by Jonathan Wang

Traditional ice cream is perhaps the most unhealthy and least nutritious item of all the types of ice cream. It may have greater than ten percent milk fat and even as high as sixteen percent milk fat in the high premium ice creams, which is denser but tastes better. Low fat types of traditional ice cream still contains lots of calories, and could be up to two hundred per half cup because of sugar. A cup of regular ice cream, however, has about five grams of protein, thirty two grams of carbohydrate, and sixteen grams of total fat. Half of the total fat could be saturated fat. This is not a very good source of nutrients, and contains a lot of sugar, calories, and saturated fat. Too much saturated fat can lead to a build up of plaques in the arteries and cause major cardiovascular problems. The high caloric content of regular, traditional ice cream can easily lead to weight gain as well. Although normal ice cream may contain some essential vitamins, like vitamin A or vitamin B2 or vitamin B12, it is not recommended to consume it simply for this content, as other sources are more nutritious. Normal ice cream also has a lower glycemic index, which means it releases glucose into the blood at a slower rate than low fat or fat free ice creams. This is because the high fat content in normal ice cream means less sugar content, while fat free ice creams are entirely composed of sugar in place of its previous fat content.

Soft serve ice cream is very similar to the normal, traditional ice cream, except it is made at a warmer temperature and served at warmer temperature. It is not really ice cream but it is a frozen dessert that is extremely like it. Soft serve usually has enhanced flavors experienced by the consumer because taste buds detect flavors at higher temperatures better. It contains less milk fat and butterfat than traditional ice cream. It usually has three to six percent milk fat, compared to ten to eighteen percent milk fat in normal ice cream. It has more air, as well, meaning less dense and less calories per serving. It tastes creamier, smoother, and lighter because of this. Typically, soft serve ice cream for a ½ cup serving has 115 calories and 4.3 grams of total fat. It has low amounts of cholesterol, 4 mg, compared to normal ice cream. It is a source of iron and calcium as it makes up eleven percent of the calcium in a 2000 calorie diet. There is 17 grams of sugar present in this serving size. Soft serve ice cream also has ten percent of the daily allowance of vitamin A, for a ½ cup serving size, and 70 mg of sodium. Overall, soft serve ice cream is healthier than traditional ice cream but it is still not a good source of nutrients and should be treated as an occasional indulgent food item. The main reason it is healthier is because of its high air content introduced when it is frozen during production, which can be up to sixty percent of the total volume.

Gelato is made differently from normal ice cream. It has a lower milk fat content, which hovers near that of the soft serve kind, which is around four to eight percent versus up to sixteen for normal ice cream. The sugar content is also lower, which may be sixteen percent compared to twenty percent in normal ice cream. The types of sugar used include sucrose and dextrose, which indicates a lower glycemic index since this sugar is different from glucose and it takes time to process them to become glucose released in the bloodstream. Gelato has, however, less air than normal ice cream. Only twenty to thirty five percent of the total volume may be air that is mixed into gelato during the freezing process of manufacturing. As such, it has a more intense flavor than normal, American ice cream but it does increase the caloric density of the ice cream. A generic gelato ice cream nutrition will usually have very similar values to normal ice cream but slightly less. There may be 240 calories, fifteen grams of total fat, eight grams of saturated fat, forty five milligram of cholesterol, twenty grams of sugar, and sixty milligrams of sodium all in one half cup. The essential vitamins may be up to ten percent vitamin A, ten percent calcium, and ten percent iron for a 2000 calorie diet.

Sherbet ice cream is another frozen dairy desert. It is the healthiest of all the ice creams and contains one to two percent milk fat, and two to five percent total milk solids. It has, however, more sugar than normal ice cream. It will therefore have a higher glycemic index, since more sugars in sherbet allows it to have a higher rate of glucose release into the bloodstream than normal ice cream. Water, sweeteners and stabilizers are added to sherbet to maintain its icier texture and reduce crystallization of sugar. Typically, sherbet ice cream will have only one hundred calories, 1.5 grams of total fat and only one gram of saturated fat, thirty milligrams of sodium, twenty grams of sugar, one gram of protein, and no essential vitamins except for four percent of calcium for a 2000 calorie diet in a one half cup serving. Clearly, sherbet is much healthier than other ice creams, including gelato and soft serve, because of its low fat content. But customers should beware of the high sugar content in sherbet to make up for the low fat. Sherbet is synonymous with sorbet, at least in the United States, but in other countries sorbet is a fruity frozen product made of fruit juice and water, and ice. It would be considered to be very similar to Italian ice. This form of “ice cream” is much healthier than normal ice cream but may not be part of the ice cream classification despite being a frozen dessert.

Back to main page.


Graphics Sources