Summer is a classic time for ice cream, but you also want to keep trim and healthy for those beach-side days. Is ice cream bad for you?
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Summer is a classic time for ice cream, but many of us enjoy it year-round. Whether your lactose intolerant, diabetic, or a lover of good old-fashioned dairy sweetness, there is a sweet, creamy treat waiting in the frozen section of your grocery store.
But, you also want to keep trim and healthy for those beach-side days. So, how do you get both? Can you have your ice cream and eat it too? Is ice cream bad for you?
If you’re interested in reading more about healthy dairy products, see our “Is Dairy Bad for You?” article.
Some myths about low-fat, low-sugar ice cream and frozen yogurt: Busted.
It was a moment of excitement worldwide when sugar-free and low-fat ice creams came out, seen originally as a healthy alternative to ice cream. The next step along the process was the introduction of frozen yogurt.
Later studies found that frozen yogurt and ice cream were compatible in nutritional value (fats, sugars, and cholesterol), and both are less healthy than regular yogurt, frozen or not (1). This is partly because frozen yogurt dessert has so much sugar that it’s practically ice cream.
Try making your own by freezing small cups of fruit yogurt with a popsicle stick in it; it is a healthier alternative that is lower in sugar and higher in probiotics (to see the benefits of these, see our “The Best Time to Take Probiotics” article).
Representing one of the biggest hoaxes in the health food industry, this is actually 100% incorrect.
Think about sugar and fat like a weigh-scale. Ideally, for foods to be tasty, you’d have 50/50 fat and sugar, evenly balancing each other. But when you reduce the fat, you’ve taken away so much from that side that you even it out by adding more sugar.
If you reduce the sugar, you add more fat to keep things even. Unfortunately, this is the harsh truth about many low fat and sugar foods (3). The reduction in one inevitably leads to an increase in the other, and when it comes to fat and sugar, neither is better for you (4).
Don’t be fooled by “fat-free,” “sugar-free,” or other bright labels of foods enticing you to buy.
You should still be watching ingredients, calories and eating these foods in moderation. This also goes for “reduced size” foods, which do not reduce food intake (5). See our “Is Sugar-Free Ice Cream Healthy?” article to read more about sugar-free ice cream.
The fact is that coconut and sunflower oils are better than palm oil and other highly unhealthy oil sources, but they’re still a source of dietary fat. Eating ice cream with coconut oil is better than palm oil, but skipping the oil altogether is the best option of all.
Treat yourself as always in moderation, but don’t fall into the trap of thinking you don’t need to count alternative oils as a fat source in your diet. Coconut and sunflower in clinical studies didn’t leave participants feeling any more satisfied or full (6).
Are there benefits to eating ice cream at all, then?
In conclusion, life is short. Don’t deprive yourself of favorite foods like ice cream! But, some choices are healthier than others, and you should always read the label to make sure you stay with a low calorie (sugar-free and fat-free don’t mean calorie free!) frozen dessert with fresh fruit and herbs.
Skip the cone, skip the toppings, and have a small bowl now and then to keep your cravings at bay and reduce your feelings of guilt.
Nobody needs to feel bad about treating themselves now and then! Make informed choices, and enjoy.
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