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- When you’re looking for a warm weather treat, you might think that frozen yogurt is a lighter, healthier option.
- Most frozen yogurt does contain fewer calories and less sugar, but it’s also missing those satisfying fats and proteins you find in the traditional stuff.
- However, it can be rich in good-for-you probiotics and is often easier on the digestive system, especially for people with an intolerance to lactose.
Maybe you’re the kind of person that lives for an ice cream cone on a hot summer day, or maybe you enjoy frozen treats all year round. Either way, you might look to frozen yogurt as a healthy alternative to ice cream to save a few calories while still enjoying a sweet treat.
There are definite differences between ice cream and other frozen desserts, though frozen yogurt is often touted as a healthier swap for the traditionally creamy, sweet stuff. But does frozen yogurt actually deserve the health halo it seems to carry?
Consumers certainly seem to think so —in 2017, analysts predicted a nearly 12% increase in frozen yogurt sales in the United States from 2017 to 2021, driven largely by the fact that Americans view it as a health-conscious dessert option. We’ve got the scoop on whether frozen yogurt really is healthier than ice cream, so you know before you head to the frozen dairy aisle.
A primary difference between ice cream and froyo is that while ice cream’s main ingredient is, you guessed it, cream, frozen yogurt is made from cultured milk (aka yogurt, of course!) which is often viewed as a “health food.”
This is due to the presence of probiotics, which reportedly help maintain the balance of good-for-you bacteria in your digestive system while also boosting your immune system. But it’s a bit more complicated than that, according to nutrition experts.
According to CNN, the freezing process used to make frozen yogurt often kills off those healthy probiotics, with many manufacturers adding extra probiotics in the production process afterwards.
If you’re looking for a heaping scoop of those gut benefits, “Look for the ‘Live and Active Cultures’ seal” when picking your froyo of choice, said Alissa Rumsey, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This seal, created by the National Yogurt Association, confirms that a product has at least 100 million cultures per gram.
This can also make it easier for lactose-intolerant people to digest milk-based frozen treats, where traditional ice cream usually does not, unless it specifically states that it’s low-lactose or lactose free. CNN reported that chains like Pinkberry and RedMango and grocery store options from Haagen-Dazs and Cold Stone Creamery all carry this seal.
But if the promise of immunity boosting probiotics has you buying froyo by the pint, you might want to think again.
“People don’t realize that it often has more sugar than ice cream,” said Dana Kofsky, a California-based nutritionist. Kofsky explained why, telling CNN, “In order to get rid of the tart taste, [frozen yogurt companies often] add sugar.”
Frozen yogurt is also missing one key nutritional component: fat. Even though fat is often villainized from a nutritional standpoint, fat is actually good for you in reasonable amounts.
“Adding a small amount of fat to a meal helps slow down the rate at which your stomach empties during digestion,” says Madelyn Fernstrom, NBC News health and nutrition editor. “And the longer some food remains in your stomach, the longer the sense of fullness lasts — sending that signal to your brain.”Fat also just tastes great, so along with feeling fuller longer, you’ll be more satisfied with less. The sugar substitutes often added to frozen yogurt in the absence of fat can lead to a blood sugar spike and crash, or even digestive issues and bloating, which is exactly the opposite of what you might be going for by choosing probiotic-rich froyo in the first place.
On a strictly calorie- and fat-based level, frozen yogurt looks like the healthier option.
But if you’ve ever eaten an entire pint of those trendy low-calorie ice creams, thinking you’re getting the best bang for your caloric buck, you know just how deceiving that health halo can be.
“People trick themselves into thinking they can eat more [frozen yogurt],” explained Rumsey to CNN. “The smallest cup still tends to be pretty big. You’ll get something that’s 300 to 400 calories-worth.”
Plus, if you add toppings galore, opting for candies, sauces, or even granola, your formerly healthy treat becomes just as sugary as traditional ice cream.
The best option is to pick the sweet treat that will actually satisfy you.
There’s nothing wrong with enjoying any kind of frozen dessert as part of a generally well-balanced diet, so pick the option you’re actually craving and enjoy every bite instead of going for a low-cal or low-fat option, trying to trick your body into thinking you’re eating a “healthy” dessert.
Honor your hunger and if you’re craving a scoop or two of full fat ice cream, go for it. If you’d rather a lighter treat with a few sweet toppings, go for that, instead. The healthiest option is the one that you’ll enjoy the most in moderation, so grab that spoon.
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