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Friday, July 17, 2009

Cream vs. Milk: The Battle of Carbs

Here's an email I received with confusion whose source I never could quite figure out.

I'm a diabetic, so I really limit the carbs I consume in a day. That's how I stay off meds. I see that milk has quite a lot of carbs I suppose due to the lactose. But cream does not have a significant amount of carbs. So thats what I stick with. Why !! does cream not have carbs or lactose?? Is there some process that takes place in manufacturing the product that takes it out?? I really curious about this. I have found a half&half product that claims to have taken the fat out. So that's what I use. It claims to have very low carbs.


Milk, like most foods, really, is water plus small amounts of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.

The carbohydrates in milk are all from the sugar, which is lactose. This is true for all forms of liquid milk, from skim milk to heavy cream. The only major difference is the amount of fat they contain. The lactose - carbohydrate - content is similar.

Whole milk 4.8%
Half-and-half 4.2%
Cream 3.9%

[The numbers are taken from my own Lactose Percentages page in my Lactose Intolerance Clearinghouse.]

Not surprisingly, half-and-half - half milk and half cream - has a lactose content about halfway in between.

The difference between them in an ounce, which is about a splash of cream in coffee, would be about 1/4 of a gram. That's a really tiny amount.

Now, about the low fat half and half. That sounds oxymoronic, but such substitutes really exist, both in low fat and fat-free varieties. Here's an ingredients list for one such:
Nonfat milk, milk, corn syrup solids, artificial color, sugar, dipotassium phosphate, sodium citrate, mono and diglycerides, carageenan, natural and artificial flavors, vitamin A palmitate.

It's just fat-free milk bulked up with sugar - corn syrup solids, which means it may be lower fat, but would be higher in carbohydrates, not lower.

And this site has a direct nutritional comparison.
Half And Half (Land O Lakes)
Serving Size: 2Tbsp (30mL); Calories: 25, Total Fat: 1.5g, Carbs: 1g, Protein: 1g

Fat Free Half and Half (Land O Lakes)
Serving Size: 2 Tbsp; Calories: 20, Total Fat: 0g, Carbs: 3g, Protein: 1g

Just as I said. The amount of carbs increase in the fat free variety. You need to balance off the solids so that the fluid doesn't taste too watery. The half and half has 3.5 grams of solids; the fat free version has 4 grams of solids, just distributed differently.

Switching fat and sugar for all sugar isn't much of a bargain for anybody, and particularly not for a diabetic.

Always read the nutritional information given. It will save you in the end.

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5 comments:

Sedna said...

I noticed that the new So Delicious coconut milk beverage unsweetened variety has Calories: 50, Total Fat: 5g, Carbs: 1g, Protein: 1g per cup. Plus, it tastes absolutely delicious in coffee.

Sedna said...

Oh, and and 0% lactose, of course!

LILY said...

Can i dilute heavy cream with water to use

Steve Carper said...

Lily, the problem with diluting cream is that it's hard to emulsify the fat, that is, to make it disperse properly throughout the added water. You're much better off using milk.

Anonymous said...

I have a battery operated coffee immersion blendie thing. See a bed bath & beyond. It whirls everything lovely!