Cool Whip. Not Cool

UPDATE: Please scroll to the bottom to see a cool video explaining what each of the nutrients is. (thanks Michelle!)

October’s nippy mornings and the orange tones of autumn are a perfect vehicle for spending a few bucks on a pumpkin spice latte at Starbucks. At 380 calories, it’s a big treat. And part of it includes the whipped cream on top. Tasty…

But what exactly is whipped cream, and what has it morphed into when we buy it as Cool Whip in the supermarket?

Whipped cream is exactly what it sounds like – whipped cream of milk. The cream has to be over 30% fat. When whisked, tiny air bubbles get trapped inside, doubling the volume and creating an exquisite mouth feel. With a bit of added sugar thrown in, whipped cream is the topping to top all toppings.

But, it’s got too many calories and fat (70 in the example above). So food scientists have come in and created a faux whip with only a third of the calories. But what’s inside?

What you need to know:

Here’s what whipped cream is made of:

cream, sugar.

You can make it at home in 5 minutes. Your 10 year old can do it too.

Here is the ingredient list for Kraft’s Cool Whip:

Water, Corn Syrup, Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Coconut and Palm Kernel Oils), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Less than Two Percent of Sodium Caseinate (from Milk), Natural and Artificial Flavor, Xanthan and Guar Gums, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Monostearate, Beta Carotene (Color).

Whoa. What’s going on here?

As usual, the fat is out, the fillers come in. Take some water, mix in xantham and guar gums as thickeners, hydrogenate some oils to make them semisolid, add lots of sweet, and cover it all up with artificial flavors to resemble the original.

All this maneuvering to reduce the calorie count.

Bravo!?

Disgusting.

Here’s a suggestion. Whipped cream is not something to eat everyday. It’s the topping to a treat that shouldn’t be consumed daily either. But when you do top that latte, brownie, sundae, or whatever, do it with the real thing.

What to do at the supermarket:

Buy a Whisk and either heavy or light cream.

[Thanks to Lindsey and to Sherry for the question]

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  • http://Food-Ethics.com Chris MacDonald

    I prefer real whipped cream, too. But from an education point of view, I’d appreciate knowing if any of the things in Cool Whip is actually bad for me. I don’t want to assume that just because they’re “artificial” they’re automatically bad, any more than I want to assume automatically that they’re good.

    I know hydrogenated oils aren’t great. Anything else?

    Thanks,
    Chris

  • Debbie

    What about the whipped cream in a can? Doesn’t it have fewer ingredients? Is it a healthier option than Cool Whip? (Provided you don’t just spray the whole can down your gullet while standing with the fridge open at 11:00 at night…)

    • http://www.fooducate.com/blog Editorial Staff

      any specific brand?

  • John

    @Debbie
    Well Debbie, it depends on the ingredients. A quick check to make sure it doesn’t have hydrogenated oils and doesn’t contain high fructose corn syrup should be a good indication to whether it’s all that great or not. If it’s really hard to find that otherwise, you can always just buy whipping cream and use that kitchen-aid you have with the whipping attachment, I’m sure there are plenty of recipes online.

  • Linda

    I still like Cool Whip, and prefer the lower calorie count. I don’t like the real stuff because it’s too thick and gooey. And really – give the ‘it’s got high fructose corn syrup in it’ excuse a rest – it’s sugar — s u g a r, not Splenda, not Sweet and Low, blah blah blah – High Fructose Corn Syrup is just another form of natural sweetener, just like that derived from stevia.

    I can honestly say that I MIGHT use Cool Whip or some cousin of it maybe once a year … so really, I think I’ll live.

    • Jamie Santos

      HFCS is nothing like sugar from sugar cane. You are mislead if you believe the lies that the Corn Growers Association perpetuates. HFCS causes Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Syndrome….even if taken in “moderation”. NAFLS is the number one cause of digestive damage and especially to the Gallbladder. If you do not know this then perhaps it is time that you educate yourself. The Liver must make Bile and Cholesterol from what you put in your mouth ( irregardless of what ignorance comes out of it ) and this is then deposited into the gallbladder. Over time sludge builds up from all of that filthy high fructose corn syrup and artificial chemicals that the Liver cannot process…remember….the Liver is an organic system so can only read organic codes. Crystals can also form in the gallbladder from all of that hydogenated goodness and then block the ducts leading to the Pancreas….which in turns causes Pancreatitis.
      So, I would say that it is safe to bet that you will have some major digestive issue in the not too distant future and you can thank all those corporations who corrupt our food supply and profit from our egregious ignorance.
      Cool Whip? I don’t think so. A more applicable name would be ‘Cruel Whip’.

      • Ronnie

        Jamie – cool down my friend! You obviously are one of those food bigots who believe anything that the “organic” crowd professes. I think your comment ( …from what you put in your mouth ( irregardless of what ignorance comes out of it )) is being a little harsh on Linda. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, even if you don’t agree. Grow up!

  • Miranda

    I use Reddi-Whip, it does contain real cream, but also has some fillers. Probably still not a yummy as homemade, but great for when you are in a hurry!

  • J in VA

    To make whipped cream at home all you need is heavy whipping cream (preferable not ultra-pastuerized) and a mixer (an old fashioned egg beater in a bowl works too–just takes longer).

    Pour half as much quantity as you want in a bowl (cold bowl and beater is better but not mandatory). Turn mixer on medium then high and beat until it starts to foam. Add a small quantity of sweatener, if desired, and continue whipping until it has soft peaks and looks like whipped cream. It will keep for 2-3 days in refrigerator–after that it gets watery–not harmful but less appealing.

    The whole process takes less than 5 minutes. A bit of saturated fat and sweetener is not a bad as hydrogenated fats and HCFC.

  • http://www.consumethisfirst.com cat

    Excellent post! You’re so right that making whipped cream at home is super-easy and tastes much better than something like Cool Whip. And making it yourself — and including the kids — raises it to special treat status rather than an every day condiment, which, as you rightfully point out, it shouldn’t be.

    Two things to note about Starbucks: their dairy products, including the whipped cream, are all rBGH-free. More importantly: you can ask for no whip and still find your latte delicious :)

  • Brooke

    I think this post is rather harsh on Cool Whip. Yes, real whipped cream tastes better, hands down. However, when bringing a dessert to be served with a whipped topping (picnic, family reunion etc.), Cool Whip is a better functional choice as it will maintain its structure at room temperature much longer than home-made whipped cream.

    To that end, Kraft did not develop this product simply to reduce calories as mentioned in the post, rather its development stemmed from an increased funtionality (keeps longer, maintains texture) and, much like margarine, was also created to use less of our staple foods (dairy).

    Would I recommend eating it every day? Absolutly not. But as an adornment to an occassional treat when offered? Sure.

    • Jamie Santos

      It never surprises me that people who are intolerably ignorant of the human body will advocate for putting things into it that destroy it. Our bodies are organic systems that require organic ( foods in their natural state without added artificial ingredients ) foods.

  • tawna

    what about people that are lactose intolerant? any suggestions? and avoiding soy. anyone try that Mimicreme stuff? it’s expensive though. Lactaid came out with Half & Half..can you do anything with that to make whipped cream?

  • Daria

    Considering that there is nothing natural about Cool Whip I don’t think this post is too harsh at all. It is basically all stuff that is created in a lab and is so far from the real thing. Once I learned about hydrogenated oils a couple years ago I looked at a cool whip container and vowed never again to buy it. And this is the stuff that I loved as a kid and would eat it straight out of the container.

  • http://www.scientificchick.com Scientific Chick

    Excellent blog! While I sometimes tend to go for low-calorie options, I think Cool Whip tastes disgusting, so I definitely wouldn’t consider it. I find it leaves a chemical after taste in my mouth. Bleh.

  • http://quipstravailsandbraisedoxtails.blogspot.com/ Michele Hays

    Have you seen this episode of Wired Science? Excellent illustration of your point: http://www.pbs.org/kcet/wiredscience/video/102-what_s_inside_your_fridge_.html

  • Heather

    A few days ago, I went to Starbucks to get one of their delicious fall treats. I asked about their whipped cream because I don’t eat dairy. Surprisingly, I was informed that Starbucks makes the whipped cream in house at each locations, using heavy whipping cream and their vanilla syrup.

  • annie

    There’s nothing wrong with eating high-cal fatty foods in moderation, our bodies are designed for it! The problem comes when all your food is cream/cheese/meat fat without enough oatmeal/cabbage and so on, and when a “normal portion” of icecream is a quart carton !!

    As to the life-span and “structural functionality” issues:
    1)fresh cream unwhipped can be frozen in portions, it is fine when defrosted to use and whip up – just don’t defrost it in the microwave lol.
    2)if you really need to have a fluffier cream that won’t collapse you could add some gelatin or pectin to hold the whip together. It won’t affect the taste and is a natural additive.

  • http://jeanetteshealthyliving.blogspot.com Jeanette

    I’ve made cashew cream for people who can’t have dairy. It is surprisingly delicious. Just soak cashew nuts overnight, drain, put in the blender with a little bit of water. Add some agave nectar and vanilla extract. Adjust water depending on how thick or thin you want it. Served it over fresh fruit…my friend said it was delicious.

  • WilliamB

    I’d love to see a study comparing the dangers of the chemicals in Cool Whip (or other artificially low cal product) to the dangers of being overweight. The Nutrition Action Newsletter did something like this for salmon, comparing the health benefits and mercury dangers, as measured by lives saved by consuming salmon vs. lives lost to the mercury risk. The world needs more comparisons such as that one.

  • Vegan.Mom

    My in-laws buy Cool Whip on a regular basis to the point that my husband half jokes that the empty containers are their fancy Tupperware collection. (They work great for small compost containers. Although my father-in-law has no reservations with reheating leftovers in the microwave with them. Ew.)

    What I think it funny with Cool Whip and other Kraft products is that they claim or imply to be healthy, but are nothing but junk. Go figure.

    I’ll stick with vegan pumpkin pie with no toppings. However, the cashew cream sounds good…

  • James

    @Linda
    High fructose corn syrup is not the same as sugar. It’s derived artificially and the digestive system cannot break it down properly. Sugar is healthier.

  • Corey

    @James

    *citation needed for your post

    HFCS IS the same as sugar, in fact it has almost the same ratio (generally) as sucrose (table sugar). HFCS is 55/45 fructose/glucose (most common) and sucrose is 50/50 fructose/glucose and your body has to break the link between the fructose/glucose anyway before it can use it from the sucrose.

  • http://shannon-craver.com Shannon

    Christmas and Thanksgiving, the two holidays that include pie in my family, are when I become a fan of cool whip. Other than that, I don’t include any kind of whipped topping in my diet, so I figure cool whip is okay a couple times a year. I (and 70% of everyone else) am lactose intolerant, so it fills the gap of ice cream/whipped cream pretty nicely, even though it’s crap. It’s not like whipped cream is healthy either, I mean really.

  • roo

    wow i will making my own whipped topping from now on, it is so easy and taste great. Thank you for thr info…..

  • roo

    @Shannon
    it only takes a little here a little there and you are not eating as well as you can………………………………..

  • http://www.examiner.com/healthy-living-in-charlotte/pat-anthony Pat Anthony

    Used in moderation Cool Whip would not be bad for anyone. However, no one seems to remember what moderation is!
    Charlotte Healthy Living Examiner

  • Tia Sharp

    @Chris MacDonald High Fructose Corn Syrup interacts with the sensors in your brain that tell you when you are full and dull/slow their messages to the body. So the high fructose corn syrup in sodas and, now, almost everything else we eat, is put there so that we will almost always over consume the product.

  • Corey

    @Tia Sharp
    Citation Needed, I want to see the science behind your claim please.

  • Carrie

    Oh my god! Let me tell you a story for my 21 birthday (” this year”) my parents made me a Red velvet cake and cool whip was the frosting omg! I was so upset! I love the birthday cake and I didn’t get to eat any of it my whole family did but my boyfriend and I because I am really really concerned take my health seriously plus there is a handful of companies I don’t support or deserve my money so went on Facebook and wrote kraft foods a nasty comment for there HFCS ridden products and so I made it my new years resolution to avoid all things kraft

  • UNCOOL WHIP

    People buy the stuff because it used to be NON-DAIRY and people that have dairy allergies like to eat something that tastes similar to the real thing.  However, as of 2010 Cool Whip is no longer considered a non-dairy whipped topping as it always was known to be.  & Kraft didn’t even think to maybe consider informing their buyers of the change on the front label.  SO MANY PEOPLE WILL GET SICK FROM THIS!!  I am just 1 of those people that didn’t realize until I started to feel ill.  SO UNCOOL !

  • Mama Mel

    Love your blog and loved this post. Something that occured to me as I was reading the “don’t be so hard on Cool Whip posts’ is that this issue isn’t just about what we are putting in our bodies, it’s also about the modification of our food! Yes whipped cream is higher in calories but it is real food – not modified food. If the ingredients don’t frighten you perhaps the ethics should?

  • Bruce Woodard

    My wife is highly allergic to high fructose. It causes diarreah. Our gastrologisy says he’s had many patients with the problem.
    Bruce

  • goldushapple

    Psshh. Just eat it. #YOLO