Half-and-Half vs. Heavy Cream on Keto

Imge of Half-and-Half vs. Heavy Cream on Keto



In this article we will contrast and compare the nutritional profiles of heavy cream and half-and-half for a low-carb plan. These dairy delights play important roles in cooking, so we will look at each one to determine which is the one most suitable on a keto-compliant diet.

Among the variables to be compared are: nutrition, health, taste and texture and affordability.


Heavy cream: what is this?

A short introduction is needed to simplify the description of these products. We know that milk is a matrix of a wide range of nutrients suspended in liquid. Fat globules make up a moderate fraction of this matrix.

When milk is left to set, the lighter fat globules float to the top. This line of cream at the top of whole milk is essentially heavy cream.

To be classified as heavy cream (also known as heavy whipping cream), it needs to have no less than 36% fat.


Half-and-half: what is this?

Essentially, half-and-half is taking heavy cream and replacing half with whole milk. This means it has a lower fat content, that is usually in the region of 10.5% to 18% fat.


Heavy cream vs. half-and-half nutrition

Nutrition factors 
(per 1 cup, 240 g)
Heavy cream Half-and-Half
Energy 816 kcal 317 kcal
Fat 86.6 g 27.8 g
Protein 6.8 g 7.6 g
Net carbs 6.8 g 10.4 g
Total carbs 6.8 g 10.4 g
Fiber 0 g 0 g


It is known that the fat content of milk is rich in Vitamin A, with much smaller amounts of Vitamin D and E. So when comparing our two contenders, heavy cream trumps half-and-half for all of these 3 vitamins. Additionally, it contains slightly more folate and iron.

On the other hand, as half-and-half contains milk, a source of B-vitamins such as riboflavin as well as calcium, for most other nutrients, it seems to have the edge over its heavier counterpart.

It is also important to note that both contain carbs, but upon careful analysis, the net carbs in half-and-half are almost double the number of net carbohydrates in heavy cream.

Moreover, the carbs in these dairy products are all lactose. This means that lactose intolerant individuals may find these unsuitable, especially half-and-half as it has twice the amount of lactose.


Differences between half-and-half and heavy cream

There are a few things to consider when comparing these two items:

  • Price and availability - Both products are readily available in stores or online, with heavy whipping cream being slightly more expensive.
  • Taste and texture - Heavy cream has a higher fat content and consequently has a rich fatty flavor. Its consistency is also significantly more viscous than say liquid milk. Half-and-half tastes more like milk, just creamier and perhaps more flavorful. It is obviously more runny than heavy whipping cream, though a little more viscous than milk.
  • Ingredients - The only ingredient in both is pure milk. It's just that you can separate the different fractions such as fat content in milk based on its density and then reapportion the fat to make distinct products.
  • Health - Full-fat dairy contains saturated fat. The consumption of saturated fat is associated with increased LDL or “bad” cholesterol and hence an increased risk for heart disease. For this reason the American Heart Association suggests that you limit your consumption of saturated fat. Although milk and milk products do contain saturated fats, there are a number of beneficial nutrients in the food matrix that protect us against heart disease. For this reason, dairy has a neutral association with heart disease and can’t be placed in the same heart harming category as high saturated fat foods, like takeaways and processed foods. On that note, heavy cream contains more of this fat, with 55 g of saturated fat per 1 cup of product. By contrast, half-and-half contains only 17 g per 1 cup. While it is true that their culinary uses are not usually overlapped, so one cannot always substitute one for the other, this is still an important point to be aware of.


When to use these dairy products?

  • Heavy cream - This product is used mainly in cooking; to make cream sauces. It is also used to make whipping cream, to decorate a cake for example. Due to its high-fat content, it can also be used in hot foods, such as soups, and will not curdle.
  • Half-and-half -  The most popular use for this product is as a coffee creamer. It gives off more flavor than just plain milk due to elevated fat content and extra creaminess, yum!


Which one is better for a ketogenic diet?

They both have distinct uses, with half-and-half unsuitable for many recipes that require the heavier product. For example, in hot dishes, half-and-half would just curdle, spoiling the end product.

That being said, each one may be used in keto to play their various roles as they are both rather low in net carbs per 1 cup. Also bear in mind, even ½ cup of heavy whipping cream is quite a lot to eat for one person, considering its rich flavor and thick texture.

However, for example if you were thinking of putting heavy cream in your keto coffee, you may want to think again. The lighter product is lower in calories, and you’ll be using a small enough amount that you won’t be adding too many carbs. Half-and-half can be a keto-friendly creamer since it has just 0.6 g net carbs per tablespoon (compared to 0.4 g for heavy cream).


Wrapping up

We have by now thoroughly investigated the complete profiles for our two products. We discovered how, in essence, both are compatible when going keto, but you should be wary of consuming too many calories if you are trying to lose weight.

Due to the fat percentage differences, these two products do have their distinct uses, which doesn't always allow for one to be substituted for another. So, you’ll be fine using heavy cream in recipes, although you can also consider swapping it for liquid whipping cream to bring down the amount of calories. In situations where it's possible to use it, half-and-half may the better choice since it's lower in calories, but make sure to keep an eye on carbohydrates per serving.