If you like drinking your coffee with cream, you're likely familiar with half-and-half. Half-and-half is an emulsified product made of half whole milk and half cream. It's consequently fattier than any type of milk, with a fat content that typically ranges between 10.5 and 18 percent.
Half-and-Half Fat Content
Half-and-half is half whole milk and half cream, but this cream can be heavy cream (36 percent or more fat) or light cream (18 to 30 percent fat). This means that the amount of fat in your half-and-half can vary substantially. In addition, you can also find two other types of half-and-half: Low-fat half-and-half and fat-free half-and-half.
Despite its name, fat-free half-and-half still has fat: About 1.4 grams of fat per 100 grams (3.4 ounces). Unlike other half-and-half products made up of whole milk and cream, this type of half-and-half is composed of nonfat milk that has been thickened with various additives, like corn syrup. This results in a high-carbohydrate product that also contains more sodium than any other milk or half-and-half product.
According to the USDA, every 100 grams (3.4 ounces) of standard half-and-half has 10.4 grams of fat, 3.1 grams of protein and 4.7 grams of carbohydrates. Half-and-half's fat content is primarily saturated fat (7 grams in every 100 grams). Standard half-and-half's calories total 123 per 100 grams. It also contains nutrients like:
- 11 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin A
- 15 percent of the DV for vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- 11 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 8 percent of the DV for vitamin B12
- 8 percent of the DV for calcium
- 8 percent of the DV for phosphorus
- 6 percent of the DV for selenium
Reduced-Fat Half-and-Half Nutrition
The USDA lists low-fat half-and-half's nutrition as almost identical compared to standard half-and-half, besides the fact that it has about half the vitamin A content (5 percent of the DV) and slightly more calcium (10 percent of the DV). It also contains no vitamin B5. More than half of low-fat half-and-half's fat content is saturated fat, with 3.3 grams of saturated fat for every 5 grams of fat. Low-fat half-and-half's calories total 72 per 100 grams.
Nonfat half-and-half has a slightly similar nutritional profile, but much more carbohydrates (9 grams in every 100 grams of nonfat half-and-half). It has much less saturated fat, with just 0.8 grams of saturated fat. In every 100 grams of nonfat half-and-half, you can find:
- 5 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- 18 percent of the DV for vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- 9 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 22 percent of the DV for vitamin B12
- 7 percent of the DV for calcium
- 12 percent of the DV for phosphorus
- 7 percent of the DV for zinc
- 5 percent of the DV for selenium
Nonfat half-and-half's calories are the least of any type of half-and-half. There are just 59 calories in every 100 grams.
Macronutrients in Half-and-Half Versus Milk
All types of half-and-half are different than milk. Regardless of whether you're comparing fat, carbohydrates or other nutrients, the USDA data for these products are distinctly different. However, their protein content is fairly similar: Milk products contain between 3.2 and 3.4 grams of protein per 100 grams, while half-and-half products contain between 3.6 and 3.3 grams of protein per 100 grams.
The carbohydrate content in standard half-and-half is similar to most types of milk. Regardless of whether it is skim milk or full cream milk, there are between 4.8 and 5 grams of carbohydrates per 100 grams of milk. Similarly, there are 4.7 grams of carbohydrates in standard half-and-half. However, there are notably less in low-fat half-and-half (3.3. grams) and notably more in nonfat half-and-half (9 grams).
Half-and-half products have more fat than skim milk and 1 percent milk. However, nonfat half-and-half has less fat and less saturated fat than 2 percent milk and whole milk. Since whole milk has 3.3 grams of fat per 100 grams and is the fattiest type of milk, both low-fat and standard half-and-half products have far more fat (including saturated fat) than milk.
Half-and-Half Versus Whole Milk
Since most half-and-half is made with whole milk, you'd expect there to be some nutritional overlap between these two products.
In 100 grams (3.4 ounces) of whole milk, you'll find between 5 and 9 percent of the daily value (DV) for vitamins like calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B5 and vitamin D. You'll also find 13 percent of the DV vitamin B2 and 19 percent of the DV vitamin B12. This is a fairly similar nutritional profile to standard and low-fat half-and-half products.
However, unless you're exclusively using whole milk as a coffee creamer, you're likely to consume much more than 100 grams of milk a day. Since the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming about 3 cups of dairy each day, drinking a cup of milk is a fairly standard serving size. In each cup of full-fat milk (244 grams), the USDA lists the following vitamins and minerals:
- 21 percent of the daily value (DV) for calcium
- 7 percent of the DV for copper
- 7 percent of the DV for potassium
- 6 percent of the DV for magnesium
- 16 percent of the DV for phosphorus
- 16 percent of the DV for selenium
- 8 percent of the DV for zinc
- 12 percent of the DV for vitamin A
- 9 percent of the DV for vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- 32 percent of the DV for vitamin B2 (riboflavin)
- 18 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 5 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 46 percent of the DV for vitamin B12
- 16 percent of the DV for vitamin D
Based on serving sizes, this means that whole milk is a much healthier product than virtually any type of half-and-half.
Fat-Free Half-and-Half or Whole Milk?
Although whole milk is healthier than half-and-half, you should be aware that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming low-fat and nonfat dairy products when possible. Low-fat and nonfat dairy typically has less saturated fat, which is bad for your cardiovascular health when consumed in excess. This automatically means that whole milk is healthier than standard half-and-half and low-fat half-and-half, but that fat-free half-and-half might be a healthier choice than whole milk.
However, not all nonfat products are healthier choices, since fat-free products often have added sugars. Added sugars like the corn syrup in nonfat half-and-half may be just as unhealthy as saturated fat. A 2015 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consumption of beverages with corn syrup is linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Given the volume of nutrients in milk, it's probably best to use nonfat, or lower-fat milk products when possible to minimize saturated fat intake. However, whole milk has no unhealthy additives and still contains an acceptable amount of saturated fat. As long as you're not consuming multiple cups of whole milk a day, you're consuming a healthy amount of saturated fat.
- American Heart Association: "Saturated Fat"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Comparison of Skim Milk, Low-Fat Milk 1%, Low-Fat Milk 2%, Whole Milk, Half and Half Cream, Cream Half and Half Fat Free, and Cream Half and Half Lowfat"
- Food Quality Preferences: "Type of Milk Typically Consumed, and Stated Preference, but Not Health Consciousness Affect Revealed Preferences for Fat in Milk"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "Full Report (All Nutrients): 45371329, Low Fat Half & Half Ultra-Pasteurized Milk, UPC: 035826107312"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "A Dose-Response Study of Consuming High-Fructose Corn Syrup–Sweetened Beverages on Lipid/Lipoprotein Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease in Young Adults"