Antioxidant Killers: Cream and Sugar

Though we’ve known for quite a while that tea, especially certain varieties like green tea, contain antioxidants, more recent findings show that coffee contains them as well. This is great news for those who like to drink their coffee black. For people who prefer cream and sugar in their coffee, however, the news may not be so significant.

Cream and sugar, two long-standing and popular additions to coffee, can have a neutralizing effect on antioxidizing properties. This might be a good reason to reconsider adding them. Old habits can be hard to change, but it does help to know how changing them can benefit your health.

The Refined Sugar Culprit

Refined sugar has no redeeming qualities when it comes to your health. Though some natural sugars, such as honey, maple syrup, and brown rice syrup, contain antioxidants, refined white sugar is quite the opposite. It can cause the release of harmful free radicals into your bloodstream, which wreak havoc with your immune system. Though antioxidants work to neutralize free radicals, putting sugar in your coffee or tea means that you are allowing the good in these beverages to be neutralized by the bad in sugar. Leave out the sugar, and you get more benefits.

Cream and Casein

It probably isn’t fair to make cream the sole culprit when it comes to neutralizing the antioxidants in your coffee or tea. In fact, it’s the casein contained in the cream that causes the problems. This ingredient is in every milk product. It’s more correct to say that milk, or any form thereof added to your coffee or tea, negates their ability to neutralize free radicals. Cream is the worst additive among milk products because it not only negates the health benefits, but also adds saturated fat.

Sugar and Cream Substitutes

Does it help to use sugar or cream substitutes in your coffee or tea? That depends. If you’re talking about natural forms of sugar, such as honey, maple syrup or even raw cane sugar, then yes, you’re much better off adding those. If you’re talking about high-fructose corn syrup, a refined byproduct of corn, or artificial sugars, which are almost always the subject of controversy, then you probably aren’t much better off. If you must sweeten your coffee or tea, it’s best to keep it as natural as possible. Natural, raw sugars will not wreak the havoc with antioxidants that refined or substitute sugars will. Soy milk or non-dairy creamers can be better additives than cream, unless they contain sugar, which many of them do.

Your best bet when it comes to getting the most health benefits from your coffee or tea is to drink it just the way it is. For many people, though, this simply isn’t acceptable, they’d rather not drink these beverages at all if they can’t add their cream and sugar. In that case, look for acceptable substitutes that are as close to their natural states as possible. When we are vigilant about getting the most nutrients from what we eat and drink, we are inevitably rewarded with better health and a higher quality of life.


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  • dallske

    Can you prove that refined sugars neutralize antioxidants? Any supporting arguments or science to back it up?