Is ice cream good or bad for you?
There is no denying that ice cream is one of the most delicious foods out there and is enjoyed by almost everyone, no matter their age. With hundreds of different flavours and varieties to choose from, it can be extremely difficult to resist.
But just how healthy is ice cream, and how often should you be eating it?
What is ice cream and how is it made?
Commercial ice cream is usually made from fresh cream, which is obtained from milk. The cream is stored in large refrigerated silos at very low temperatures and mixed with powdered skim milk, stabilizers, emulsifiers, sugar and corn syrup. The mixture is then pasteurized, homogenized, cooled and flavoured.
Finally, it is chilled and whipped, which blends the mix with air, transforming it from a liquid into a soft solid with a creamy texture. The ice cream is then packaged on its own (sometimes with toppings added) or used to make treats such as ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches and frozen dessert cones.
The table below provides nutritional information for 1 serving (1/2 cup, 66g) of vanilla ice cream:
|Fat||7 g (4 g saturated)|
The nutritional information for other varieties of ice cream may vary greatly, depending on the ingredients used to prepare it.
The good things about ice cream
It contains some vitamins & minerals
Because ice cream is obtained from milk, it does have small amounts of certain nutrients. A half cup serving of vanilla ice cream for example will provide you with 8% of your daily requirement of calcium, 9% vitamin B2, 7% phosphorus, 6% vitamin A, 4% potassium and 4% vitamin B12.
Calcium & phosphorus keep your bones strong, vitamin A promotes the health of your eyes & skin and vitamin B12 maintains energy levels. It is important to note however that ice cream is definitely not the best source of any of these nutrients. For example, the same weight in carrots would provide you with 40 times as much vitamin A.
It can boost ones mood and is a source of energy
Ice cream is mainly made up of carbohydrates and fat, with a little bit of protein as well. This can come in handy when you are trying to gain weight or when you are ill and are not able to stomach other types of food.
Also, thanks to its extreme sweetness, small amounts are able to satisfy a sweet tooth and boost spirits. When you see someone eating ice cream, they are usually happy & smiling, because ice cream stimulates the pleasure centers in the brain.
The bad things about ice cream
It is loaded with sugar
Most commercial ice cream has large amounts of added sugar. Experts believe that added sugar is one of the worst ingredients in our diets because it could be a cause for various diseases. Many people these days eat much more sugar than they think they do simply because of the large amount that is added to various foods.
Added sugar damages your teeth, provides no essential nutrients, can overload your liver, can cause insulin resistance and could contribute to cancer. Studies have even found that it might be sugar and not fat that is a leading cause of heart disease.
It is addictive and high in calories
Ice cream is a rich source of calories, with 100 g of vanilla ice cream providing 207 calories. Compare that to a sweet tasting fruit such as a mango, which has 65 calories per 100 grams.
The consumption of excess calories is what leads to weight gain and because of the highly addictive nature of ice cream, this is very possible. It can often be difficult to limit yourself to just one scoop of ice cream. Additionally, the consumption of sugar contributes towards obesity.
Should you eat ice cream?
There is no reason why you cannot enjoy ice cream, so long as you eat it in moderation and your doctor says it is OK to do so. This is usually the case with a lot of foods because too much of anything can be a bad thing.
Having a small scoop of ice cream a few times a week will not do you any harm. Having 4 large scoops every single day on the other hand is not recommended.
It is also important to choose a high quality ice cream because not all varieties are created equal. Some brands may have enticing labels to market their product but the actual ice cream is made up entirely of artificial ingredients. Before making a purchase, read nutrition labels to ensure that the ice cream you are buying is made from real milk.
Homemade alternatives to commercial ice cream
Buying ice cream from the store is very convenient, but it is also possible to make your own healthy frozen desserts at home. They may not taste exactly like ice cream but can be equally as satisfying, and you are able to control the exact ingredients used to prepare them. Below are a number of options.
Your own homemade fruit based ice cream substitute
You can make your own frozen version of ice cream using bananas and other fruits. To make the base, freeze some chopped up bananas overnight and then blend them in a food processor until you are left with a thick creamy mixture. Next, add in a splash of almond milk & vanilla extract and blend further.
You can eat this base as is or flavour it in different ways using ingredients such as nuts, maple syrup, peanut butter, cinnamon and berries. You can find the exact method here. Not only do these homemade fruit based desserts look like ordinary ice cream, they taste great and are packed full of nutritional goodness.
Greek yogurt chocolate mousse
To prepare this you will need Greek yogurt, high quality dark chocolate, honey, milk and vanilla extract. Heat the milk in a pan and add in broken pieces of the dark chocolate. Once the chocolate is melted, add in the honey and vanilla extract and mix well. Take the pan off the heat and allow to cool.
In a bowl, add in the Greek yogurt, then pour in the chocolate mixture, and combine the two. Chill for a few hours, top with some berries and serve. You can find the exact recipe here.
Thick fruit smoothies
Smoothies are very easy to make and you have a wide range of ingredients to choose from. To make a smoothie that resembles ice cream you will need Greek yogurt, mango, dark chocolate, vanilla extract and a frozen banana. Simply add the ingredients to a blender and process until everything is well mixed. Pour the mixture into a bowl, top with some berries & nuts and dig in.
Whilst these desserts are healthier than ice cream, it is important to eat them in moderation as well.