What is in ice cream, and why is the government involved? Does it really matter if you get the expensive ice cream or the cheap ice cream? What’s the difference?
Several years ago, Blue Bell ice cream was recalled after several deaths were attributed to its listeria-tainted ice cream. People started to wonder if ice cream was safe to eat, especially when three small ice cream manufacturers (in addition to Blue Bell) discovered listeria in their ice cream as well.
While deadly bacteria in ice cream is obviously troubling (to say the least), many people are unaware that most commercial ice cream has other ingredients that are hazardous to your health.
The biggest offender: corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup.
The corn syrup in ice cream replaces regular sugar and helps reduce ice crystalization. Indeed, it’s very difficult to find ice cream without high-fructose corn syrup. (The next time you are in the freezer section, read the ingredients of several different brands of ice cream and you’ll see what I mean!)
Most ice creams also have other “gums” and thickeners to extend the shelf life.
To avoid ice cream with corn syrup, your best bet is to go for the premium brands, like Haagen Daas, and the standard flavors, like vanilla. (Varieties with a lot of add-ins, like cookie pieces or fruit syrups will often contain corn syrup as well).
When in doubt, always check the ingredient list! It’s really hard to find ice cream without it, which is why it’s best to make your own ice cream at home!
And be careful when you’re shopping for ice cream, or you might accidentally purchase “Frozen Dairy Dessert.”
What is the Difference Between Ice Cream and Frozen Dairy Dessert?
Masquerading as ice cream, and stacked right next to the bona-fide traditional confection, it nevertheless cannot legally be considered “ice cream.” One New York Times writer posited that the difference between real ice cream and frozen dairy dessert was like the difference between “a slice of American cheese and a slice of Kraft Singles American Pasteurized Prepared Cheese Product.”
Basically, ice cream must contain at least 10% dairy fat to be considered “ice cream.” Frozen Dairy Dessert is not called “ice cream” because it does not contain the required amount of milk products, instead replacing them with corn syrup and other artificial emulsifiers.
In addition, the government states that ice cream can be up to 50% air and still be considered “ice cream.” Isn’t it crazy that half the cost of your ice cream may be for air?
Of course, most “Frozen Dairy Desserts” and cheap ice cream brands push that limit. You’ll notice that they are more “light and fluffy” than premium ice creams. Yep. That’s the extra air.
You need SOME air in your ice cream, or it will be hard as a rock. But 50% seems a little excessive–don’t you think?
So although the premium brands cost more, you’re actually GETTING more, in terms of your actual ice cream to air ratio.
So what is to be done about the outright (though accidental) poisoning, or (not-accidental) adulterating of our ice cream?
The only way to guarantee safe and healthy ice cream is to make it yourself.
Is Ice Cream Bad for You?
Some may balk at using the words “healthy” and “ice cream” in the same breath. While it is true that the fat and sugar in ice cream are not healthy, it is also true that many health benefits can be derived from dairy products, and that real fruits and nuts, and even essential oils can be added to home-made ice cream.
Most commercial ice cream manufacturers use artificial flavorings and colorings in their ice cream. If there is any actual fruit in their ice cream, it has often been mixed with corn syrup. More often than not, the fruit only appears as a suggestion, labeled enigmatically as “natural flavoring.”
When you make ice cream at home, you fully control the ingredients you add to your ice cream. You make real, premium ice cream with whole milk and cream–not “frozen dairy dessert.”
Health Benefits of Homemade Ice Cream
1.Because of the high dairy content of your ice cream, you receive benefits such as calcium to strengthen your bones and teeth. Calcium also helps in blood clotting, and maintaining normal blood pressure.
2. Less well-known is that milk is an important source of the mineral choline, which helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory.
3. Milk also provides essential vitamins such as potassium, magnesium, phosphorous, vitamins A, B-6, and B-12.
4. Dairy products also contain tryptophan (a building block of protein) which your body needs to produce serotonin. It has long been a cultural joke that depressed women will drown their sorrows in a tub of ice cream. There may be a real reason for that, as increased serotonin levels combat depression. (See “What Are the Health Benefits of Milk?“)
Adding fruits, nuts, and essential oils to your home-made ice cream further increases the health benefits available to you.
Shouldn’t you be sure that you are getting a safe, quality product? Making your own ice cream at home is really the only way to do this. Plus, it’s fun and easy!
Read my article, “Do You Really Need an Ice Cream Maker? Yes. Yes You Do” to get started. This article explains what the secret ingredient is for great ice cream, as well as the difference between modern ice cream makers and the unwieldy ice cream makers of yore.
You can get my favorite ice cream maker here. (It’s the only ice cream maker I recommend. You can see my reviews of popular ice cream makers here).
Visit my Ice Cream Central for more than 35 homemade ice cream recipes. I highly recommend the Mint Lover’s Ice Cream, and Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream–two of my all-time favorites!
You can get lots of ideas and recipes for add-ins, toppings and cones, too!
Alissa S. says
Wow. Really great to read, and I knew that processed ice cream was bad for you, but reading it combined with the fact that some has been recalled has made me want to make my ice cream at home all the time now! I might just be heading to your recipes soon! ;D
I hope you do try some of my recipes! Making ice cream at home is so fun!
I think I may just need to start storing ice cream essentials in my home on a regular basis just so I can satisfy those spontaneous cravings safely!
I’ve been making homemade ice cream for over a year now. We occasionally purchase ALL NATURAL when it’s on sale. I never liked the additives in commercial ice cream. Well, I have developed several food sensitivities….one being cow’s milk. Do you have suggestions/tips for making non-dairy ice cream? I’ve made it twice with canned coconut milk. One time turned out good….the other failed. Any tips ideas appreciated.
Melissa Howell says
Debbie, I haven’t made ice cream with anything other than milk. I wish I could help you out, but I need to do more research myself!