total fat including 1.5 grams of saturated fat, 50 mg of sodium, and 19 grams of carbohydrate (10 of which are sugar) to your morning cup of joe.

No, many people are only going to pay attention to the protein and the fiber. The protein you can probably do without although whey protein isolate isn’t likely to harm you in any way. However, you’re right in thinking that you might need more fiber. Most Americans DO need more fiber. Probably not soluble corn fiber, in any case. I don’t think anyone needs more of that. In 2020, which can’t get here fast enough for a multitude of reasons, how manufacturers can label fiber on the Nutrition Facts panel will change. When that happens, they will only be able to count processed (aka isolated) fiber if it decreases appetite, improves regularity, decreases cholesterol or blood glucose, or enhances the body’s ability to absorb a mineral. In some small studies, the soluble corn fiber used in Cup Start Creamer and Fiber One bars increased calcium absorption or retention. It has not been found to have any of the other positive effects on health listed above. The FDA has not approved it as a fiber at this time. As of 2020, if it remains unapproved, the Nutrition Facts label on this product will read “Dietary Fiber 0 g”, as it should. So if your reason for wanting these five grams of fiber added to your coffee doesn’t involve calcium retention, you’d be better off to get your fiber elsewhere.

The “mono- and diglycerides” listed on the ingredient list contain a small amount of trans fat, but because they are technically classified as emulsifiers rather than lipids, the FDA ban doesn’t apply to them. As trans fat is phased out of our food supply, you will likely note that an increasing number of foods contain mono- and diglycerides, which are a low-cost alternative that allows for the improved texture and consistency of food many manufacturers currently rely on trans-fat to provide. Palm oil is a terrible choice of fat. It is a cheap oil that is 50% saturated fat, and the production of it is associated with severe humanitarian/ethical and ecological issues.

One packet of the Hazelnut flavored Cup Start Creamer contains 10 grams of sugar, which is the equivalent of 2 1/2 teaspoons of sugar. Men should limit themselves to nine teaspoons of sugar a day and women to six teaspoons a day. There are many more satisfying ways to use your sugar allotment than stirring an industrially processed powder into your coffee.

Do yourself a favor and just say no to this “creamy and satisfying” coffee-shake thing that we have going on here.