The Difference Between Half and Half, Heavy Cream, and Coffee Creamer

Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on October 25, 2021

Coffee and milk are two of the world’s most popular drinks. People often combine them to enhance the flavor of coffee and as an easy way to get the benefits of milk. But not all coffee creams are the same.

Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream vs. Coffee Creamer

Heavy cream, also called heavy whipping cream, is the fat that rises to the top of milk and is skimmed off during processing. It’s a thick and pourable cream used to make other kinds of milk products with different fat contents, including:

  • Butter
  • Ice cream
  • Buttermilk
  • Half and half

Heavy cream can also be used in sauces and other food products. Some people add it to coffee in its liquid state. Others add sugar to whipping cream, blend it until it becomes fluffy, and use it as a dessert topping.

Heavy cream usually has a high fat content, around 35%. Stabilizers are often added to help with texture and easier whipping.

Half and half cream is equal parts heavy whipping cream and milk. It has a light creamy texture and is usually around 10% fat, but you can find light versions with less fat. It’s often used as a milk substitute in cream soups and baking recipes‌. Half and half is also known as:

  • Blend cream
  • Light blend cream
  • Light cream
  • 5% or 6% milk blend

Coffee creamer is a dairy-free product made with sugar, water, and oil. Creamers are often flavored and have many other additives, including carrageenan and gums. They are sometimes called coffee whiteners. ‌There are lots of types of coffee creamers, including:

  • Powder
  • Liquid
  • Flavored
  • Sugar-free
  • Fat-free
  • Light

Pros and Cons of Heavy Cream

Heavy cream is high in vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Calcium
  • Phosphorus
  • Potassium
  • Sodium
  • Choline
  • Vitamin A

Cream and milk products are good ways to add calcium to your diet. Calcium helps keep healthy bone density and lowers your risk of fractures.

Heavy cream is very high in fat. Some research shows that too much animal fat from dairy might cause heart disease. 

But other studies show that eating lots of dairy products can lower blood pressure. This lowers your risk for heart disease.

Some people think that using heavy cream in your coffee helps with weight loss. But there isn’t any proof of this. Heavy cream has more calories than other milk products and is usually not recommended for weight loss.

Heavy cream’s fat content makes it very rich. You might find that it bothers your stomach if you have a digestive disorder.

Pros and Cons of Half and Half

Half and half is lighter than whipping cream. It adds a creamy texture to your coffee but isn’t as thick. This might be more appealing and tastier for some people.

Half and half has the same vitamins and minerals as heavy cream, with a lower fat content and fewer calories per tablespoon. This might be a better swap for heavy cream or flavored creamers if you’re trying to lose weight.

You can find fat-free half and half at most grocery stores. It’s made with corn syrup, a small amount of milk, sugar, and additives.

Half and half cream can be an easy way to cut back on saturated animal fat. But it has a lot of sugar.

Milk naturally has sugar that your body can use as energy. But added sugars from sugary drinks or fat-free half and half can lead to weight gain and dental problems.

Limit the added sugar in your diet to about 9 teaspoons daily for men and 6 teaspoons for women.

Pros and Cons of Coffee Creamer

Coffee creamer can be a great choice for people who are allergic to milk or who are vegan or vegetarian. It adds a sweet flavor and rich texture to your coffee.

Coffee creamers are usually industrial products made with lots of sugar, oil, and additives. They are heavily processed and do not improve your health.

Milk substitutes from plants like almond or coconut milk might be a better choice for health. Just watch for added sugar and other additives.

If you’re focusing on weight loss, an easy tip is to swap out sugary drinks. Replace your coffee creamer with skim milk, or drink your coffee black.

Show Sources


Advances in Nutrition: “Dairy Foods and Dairy Fats: New Perspectives on Pathways Implicated in Cardiometabolic Health.”

American Heart Association: “Sugar 101.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Ask the doctor: What's the skinny on fat-free half-and-half?,” “Dairy: Health food or health risk?,” “Plant milk or cow’s milk: Which is better for you?”

NHS: “Healthy food swaps,” “Irritable Bowel Syndrome: a self-help guide,” “Sugar: the facts.”

nutrients: “Coffee Consumption and the Risk of Obesity in Korean Women.”

University of Guelph: “Creams | Food Science.”

USDA: “Coffee creamer, hazelnut,” “Coffee creamer, liquid,” “Cream, fluid, half and half,” “Cream, fluid, heavy whipping.”

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