Is it unhealthy to have cream for breakfast?
January 14, 2014 11:47 AM   Subscribe

Basically, that's it. Sometimes I don't have time to eat breakfast, so I drink some 10% cream to tide me over. It's got some fat and protein making it relatively filling, and way less sugar than meal replacement drinks or fruit smoothies or juice. But when people see me do it, they freak out about how unhealthy it is. Is it really?

Also, it's freaking delicious. So I want to keep doing it, if it can be justified.
posted by windykites to Health & Fitness (44 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
It'd be unhealthy to eat nothing but cream all the time. If your diet is otherwise reasonable and you are not overweight, then occasionally drinking cream for breakfast is not going to hurt you.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 11:55 AM on January 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

10% cream is half-and-half, I believe? That's an awful lot of fat, otherwise it seems not so bad.
posted by ook at 11:57 AM on January 14, 2014

What amount are you drinking? Assuming 10% cream = half-and-half, 1 cup/8 fl oz is nearly 50% of the total suggested daily amount of fat in the US (and more than 75% of the recommended saturated fat intake). There's also a non-negligible amount of cholesterol.

That said, it's all about balance, and fat isn't evil. If the fat content of the rest of your diet doesn't put you over the top, and if you are comfortable with the cholesterol, then drink away.
posted by juliplease at 11:58 AM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

The protein of 10% milk (for US audiences, this is basically half-and-half) is sort of negligible compared to the fat content. I guess the healthiness of it depends on how much you're drinking and how the "tiding you over" is affecting your dietary choices later in the day, but as a bystander I'd find it to be a pretty questionable breakfast choice, not all that different from if an office-mate had half a stick of butter for lunch.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 11:58 AM on January 14, 2014

No one would blink if you ate a sausage biscuit for breakfast. And it also has the same percentage of calories from fat. Not that it's the best choice either.

But as has already been said: it's about balance.
posted by The Deej at 12:01 PM on January 14, 2014 [7 favorites]

So I want to keep doing it, if it can be justified.

There's very little about nutrition that is absolute. As people have said above, there is a lot of fat in what you are drinking but that in and of itself is not an issue as long as you are monitoring your overall fat intake and it's within reasonable levels. The reason people tend to lump things as unhealthy is because frequently people are not good at self-monitoring or compensating in accurate ways for treats or snacking or whatever. So, only you know yourself. If you are able to watch your fat intake and make sure it's okay, then sure, this is not a bad way to start your day (doesn't mean that people won't roll their eyes at it) however neither is it a good one (high in fat, not that nutritious). Up to you.
posted by jessamyn at 12:02 PM on January 14, 2014 [4 favorites]

If you feel you need to cut back or make adjustments, have a cream-top or whole-milk yogurt, instead. You'll get the delicious creaminess with all the bacterial goodness of yogurt. Add some sliced bananas or other fruit for bonus health points.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:05 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

The nutrition profile doesn't look extremely different (to my untrained eye) than, say, plain full-fat yogurt, which I eat frequently for breakfast. Like you, I find the higher fat/protein content much more filling than lower-fat, sugary yogurts. If you're drinking cups and cups of the stuff every day, maybe there's an issue, but if you're drinking a small glass (a few tablespoons or so?) I'd just chalk people's reactions up to their own food preferences, and not any real knowledge of healthy nutrition.
posted by augustimagination at 12:06 PM on January 14, 2014 [8 favorites]

A low-carber wouldn't even blink an eye. Compare that with the amount of fat that goes into power coffee just as an example. You're fine. Fat Fears are going to be a thing of the past. Fear sugar instead.
posted by Namlit at 12:08 PM on January 14, 2014 [33 favorites]

I guaranfuckingtee you those people who are acting all horrified shove way "worse" things down their gullets during the course of a day, but they're just more socially acceptable things like big macs and frapuccinos.

I had a roommate a few years ago who would rail at me for eating meat because meat "has toxins" and I was going to die. But she ate french fry sandwiches from mcdonalds regularly, so go figure.

Basically, like others have said, as long as you're not drinking like endless amounts of cream all day long to the exclusion of real food, you're fine.

People are idiots. Don't let them make you feel bad.
posted by phunniemee at 12:10 PM on January 14, 2014 [5 favorites]

i'm a competitive athlete and eat butter in my coffee for breakfast because i hate eating in the morning. nearly half my cals are from fat. different things work for different people

and man, ANY nutrition position can be defended or refuted 100 different ways these days! y'know? you gotta find what works for you. it sounds like you have!

in the immortal words of the hodge twins (nsfw!), this is all just advice. do whatever the f you wanna do!
posted by crawfo at 12:10 PM on January 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

There's (MDA, so take with a grain of salt) nothing wrong with what you're doing from a nutrition or diet perspective, as long as you're drinking cream as a stopgap or a bridge to the second half of your breakfast as opposed to doing so as an outright replacement for it. Hell, I even do the same thing myself, sometimes, and I'd argue that the fat is way better for you compared to the sugar in smoothies or meal replacement drinks or whathaveyou.
posted by un petit cadeau at 12:11 PM on January 14, 2014

Fruit smoothies would have other vitamins and fiber. So would a sausage mcmuffin. I mean, I don't think a daily sausage mcmuffin OR a daily cream shot would be your best choice, but then, you know, variety is what really matters. On occasion? It's not going to kill you.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:15 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

People get weirdly judgey about what other people eat. A muffin and a slice of cake are basically the exact same thing, but people think muffins are healthy and cake is dessert, so if you have cake for breakfast you get judged, but muffins are totally okay. looks at things from a variety of dietary perspectives that might interest you. It's moderately not great on a bunch of scales, but it's not truly terrible. And really, as long as you are eating other things at other times, it's only a small part of your nutrition profile.
posted by jacquilynne at 12:16 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

They might be balking at the ~35 grams of sugar per 8 oz, which is roughly on par with most flavored yogurts.

If you are ok with consuming the equivalent of three tablespoons of sugar at breakfast time, then you should be ok with consuming a cup of ice cream at breakfast.
posted by oceanjesse at 12:16 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I avoid caloric beverages because they generally result in less satiety than eating the same amount of calories in solid food. Therefore I am likely to consume more calories when some of the calories are in liquid form.
posted by grouse at 12:16 PM on January 14, 2014

They might be balking at the

No, they're balking because it's liquid dairy with OMGFAT in it, which the populace-at-large has been conditioned to think of as something-you-put-in-coffee, not something you'd just drink straight up because ew fatty and also cow dribblings, gross.

It's all a contextual thing. I am like 95% certain that these people don't have the slightest clue about the actual nutrition facts.

This comes from my lifelong experience of being a hardcore milk drinker and watching people react in abject horror when they see me drinking milk.
posted by phunniemee at 12:19 PM on January 14, 2014 [14 favorites]

As juliplease noted, there is a lot of cholesterol in cream. A cup would be about 30% of your daily allowance. A cup is just four ounces, and I typically think of a "drink" being 8 ounces or so, which would really put you up there.

A cup is also 85% of your saturated fat for the day.

If this were a one-time thing, I'd give you a pass. But if this is anything but a rare occurrence, I'd definitely cut it out.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:21 PM on January 14, 2014

It's got some fat and protein 

Yes - it's unhealthy.
Not some fat, a lot of fat. Your brain is already telling you this is wrong. Dairy is one of those select foods that can have adverse reactions if consumed as an adult, never mind as an adopted morning habit.

Those people freaking out worth paying attention to - human beings have an internal instinct to look out for one another, and a self preservation instinct. Both of these are making themselves known to you.
posted by Kruger5 at 12:23 PM on January 14, 2014

A cup is just four ounces

No, a standard US cup is 8 oz.
posted by yoink at 12:23 PM on January 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

No, a standard US cup is 8 oz.

Yes, you are right. I'm confused. All the same--lots of fat and cholesterol, even without doubling!

(why can I never get ounces to cups right?)
posted by Admiral Haddock at 12:25 PM on January 14, 2014

oceanjesse: Are you thinking of whipped cream? 10% cream / half-n-half doesn't have added sugar at all.
posted by augustimagination at 12:26 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'd rank your breakfast drink above the sugary, super-refined carb breakfasts that many people start the day with. As long as you don't have high cholesterol or a major weight problem to be concerned with, I'd be fine with it.

I'd go for organic cream, though.
posted by quince at 12:31 PM on January 14, 2014

If you're looking for justifications to keep doing this, refer your critics to this paper on full fat dairy and tell them to shove it. Oh, and make sure it's pastured half-n-half.

Agatha Christie also drank cream as a beverage.

I used to drink cream and half-n-half myself. One of the things I noticed back when I did was that I got sick of the cream after maybe 4 oz max, whereas it took a lot more volume (and many more calories) to get sick of sweetened, flavored beverages like Frappucinos. (Google reports half n half is 39 cal/oz, so that would be 156 calories in 4 oz. A tall Mocha Frappucino -- the smallest size! -- is 280 calories, with 100 from fat. A Venti is 500 calories, or the equivalent of 12.82 ounces of half-n-half.) If drinking cream satiates you after fewer calories (which it certainly did for me), I think there's an argument to be made that it's a healthier option than a Frappucino. (Plus, no sugar!)
posted by pie ninja at 12:44 PM on January 14, 2014 [9 favorites]

i like an affogato for breakfast occasionally - three heaping teaspoons of a dark-roast instant coffee, half a cup of boiling water and a big scoop of ice cream.
posted by bruce at 12:47 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your question, "is it healthy?" depends entirely upon what your health goals are, and where you currently stand with your health.

If you are fat and are eating a glycogenic diet (one where the bulk of your calories comes from bread, sugar, starches, fruits, and vegetables-- i.e. a "normal" diet) drinking cream solo probably isn't doing you any favors. But then, you weren't specific about how much you drink, so it's tough to say.

As far as I have read, blood cholesterol is usually not affected by dietary cholesterol (contrary to popular belief!), so how much of it is in your food really doesn't matter. Your body makes the cholesterol in your vascular system, so the heart health factors are usually genetic, not dietary.

The only thing that matters here, as far as I know, is
1) are you trying to lose weight?
2) are you eating a normal diet (forget normal Western diet; unless you're an Eskimo you're eating a diet heavy in either grains or fruits and vegetables)?

If both those are true, drinking 10% cream isn't "healthy" for you, because it's getting in the way of your health goals. If only one is true and it's not making you feel sick, the people who are getting mad at you better show up with some science, because they're giving you the equivalent of nutritional superstition based on poorly understood, populist, 20 year old industry-backed garbage.

Enjoy your cream man. You're fine.
posted by Poppa Bear at 12:50 PM on January 14, 2014 [6 favorites]

I follow a low-carb, high-fat diet and have a good amount of heavy cream in my coffee every morning. That's my breakfast, every morning.

The kind of intensity of some of these responses is why I don't talk about it much.

(I also grew up very fat- and calorie-phobic. I've lost 50lbs and maintained it over years with this diet, which I'm very happy with. Everyone is different, and if a high-fat diet works for you, go for it.)
posted by jeweled accumulation at 12:52 PM on January 14, 2014 [19 favorites]

It would be a perfectly acceptable breakfast if you were eating a ketogenic diet (high fat/moderate protein/very low carbs). As long as you get all your nutrients in and aren't over eating your expended calories, it'll keep you full considerably longer than carby traditional breakfast food.
posted by cgg at 12:54 PM on January 14, 2014

Get your blood tested yearly. Keep an eye on your cholesterol by reading the test closely. Carry on.
posted by davejay at 1:03 PM on January 14, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd go with Greek yogurt, personally. Plain Greek yogurt is my go-to for when I need something to eat and don't have time to bother with preparing anything. I get it in big tubs at Costco, it costs about $5 a tub. It's nonfat, relatively low carb, packed with quality protein, has lots of vitamins, and it's got that probiotic goodness if you're into that.

It's also extremely filling and sticks with me for hours. It's a bit of an acquired taste, but once you get the hang of it it's pretty delicious.
posted by Scientist at 1:04 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I ate clotted cream and honey for breakfast every morning when I visited Istanbul a few years ago.

That said, I'm not sure that I would want to get into that habit if I actually lived in Istanbul.

Bottom line, though? How many calories are in the amount of cream you're drinking? Is it in line with the number of calories you'd typically allocate towards breakfast? If so, you're probably fine, assuming that you eat other things for lunch and dinner and are not lactose intolerant.
posted by Sara C. at 1:06 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

My wife does this and believe it or not sometimes it's the best option for dealing with her IBS issues.

That said, she usually drinks like half a pint and then kind of .. doesn't want to eat again for about 12 hours.
posted by rr at 1:06 PM on January 14, 2014

I frequently (a couple times a week) have a pint of raw milk (unpasteurized, non-homogenized) for breakfast, and it keeps me full for 6 hours. I get my cholesterol tested yearly and haven't noticed adverse effects from this.

posted by rocketman at 1:12 PM on January 14, 2014

Everyone is different. My mom freaked out when she was here to visit because I eat an egg every morning for breakfast. She was all, "ahhhhhhhh the cholesterol will KILL you!" But my eggs are from my own chickens (happy chickens = lower cholesterol eggs supposedly) and my chesterol levels are great. People often have knee jerk reactions based on their own experiences. Just ignore them. No need to even explain, just smile and nod. You know best what works and what doesn't for you.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 1:44 PM on January 14, 2014

Really depends what you are eating the rest of the day. If you have that for breakfast and follow it up with a bacon cheeseburger for lunch and steak and fries for dinner, well, I hope you bought life insurance in advance. But if that's the most nutritionally deficient thing you eat all day you're probably ahead of many people.

Basically I don't think you can look at one meal as "good" or "bad" outside the context of your eating habits taken as a whole.

Plus if having some cream as breakfast keeps you from getting stupidly hungry and making poorer decisions later on in the day, or slamming your blood sugar up and down and feeling like crap all morning, that's really all the defense you need.

Personally I'd mix it up a little for breakfast, but that's just me and I get bored easily.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:54 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's just the fat. If you are very active you might need that extra fat.
posted by jander03 at 1:59 PM on January 14, 2014

Me and my full-fat yogurt every morning think you're just fine. The anti-fat sentiment is a little overblown. Do what works for you.
posted by nat at 3:45 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am a major evangelist for the keto diet which allows me to lose weight and feel great at the same time. Drinking cream for breakfast is very healthy as long as you don't get too many calories (or too few). You might want some psyllium husk pills for fiber.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 4:41 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

There's two types of ways food can feel good: The instant gratification way and the happily filled stomach all day way. I'm very much of the opinion that everyone has their own digestive ecosystem and what makes a sensible meal for one person can easily leave another bloated and hungry and with a glucose rush all at the same time.

So, I think that if on the days you have cream for breakfast you still feel good at midmorning and have sensible appetites and a happy stomach at lunch and dinner, then, yes, a glass of cream is a sustaining and sensible breakfast for you. If you're craving midmorning snacks or fidgety or whatever by 11 o'clock, then maybe it's not the best breakfast.

I don't have a good idea on what the current thinking is with saturated fats as a contributor to heart disease is, and whether saturated fat is actually the key characteristic of the 1950s diet that causes risk of heart disease, so maybe if the rest of your diet's high in saturated fats, keep an eye open for changes of opinion on that.

TL;DR - follow your gut, but make sure your gut's making adult decisions, not impulsive childish ones.
posted by ambrosen at 5:03 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm in the same boat as Jeweled. I eat a pretty high fat, protein-heavy diet and my morning starts off with coffee and heavy cream (whipped cream) for breakfast. I usually even have one or two additional cups throughout the day with a good dose of cream.

Obviously YMMV but I'm at a good weight and have healthy labs and I've been doing it for years. Actually my numbers improved when I started eating more fat.

I don't think you need to worry about drinking the cream. It's also really, really filling so you probably aren't able to drink a ton in one sitting.
posted by canda at 5:15 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

As a Registered Dietitian: it depends. Get your blood lipids and glucose checked. If your LDL, triglycerides, and blood sugar are low, you're probably ok. Some people can have a lot of saturated fat without any effects, for other people it drives their cholesterol sky high, and/or causes insulin resistance. A lot of it comes down to genetics, so the best way to find out is to get blood tests and experiment.

And if you're busy in the morning, just boil an egg the night before, pop it in the fridge, and have it the next morning with some toast. Heck, boil several eggs and you'll be set for several days.
posted by antinomia at 6:45 PM on January 14, 2014 [3 favorites]

There's nothing wrong with eating/drinking a lot of fat, as long as you're cutting out most (as in 90%) of your carbs: that is known as a ketogenic diet. I have lost 12kg in the past 3 months on a ketogenic diet, and it isn't muscle mass as my strength levels have remained steady.

The diet itself is very satisfying as fat is extremely filling, so I never feel like I'm missing something. I recommend you read Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes for starters, and I can recommend other books and resources to you via MeMail if you are interested.

As to this particular issue: cream is extremely calorie-dense. You still need to monitor your calories, and 250ml of cream (a cup) is close to 4000kj, which is close to 1000 calories, which is anywhere up to half your daily caloric needs if you are of average body composition and activity level. A better idea is to drink a cup of coffee with a good splash of pouring cream in it.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:57 PM on January 14, 2014

10%? Pssh. Go to Costco and get their heavy cream. 40% and it pours like glue.
Seconding all the ketoers here. It's a lovely thing to have in the morning. I have 2T in my coffee, along with a tablespoon of coconut oil, and I'm full of energy and good to go until lunchtime.

Warning: If you eat a Standard American Amount of carbs, this will make you very fat indeed. But if you're keto-adapted, drink up.
posted by bink at 11:34 PM on January 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh, hey, one more thing: for several years -- in a row -- I had a huge glass of whole chocolate milk at the coffee bar when I got to work. Every. Single. Morning. I ate lunch around 2pm (because I didn't get hungry until then) and about every third day I didn't bother eating lunch. No cholesterol problems.

Over a year ago, I switched from chocolate milk to chai lattes and added a huge chocolate muffin. Every. Single. Morning. I also started eating lunch at noon, and did so every day. By diligently following this regimen, my cholesterol shot up to a level higher than my mother (who is in her 70s, and on medication for high cholesterol) in a single year.

If you're going to do anything regularly, food-wise, monitoring is your friend (hence my earlier advice), but also this is a little anecdotal story for folks who think a glass of fatty milk/cream in the morning is inherently terrible.
posted by davejay at 10:10 AM on January 15, 2014 [1 favorite]

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