When you think of the most popular dessert around, ice cream is usually the first one that comes to mind. Ice cream has been around for thousands of years (surprisingly), and has mainly been prepared when milk and cream are frozen and combined with foods and sugars. That doesn’t sound all that healthy, but it tastes so good that people are often able to overlook the calories and indulge on this popular treat.
But what if we told you that ice cream isn’t really that bad for you, or if we said that it might even bring some health benefits? Well, it turns out that it’s true, but don’t dive into that double scoop with the sugar cone just yet. Ice cream has its benefits when eaten in moderation, especially if you’re not lactose intolerant. With that said, let’s have a look at the nutritional breakdown and proven health benefits you can get from eating ice cream.
Nutrition of Ice Cream
There are a lot of different types of ice cream, so we’ll go with the plain standard of vanilla ice cream. Obviously it’s not the most low calorie food, but eating a half cup serving still comes in at under 150 calories. That serving contains five percent of your daily recommendation for protein, and a small amount of dietary fiber. You might not know much about riboflavin, but it’s the most abundant vitamin found within ice cream at about 10 percent of your daily value.
Other vitamins found in smaller amounts between five and 10 percent include vitamin A, vitamin B12 and pantothenic acid. Ice cream does offer some base amounts of important minerals, as well, acting as a significant source of calcium and phosphorus. Others found in smaller amounts include magnesium, potassium, zinc and selenium. Ice cream even contains essential fatty acids and carries just over seven grams of fat per serving.
Growing up, you’re always told that if you want to have stronger bones when you get older that you have to drink a lot of milk. While it’s not the most natural way to get more milk in your system, ice cream is comprised mostly of milk that’s packed with calcium. It’s estimated that a majority of people don’t get the necessary amount of calcium in their diets, which leads to problems such as osteoporosis when you start to lose bone mass.
Other minerals such as magnesium and phosphorus contribute to bone strength, binding all three together to make sure your bone mass doesn’t decrease over time. This also applies to your teeth, making them stronger. Calcium even helps increase the health of your gums to further prevent tooth loss. Of course, the most oral friendly benefit that you get from ice cream is in the sugar free variety.
Mood and Energy
It seems that whenever someone is feeling down, the first food that they turn to is ice cream. Even in movies and television shows, we see the cliched person going through a breakup or other tough time in their life grab a pint of ice cream and dig in quickly. There has to be some truth to the stereotype, though, and it turns out that ice cream actually does have an effect on your mood.
Ice cream can stimulate your brain, releasing the serotonin and dopamine hormones. As you might know, serotonin helps you to relax and relieve stress, increasing your ability to fall and stay asleep. Dopamine also has a positive effect, making you feel happier and more ready to take on the day. You might feel down on yourself for eating a bunch of ice cream in one sitting, but a small amount will help you feel great.
If you’re trying to get pregnant, a doctor will typically give you a long list of foods that you should eat, and certain ones that you should avoid. You might be surprised to learn that ice cream is on the list of foods that you can eat, thanks to research that has been done over the past decade. One study from Harvard showed that consuming ice cream increased the chances of women getting pregnant by nearly 40 percent.
It wasn’t a small study, either, as more than 18,000 women participated in the study. There was also a lower chance of infertility for those that had ice cream at least once per week. Speaking of being able to get pregnant, studies also showed that eating ice cream can enhance your libido because of the levels of minerals such as phosphorus and calcium. The preferred ice cream flavor in this study? It turned out to be vanilla.
We mentioned how riboflavin is one of the main components of ice cream, and that’s good news for your skin. Riboflavin has been shown to allow your body to secrete more mucus, resulting in a lowering of acne. Ice cream with pure vanilla is again the best choice for this benefit, as adding vanilla brings in more antioxidants that can fight off free radicals, which attack your cells and cause early signs of aging. If you prefer oranges or other fruits in your ice cream, the vitamin C content can create more collagen and improve the skin’s elasticity.
Ice cream is often cited as one of those foods that goes hand in hand with weight gain, especially in pop culture. While eating a lot of ice cream is certain to bring on extra pounds (which might be a good thing if you’re underweight), eating a small amount can actually help you lose weight. Containing yourself to just one serving doesn’t have too many calories, so you can fit ice cream into your budget. Not only that, but the temperature of ice cream plays a part. When your body is introduced to something cold, you need to burn more calories to warm back up to a normal temperature!
Summing it Up
Since ice cream is one of those foods where you often feel a bit guilty when eating it, there are some drawbacks that you need to know about. Obviously, ice cream is very high in calories and it can be hard to contain yourself to just one serving. Eating ice cream for dessert on a daily basis with more than the recommended serving can lead to some fast weight gain, as well as some other problems.
There are certainly some healthier options in the ice cream world these days with sugar free, gluten free and dairy free all even being available. The standard ice cream, though, typically contains a lot of fat and sugar, and can lead to an increase in your cholesterol and affect your glucose levels. As long as you’re mindful of how much ice cream you’re eating and include it in your diet on just a rare basis, you can get the great health benefits that it brings. It will be hard, but willpower is the key to any healthy eating plan!