Ice cream seems like the perfect treat to cool you down on a hot day. Or to perk you up when you’re feeling down. Or to just end your day on a high note. But is it something you can eat every day? Or should it just be savored as an occasional treat?
Enjoying a cup or cone of ice cream may make your taste buds sing, but these facts about how the sweet treat affects the rest of your body may make you rethink a scoop-a-day habit.
Pro: It’s a source of vitamins and minerals.
Ice cream contains some important nutrients, like calcium, vitamin D and vitamin A, among others. But while these nutrients are all needed for good health, the amount in ice cream is small and is accompanied by a hefty dose of fat and added sugar. So your splurge will provide you with some nutritional benefit, but it shouldn’t be relied on for getting your daily dose of these key nutrients.
Con: You may experience a sugar crash.
If you eat a sensible portion of ice cream (1/2 cup), the carbohydrates and added sugars may cause a modest rise in blood sugar. But devouring a triple-scoop cone with extra toppings far exceeds the daily recommendation for added sugar (25 grams for women and 36 grams for men) and can send you on a blood sugar roller coaster ride. To avoid a crash, enjoy a small cup or cone and skip the sugary toppings.
Pro: There are ways to make your treat more nutritious.
To dress up ice cream in a healthier way, choose nutrient-rich garnishes like fresh berries, chopped nuts, chia seeds, banana, pineapple or crunchy whole-grain cereal. Not only will these ingredients add flavor and texture, but they’ll bump up the vitamins, minerals and fiber of your treat. Some may even add a small amount of plant-based protein.
Con: Too much may increase disease risk.
Experts suggest eating any foods that contain added sugar and saturated fat, like ice cream, in a moderate and mindful way. In excess, these foods might displace nutritious choices in your diet and increase the risk of chronic conditions like heart disease, high cholesterol, obesity and diabetes over time.
Pros: It can boost your mood.
Feeling blue? Ice cream may cause a temporary mood boost that starts with the first lick. This is because your brain’s pleasure/reward or “feel good” centers light up when a favorite food is eaten. Eating ice cream is also a beloved summer pastime that sparks feelings of nostalgia that can put a smile on your face. The downside is that over time, you’ll need to spoon up more per sitting to reap the same benefit.
So what’s the bottom line? Can you eat ice cream often?
Go ahead and savor that ice cream cone, cup or sundae this summer. Just do so as an occasional treat, rather than a daily indulgence.
Craving the cool sweetness of ice cream more than occasionally? Here are some healthier refreshing treats to eat instead:
- No-Sugar-Added Frozen Fruit Pops – Blend seasonal fruit in a blender, pour into popsicle molds (or plastic cups with a popsicle stick) and freeze to make whole fruit, no-sugar-added pops.
- Fruity Greek Yogurt Bark – Spread vanilla Greek yogurt in a thin layer on a small, rimmed baking sheet. Top with berries, then freeze for several hours. Break into pieces before eating.
- Banana “Ice Cream” – Process frozen ripe banana pieces in a food processor or high-powered blender until creamy. Eat plain or top with mini chocolate chips, fruit or nuts.