With the summer heat in full swing, many of us are turning to our favorite frozen treats for dessert. But when picking between ice cream, gelato or sorbet, you’ve probably wondered which is healthiest.
Ice cream has a base that includes milk, cream, sugar and typically egg yolks. The churning process incorporates air and gives the finished product its light and creamy texture. Typical ice cream has a butterfat content of 14 – 25%. Unfortunately, the cream and sugar ensure high levels of unhealthy fats, calories and simple carbohydrates.
Though also often made with milk, sugar and egg yolks, cream isn’t an ingredient in gelato. Moreover, gelato is processed in such a way that the finished product is much denser and more flavorful than ice cream. Because gelato doesn’t include cream, it can have lower levels of unhealthy fats when compared to traditional ice cream. Unlike ice cream, butterfat content is typically in the range of 5 – 9%. However, the nutrition information can vary greatly, and some gelato varieties may have higher amounts of added sugar.
But because gelato is so dense and flavorful, many consumers find that much smaller portions satisfy – and that’s definitely an important consideration.
Made with neither dairy nor eggs, sorbet contains just fruit juice/syrup and water. It’s churned like ice cream and thus has a similar texture. Most sorbets are naturally fat-free and usually have less calories. However, sorbet can have considerably higher amounts of sugar than either gelato or ice cream – and, because there is no dairy, it contains less calcium.
When you really get down to it, none of these frozen desserts can be classified as healthy. Sorry.
Ice cream is the clear nutritional loser. In my opinion, gelato and sorbet are quite comparable. Though gelato has more fat and calories, most people will find a much smaller portion size satisfying. Sorbet doesn’t have the fat and has fewer calories, but you’ll probably eat more – and gelato has less sugar.
But if you’re really looking for something cool and healthy, take a scoop of Greek yogurt and top it with some fresh fruit.