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The Nutrition of Ice Cream

Fitday Editor

Ice cream is a favorite frozen dessert of many Americans and has been a part of American culture dating back to the time of the founding fathers. Ice cream is essentially frozen dairy with added fruit or nuts. The modern version of ice cream contains lot of fat and preservatives. This article discusses four nutritional components of modern ice cream. Note: The serving size for most ice cream is ½ cup.


A serving of ice cream can contain anywhere from 7 to 22 grams of fat. The difference in fat depends on how much milk fat the ice cream contains. Most of the fat in ice cream is hydrogenated oil and animal fat. These fats are saturated fat. Saturated fat raises blood cholesterol and is believed to contribute to obesity, heart disease and cancer.


The calories found in ice cream vary depending on the flavor and brand. Double fudge brownie with cookie dough ice cream will generally have a higher calorie count than vanilla ice cream. Generally, one serving of ice cream contains 120 to 250 calories. It is important to remember that a serving size is only ½ cup of ice cream. Most people eat at least twice this amount at one time. One pint of ice cream contains four servings. Over 50 percent of the calories found in ice cream come from fat (unless the ice cream is fat-free or low-fat). The remaining percentage of calories comes from carbohydrates.


It is a common misconception that low-fat or fat-free ice cream is better for you then full-fat ice cream. These "healthier" options generally contain even more sugar than their full-fat counterparts. The reason for the increased sugar is that fat provides flavor, and when fat is reduced so is flavor. Ice cream manufactures have to make up for the loss of fat by adding more sugar. The sugar used in ice cream is a combination of sucrose and corn syrup.


In order for ice cream to have that smooth, creamy texture, an emulsifier must be added. This way, the fat and air are distributed in a specific way to obtain the desired texture and reduce melting. Natural emulsifiers include egg yolks or buttermilk. Most ice creams contain less expensive emulsifiers like mono- and di-glycerides. Mono-and di-glycerides are essentially hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils. Ice cream manufactures also use polysorbate 80, an artificial emulsifier which contains oil-like properties.

Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is an artificial stabilizer found in many ice creams. Xanthan gum is used in ice cream to prevent separation, especially in gluten-free and dairy-free varieties of ice cream. Xanthan gum acts as a mild laxative and can cause abdominal cramping and bloating. Xanthan gum can cause more serious problems in people with intestinal disease, such as Celiac disease or Crohn's disease. Xanthan gum can also pose potential problems if you have allergies to wheat, soy, or corn products.

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