McDonald’s is known for its many unhealthy food options, but there is some good news for coffee lovers: the fast-food chain now offers a sugar-free iced coffee.
So, is this drink a healthy option? Let’s take a closer look at the nutritional information to find out.
What Factors Make a Coffee Healthy?
At its core, coffee is a healthy beverage. It is naturally low in fat and sugar, and it is high in essential nutrients such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
What’s more, coffee can even help to lower your risk of certain health conditions such as diabetes and heart disease.
However, there are a few key factors that go into making truly healthy coffee.
First and foremost, the quality of the beans matters a lot.
Ideally, you want to choose coffee beans that are organic or Fair Trade certified; these types of beans are not only better for the planet and more sustainable, but they also tend to be higher in nutrients such as antioxidants.
McDonald’s coffee beans aren’t organic, but at least 25% of their coffee beans are Fair Trade certified.
So you’re getting a lower quality bean from the start.
What Factors Make Coffee Unhealthy?
There are a few factors that can make coffee less healthy.
For example, if the coffee is loaded with sugar, it will cause an energy crash later on, and also pack in a ton of extra calories.
But you don’t have to worry about that when ordering McDonald’s sugar-free coffee.
Creamy coffees can also be high in calories, making them a less than ideal choice for those watching their weight.
If you like to add a lot of cream, you may also be adding lots of unnecessary calories. Make sure to choose skim milk if possible.
Finally, some coffee drinks contain unhealthy additives, such as artificial sweeteners or flavorings.
These can be damaging to the body in other, more subtle ways—more on that later.
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What Is in McDonald’s Sugar-Free Iced Coffee?
Luckily, the list of ingredients for a sugar-free iced coffee from McDonald’s is pretty short.
It contains coffee, 18% cream (or low-fat milk), and flavoring of your choice.
How Many Calories in a Cup of McDonald’s Sugar-Free Iced Coffee?
The number of calories in a drink or food item is a good indicator of whether or not it’s a healthy option, though it may not always turn out to be healthy because of other factors.
A small cup of McDonald’s sugar-free iced coffee is advertised to contain 60 calories, a medium contains 100, and a large one contains 130 calories.
That’s not bad for a McDonald’s menu item in terms of calories!
Is McDonald’s Sugar-Free Iced Coffee a Healthy Choice?
McDonald’s sugar-free iced coffee is a better choice for people looking for a low-calorie drink option.
The coffee is made with Fair Trade certified beans, and it contains no sugar.
However, the cream in the coffee will add some extra fat to the drink, so be sure to order it without cream if you are watching your weight.
All in all, McDonald’s sugar-free iced coffee is a good, low-calorie choice for coffee lovers looking for a quick and easy way to get their caffeine fix in a rush.
It’s one of the better low-calorie options on the menu. But, while it may have less calories, there is some evidence that suggests it may not be so healthy after all.
Does Sugar-Free Mean it Is Healthy?
No, sugar-free does not mean that McDonald’s sugar-free coffee is healthy. In fact, it can actually be considered quite unhealthy. The problem with McDonald’s sugar-free coffee is that it is often made with controversial artificial sweeteners.
These sweeteners are not necessarily bad for you, but they can cause some people to experience headaches, dizziness, and even nausea.
Additionally, artificial sweeteners can also disrupt your body’s natural ability to process sugar, which can lead to weight gain.
So, while McDonald’s sugar-free coffee may be sugar-free, it is not necessarily healthy.
What Artificial Sweeteners Are in McDonald’s Sugar-Free Iced Coffee?
This drink doesn’t always contain artificial sweeteners.
If you order one without any flavoring, you won’t have to worry about this at all, but for those who love the taste of mocha and vanilla in their coffee, it’s important to know what you may be getting yourself into.
The sweetener used in the French vanilla flavoring is called Erythritol. This is a compound belonging to a class of compounds known as sugar alcohols.
It’s extremely low in calories, which makes it great for those trying to track their intake, and also tastes nearly identical to real sugar.
It’s been tested and determined to be safe for human consumption, with no toxicity and no serious health consequences.
However, it has been known to cause digestive issues, which can lead to further health problems.
The sweetener used in McDonald’s mocha flavoring is real sugar, so if you decide you want mocha in your coffee, it will no longer be sugar-free.
It’s Not Really “Sugar-Free”
Sugar is a natural sweetener that is found in many foods. It is also added to food items to make them taste better.
While sugar is not necessarily bad for you, it is important to moderate your intake.
There are many different forms of sugar. Sugar is actually just a blanket term used to refer to a family of compounds.
While McDonald’s doesn’t add your typical white granulated sugar to any of their sugar-free iced coffees, it’s still an ingredient in both the cream and the French vanilla flavoring.
Dextrose is a form of sugar that is often used as a sweetener in processed foods. It’s made by breaking down glucose and is about 70% to 80% as sweet as regular sugar.
Dextrose is often used in food items because it is less expensive than sugar, and it’s also easier for the body to metabolize.
This quick metabolization can lead to dangerous spikes in blood sugar and may contribute even more to your body’s storage of fat.
Dextrose is found in the cream, and Sucralose is found in the flavoring—both sugars.
Ingredients to Be Aware of
Some other ingredients you may want to avoid include carrageenan and sodium phosphate. Carrageenan is known to cause bloating, inflammation, and digestive problems.
Sodium phosphate is actually toxic to humans, as it can damage the kidneys and potentially lead to death.
You may want to rethink the flavoring entirely, as it also contains potassium sorbate (a preservative that is banned in Europe due to the lack of credible research), and acesulfame potassium (which may cause weight gain, unnatural changes in gut health, and chronic inflammation).
Which Coffees Are Not a Healthy Choice?
Any coffees with added sugar and artificial flavoring will rank low on the “healthy” scale.
The healthiest coffee is actually black coffee, as it contains no sugar or calories.
If you are looking for a healthier alternative to McDonald’s sugar-free iced coffee, you may want to try making your own at home with fresh ingredients.
There are many recipes online that use natural sweeteners such as honey or stevia, and you can control exactly what goes into it.
If you absolutely need that McDonald’s iced coffee fix though, we recommend replacing the cream with skim milk and avoiding the added flavors.
While McDonald’s sugar-free iced coffee may not be the healthiest choice, it is still a better option than many of its other flavored coffees.
If you are looking for a healthier alternative, we recommend making your own iced coffee at home with fresh ingredients.