So you want to be more healthy. You are cutting back on sugar. But you still want ice cream. Is there a viable sugar substitute that will work well in ice cream?
To answer this question, I need to briefly touch on some of the different types of sugar substitutes that are available. (Note: the information I am presenting here is from my personal research. I understand that new research may come to light that differs from this information. However, at this time, this is what I believe to be true. For more disclaimer-y type of verbiage, please visit the Disclaimer part of this website. It is quite entertaining).
Saccharine, Aspartame, and Sucralose
When I think of any of these substitutes, I want to yell, “DANGER DANGER DANGER!” These are commonly known as Sweet ‘N Low, Equal and NutraSweet, and Splenda. Each of these has been shown to have detrimental health effects, such as causing cancer in laboratory animals, causing brain imbalances, and reducing “good” bacteria in your digestive tract. Whenever I hear my friends talk about drinking diet soda, I want to yell, “Don’t you know you’re KILLING yourself?” That might be a little dramatic. But I still worry for them. I also personally hate the aftertaste of Aspartame. Whenever I accidentally eat something containing it, I immediately know. It is nasty. Needless to say, I do not recommend any of these sweeteners for your ice cream.
Honey and Agave Nectar
While these are considered “natural” forms of sugar, they still contribute as many calories and cause the same kind of insulin response in the body as granulated sugar. One book I read says that agave nectar is actually highly processed and has even more fructose than high-fructose corn syrup! So putting either of these in your ice cream won’t help you, either.
This is often sold under the name “Truvia.” It is much sweeter than sugar, so you use much less of it. However, I find it to have a strange aftertaste. I haven’t tried making ice cream with it, just because I am wary of how it will taste. If I’m going to use a sugar substitute in ice cream, I still want it to taste good.
Xylitol is a “sugar alcohol,” but is actually a carbohydrate–not a sugar or an alcohol. It has almost no calories and doesn’t cause cavities. It is derived from the fiber of various fruits and vegetables. When baking or making other items, you substitute it for sugar at a 1:1 ratio. In other words, one cup of sugar equals one cup of Xylitol. There are a couple of drawbacks to Xylitol. One is the price. It is quite expensive, and not super easy to find. (Some health food stores carry it, and you can also order it online). Another is that eating too much of it can cause gas and bloating.
I have actually made ice cream with Xylitol, and it is the only sugar substitute that I currently recommend for making ice cream. There are a couple of things to consider, however. Xylitol granules are much larger than sugar granules, so you will need to heat your milk and stir it into the Xylitol until it is fully dissolved. Secondly, Xylitol seems to act chemically the same way as alcohol would in ice cream–namely, as an anti-freezing agent. The ice cream I made came out of the ice cream maker as soft-serve consistency, and stayed as soft-serve consistency, even after days in the freezer. It tasted great, with no weird aftertaste, but it never hardened up like normal ice cream.
So can you make ice cream without sugar? The answer is “yes.” But it will be soft ice cream. This doesn’t bother me. And if you are cutting out sugar, you are used to eating lots of things that are way worse than soft ice cream. Am I right? If you are one of those super healthy people that got offended just now because I intimated that things without sugar tasted nasty, I direct you once again to my Disclaimer page. I personally have spent some time in my life cutting out sugar, and not everything was nasty. After a while, I didn’t even crave sugar any more. I agree that sugar is addictive and unhealthy, but I still use it in my ice cream, keeping in mind to eat a scoop or two, not a huge bowl. Moderation, people. Moderation.
Does anybody else out there have experience making ice cream with a different sugar substitute that works well? If so, I would love to hear about it in the comments!
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