“Ice cream, ice cream, we all scream for ice cream!”
Warmer weather means cool treats! I’m a HUGE ice cream lover! In fact, before going down the healthy road, I was eating ice cream almost every single night – and not just one little serving, either.
Ice cream is the best tasting treat on a super hot day when you need something to cool you down, but did you know most ice creams that you find in the grocery store are super unhealthy or even dangerous?
While some brands market their ice cream as “Natural” or “Zero Calories”, you really need to turn that tub of ice cream over and examine the ingredient lists.
To help you out, I’ve done some research into which ice cream brands to avoid and which brands are better than others.
Best & Worst Ice Cream Brands
As you stroll down the ice cream aisle at your local grocery store, this is probably a familiar sight:
So many options to choose from. Which brand to go with? What flavor? No sugar added or fat free? Carb smart or zero calories?
It can really make your head spin! It’s safe to say that about 90% of all grocery store ice creams are bad for you and below you’ll find out why.
When looking at the ingredients of your favorite ice cream brand, if you see any of the following additives, do yourself a favor and put it back on the shelf. (Courtesy of Foodbabe.com)
10 ICE CREAM INGREDIENTS TO AVOID
1. Gut wrecking emulsifiers: Most ice creams are full of emulsifiers that have been shown to disrupt the good bacteria in your gut and can lead to disease and obesity. Companies use these because it’s cheaper than filling their product with 100% whole food ingredients. Of course the main ingredients in ice cream (cream and sugar) are also linked to obesity, but when you eat the real thing you feel more satisfied and are less likely to down an entire pint.
Some of the worst emulsifiers in ice cream:
- Carrageenan: Known to cause digestive problems and intestinal inflammation. It’s also linked to cancer.
- Cellulose gum: Cellulose additives are typically made from wood and have been linked to weight gain, inflammation and digestive problems.
- Polysorbate 80: This additive negatively impacts gut bacteria which can also lead to weight gain, inflammation and digestive problems.
2. Artificial Colors: Whenever you see a color like Red 40, Red 3, Yellow 5, or Blue 1, these are derived from petroleum and linked to several health issues including allergies, cancer, and hyperactivity in children.
3. Mono and Diglycerides (or Partially Hydrogenated Oils): These contain trans fat which is strongly correlated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. The CDC has linked trans fat to at least 20,000 heart attacks per year and the Institute of Medicine says there is no safe level to eat. This additive is often found in low-fat ice creams where they are trying to make up for what they took out, but you’ll find it in many others too!
4. Sugar Alcohols and Zero-Calorie Sweeteners: “No Sugar Added” and “Carb Smart” ice creams are packed sugar alcohols like maltitol syrup and sorbitol. These are associated with destroying gut heath, and a healthy gut is the key to good health and a slim waistline. Artificial sweeteners like sucralose (Splenda) and acesulfame potassium have been shown to contribute to weight gain by encouraging sugar cravings. When you eat something sweet – even when it has no calories – your brain is tricked into wanting more calories because your body is not getting enough energy (i.e. calories) to be satisfied. So you keep craving sweets, eating sweets and gaining weight. They also come with serious health risks!
5. Artificial flavors: These synthetic flavors are made from proprietary chemicals to make fake food taste real. This is not a single ingredient – each flavor may contain up to 100 ingredients, including synthetic chemicals, solvents and preservatives such as BHA, propylene glycol, MSG, parabens and more.
6. Natural Flavors: The only difference between natural and artificial flavors mentioned above, is that natural flavors are derived from things found in nature (such as beaver glands). Just like artificial flavors, they are created in a lab by a team of scientists and can contain up to 100 hidden ingredients. The bottom line: You have no idea what you are eating – and it might be propylene glycol, BHA and parabens.
7. Soybean Oil: This unhealthy oil increases the risk of obesity, inflammation, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and autoimmune diseases. When it comes to organic Soymilk ice creams, an abundance of soy itself is not healthy in the diet as it can disrupt hormones and lead to disease. Soy also has an abundance of phytic acid that leaches calcium and other vital minerals from your body.
8. Cottonseed Oil: This oil generally comes from GMO cotton crops that require an intense application of agricultural chemicals and have been called the “World’s Dirtiest Crop”. Residues from these pesticides can remain in cottonseed oil and cottonseeds are subjected to intensive chemical refining with toxic hexane, bleach and deodorizers. I consider it one of the worst ingredients in food.
9. “Sugar” Instead of “Cane Sugar”: The majority of sugar in this country comes from GMO sugar beets and not from cane. These sugar beets are Roundup-Ready, which means they are sprayed with the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) and don’t die. Whenever an ingredient list just says “sugar” instead of “cane sugar” that indicates it’s from GMO sugar beets.
10. Conventional (not organic) Dairy: Some brands like Breyer’s, Tillamook and Häagen-Dazs have some flavors with cleaner ingredient lists with fewer additives, but they don’t use organic cream or milk.
BEST ICE CREAM BRANDS
When shopping for ice cream, ask yourself these questions:
- Is it certified organic?
- Is it flavored naturally with vanilla bean, lemon, cinnamon, cocoa, etc.? Or, did they take a shortcut with “natural flavors”?
- Is it made entirely with whole food ingredients? Or, does it contain additives you don’t have in your kitchen like carrageenan, yellow #5, erythritol, and mono and diglycerides?
If a product doesn’t meet that test, seek out a better brand. Here is a list of several that meet our standards:
NOTE: Not every flavor by these brands is perfect and you still need to read the ingredient list to make sure you know what you are eating.
- Three Twins Organic Ice Cream – This is my favorite store-bought organic ice cream and they have a lot of flavors to choose from. A few of them contain natural flavors, but most are flavored naturally with real ingredients like banana, vanilla extract, cinnamon, peppermint extract, etc. – Just check the ingredient list!
- Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss – This organic dairy-free and vegan ice cream is absolutely delicious. NOTE: contains organic agave syrup.
- Straus Organic Ice Cream – Choose one without natural flavors like Vanilla Bean, Mint Chocolate Chip or Raspberry.
- Alden’s Organic Ice Cream – Know that they do use guar gum, locust bean gum and xantham gum, so not exactly the best choice but they are widely available to most people.
- Local Organic and Grass Fed Ice Cream – Your local farmers market or natural food stores may carry ice cream made from grass-fed cows on small family farms in your area. Seek these out.
- Homemade Banana Ice Cream – Just add frozen bite-sized pieces of a very ripe banana to a powerful blender or food processor and puree until it comes to a creamy consistency. This may take a few minutes. It’s that easy and really satisfies an ice cream craving! You can try adding coconut milk, nut butter, cinnamon, cocoa, or vanilla to change it up. Just blend these in after you puree the bananas well.
WORST ICE CREAM RESTAURANTS
Choosing a healthy ice cream to eat at home is certainly difficult, especially finding a flavor everyone loves. But, going out for ice cream can be an even bigger challenge.
We all know that DQ, Baskin Robbins, Culver’s, and Coldstone all have delicious ice cream, but what exactly are you eating when going out for an ice cream treat?
Take a look at what we found in just the simple Vanilla ice cream scoop:
(Ingredients taken directly from restaurant websites)
Dairy Queen Small Vanilla Cone:
ColdStone Creamery Vanilla Bean Ice Cream:
Baskin Robbins Vanilla Ice Cream:
McDonald’s Vanilla Ice Cream Cone:
These ingredients are just for vanilla ice cream. We all know you don’t just get a scoop of vanilla ice cream when you go out. After all, what’s an ice cream treat without the toppings? Chocolate sauce, hot fudge, candy pieces, carmel, sprinkles, etc. All of these added toppings are filled with artificial ingredients – void of any nutrients and loaded with added sugar! YIKES!
As you can see, going out for ice cream isn’t easy if you want to remain healthy.
My advice this summer season is to do your best to make your own ice cream at home. If you want to go out for a treat, be sure to research the best place to do that and if you can’t get the best ingredients, be sure to make those treats out few and far between!
What is your favorite healthy ice cream or recipe? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!
P.S. If ice cream isn’t your thing, we have some recipes for healthy smoothies that taste AMAZING! Check them out here and always be sure to have plenty of Wu-Long Slimming Tea on hand for all of your iced tea and smoothie needs this summer!