The difference between light cream, heavy cream and whipping cream comes down to fat content. The fat content not only affects a cream's nutritional profile but may also determine how these dairy products are used in cooking.
Concentrated Source of Calories
When it comes to calories, the difference between heavy, light and whipping cream isn't too significant. One tablespoon of heavy cream contains 52 calories; light cream, 44; and whipping cream, 45.
Although calorie content varies a bit, all three dairy products are a concentrated source of calories and may not always make a good choice when trying to balance your intake for weight management.
Most of the calories in all three dairy creams come from their fat content, and it's not the healthy kind. One tablespoon of heavy cream has 6 grams of total fat and 3.5 grams of saturated fat; light cream, 5 grams of total fat and 3 grams of saturated fat; and whipping cream, 4.5 grams of total fat and 3 grams of saturated fat.
As sources of saturated fat, all three liquid creams are not good for heart health. The American Heart Association suggests limiting saturated fat intake to 5 percent to 6 percent of daily calorie intake. If you consume 2,000 calories a day, that means no more than 13 grams of saturated fat.
If you're trying to limit carb intake, all three types of cream make good choices. None is a good source of protein, however.
All three contain about the same amount of carbs and protein per tablespoon, with about 1 gram of carb and less than 1 gram of protein.
Due to the 1-tablespoon serving size, neither the heavy, light nor the whipping cream is a significant source of any vitamin or mineral. But the heavy cream and whipping cream are a slightly better sources of vitamin A, meeting 4 percent of the daily value per tablespoon, compared to 3 percent of the daily value in the same serving of light cream You need vitamin A for healthy skin, teeth and bones.
Calcium is important for bone health, but these dairy products may not make the best choice for meeting your needs. One tablespoon of either cream meets only 2 percent of the daily value.
Uses and Substitutions
The fat content in these dairy products affects consistency and creaminess. According to The Kitchn website, heavy cream may create a slightly thicker mouth feel than either light or whipping cream. All three creams can be used to make whipped cream, but the heavy cream creates the most stable product.
Using the light or whipped cream in place of heavy cream in recipes may help save calories and fat. Good options include soups, stews and baked goods.