Everyone knows that ice cream isn't a health food, but to make that occasional splurge on a heated summer day guilt-free, you need to know the facts. All ice creams are not created equal and many are outright toxic. Here's a breakdown of exactly which ingredients to avoid in commercial ice creams and when in doubt, make your own.
"The staggering calorie and saturated fat content of most of the treats served up at chains like Baskin-Robbins, Ben and Jerry's, Cold Stone Creamery, Friendly's, Haagen-Dazs and TCBY is bound to surprise most consumers" said the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), an independent, nonprofit group
The CSPI said an empty Ben & Jerry's chocolate-dipped waffle cone, designed to hold at least two scoops of ice cream, itself packs 320 calories and 10 grams or half a day's worth of saturated fat.
"If you put a regular scoop of Chunky Monkey ice cream in that cone, it is going to be worse for you than (a) one-pound rack of baby back ribs, with 820 calories and 30 grams of saturated fat," CSPI nutritionist Jayne Hurley stated.
"This is something eaten by people strolling around a mall," she added. "They have no idea they have just eaten 820 calories and one and a half days worth of saturated fat."
Haagen-Dazs's Mint Chip Dazzler, a sundae in a cup, has three scoops of ice cream, fudge, cookies, sprinkles and cream -- and 1,270 calories, the group said.
Its 38 grams of fat is more more than the day's allowance as calculated by the U.S. government, which says the average American should eat between 2,000 and 2,500 calories a day.
Ice cream recipes have changed considerably since the days of old fashioned ice cream parlors. We're now subjected to a slew of toxic ingredients in almost every type of ice cream found in parlors, restaurants and grocery stores. From economy to premium brands, there is often no escape from the chemical concoctions in our favorite frozen treats. So what ingredients should you avoid and why are they so deadly?
By weight, ice cream is primarily composed of water (from milk and cream). The lethality of current formulations don't come from these basic constituents, but from the gamut of sweetners, flavorings, emulsifiers and stabilizers. After all, the industry relies on increasing shelf life and having the most smooth or creamy ice cream over time, so preserving these consistencies is the key to sales.
By volume, 30% to 50% of ice cream is air whipped into the mix during the early stages of the freezing process. "There are no real chemical reactions that take place when you make ice cream," says H. Douglas Goff, an ice-cream expert and professor in the department of food science at the University of Guelph, in Ontario, "but that doesn't mean there isn't plenty of chemistry."
Richard W. Hartel, professor of food engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, explains that "when you bite into ice cream, how the flavor is released into the mouth probably is a function of structure." Initially, the milk fat exists as tiny globules in the milky starting mixture. Milk proteins on the globules' surface work as an emulsifier to keep the fat in solution. To make the ice-cream structure, these fats need to be destabilized so that they coalesce into larger networks. "When two partially crystallized fat globules come together, like in ice cream, they form a partially coalesced structure," Hartel explains. "We sort of envision them as grape clusters, with some connectivity, but the crystalline fat prevents complete coalescence."
Ice-cream makers use an emulsifier that replaces the surface proteins and aids in forming the network. Egg yolks were originally used as this destabilizing emulsifier, but now, ice-cream manufacturers use toxic substances such as mono- and diglycerides as well as the sorbitan ester Polysorbate 80.
Polysorbate 80 has been found to negatively affect the immune system and cause severe anaphylactic shock which can kill. According to Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, Volume 95, Number 6, December 2005 , pp. 593-599(7), "it is of current relevance as a 'hidden' inductor of anaphylactoid reactions", and "Polysorbate 80 was identified as the causative agent for the anaphylactoid reaction of nonimmunologic origin in the patient. The study included a pregnant woman who suffered anaphylactic shock after being given a IV drip of multi-vitamins containing polysorbate 80.
In addition to this, there have been studies in Food and Chemical Toxicology which showed that Polysorbate 80 causes infertility. Baby female rats were injected with polysorbate 80 at days 4-7 after birth. It accelerated the maturing of the rats and caused changes to the vagina and womb lining, hormonal changes, ovary deformities and degenerative follicles.
According to the World Intellectual Property Organization, which is part of the United Nations, scientists from the organization are developing vaccines specifically to damage fertility as a method of contraception. A suggested ingredient for the vaccine is Polysorbate 80 (also known as tween 80). As it is a preferred ingredient, scientists are obviously aware of its ability to cause infertility.
Mono- and Diglycerides
We recently reported on the irresponsible actions of supplement companies who continue to use hydrogenated oils and magnesium stearate as flowing agents. It seems that ice cream manufacturers are just as careless in their use of hydrogenated oils.
Mono-diglycerides remain the most widely used emulsifiers in food production. They are called mono-digylcerides because they are made from oils that have a high mono saturated fat content, but they are still hydrogenated. They are hidden trans fats where an alcohol (in this case glycerol) has been combined to form an emulsifying agent.
One of the largest food oil producing companies worldwide is Gillco. With the exception of their distilled non-hydrogenated monoglycerides (not incorporated in ice cream applications), a large variety of their emulsifiers are hydrogenated and this is stipulated on the company's fact sheet for each product.
Make no mistake, mono-diglycerides are not nutritious in anyway. Their only purpose is to improve volume, uniform structure and develop the right meltdown characteristics. Regardless of their quantity, the inclusion of hydrogenated oils in any food product is only detrimental to our health and their adverse effects are well documented. Avoid any ice creams (or any food products for that matter) with mono-diglycerides.
As one of the most prolific preservatives in the food industry, it is difficult to find an ice cream without potassium sorbate. However, it is not only recommended to avoid this chemical, it's a necessity to eliminate it from our foods. The food industry and its scientists will parrot endless myths that potassium sorbate is not a health threat because of its safety record and non-toxic profile. This could not be further from the truth.
Food and chemical toxicology reports have labeled potassium sorbate as a carcinogen, showing postive mutation results in the cells of mammals. Other studies have shown broad systemic and toxic effects on non-reproductive organs in animals. No long term studies have ever been initiated on either animals or humans, so there is simply not enough evidence to theorize what could happen after years of ingesting this preservative. However, based on short-term carcinogenic and toxic effects, is it worth the risk to find out?
There are a plethora of serious concerns with sodium benzoate. It can convert into lethal carcinogenic poison when combined with absorbic acid. Professor Peter Piper, a professor of molecular biology and biotechnology, tested the impact of sodium benzoate on living yeast cells in his laboratory. What he found alarmed him: the benzoate was damaging an important area of DNA in the "power station" of cells known as the mitochondria. "These chemicals have the ability to cause severe damage to DNA in the mitochondria to the point that they totally inactivate it: they knock it out altogether." he stated.
"The food industry will say these compounds have been tested and they are complete safe," he said. "By the criteria of modern safety testing, the safety tests were inadequate. Like all things, safety testing moves forward and you can conduct a much more rigorous safety test than you could 50 years ago."
Sodium Benzoate, as most other preservatives, should not be ingested in any quantity. This toxin is banned from all foods and drinks for children under three, and is currently being phased out of all Coca-Cola products.
Artificial colors and flavors such and blue 1, blue 2, yellow 5, yellow 6, red 3, red 40, and others are found in many types of ice cream, especially commerical varities. Artificial flavor means it is derived from a chemical made in a laboratory and has no nutritional value. Researchers have determined that artificial colors (especially when paired with sodium benzoate) increase levels of hyperactivity in preschool and older children within the general population. They have also been found to provoke asthma attacks and have links to thyroid tumours. Coincidently, artificial colors are very prevalent in ice cream products which are directly marketed to children.
Every single artifical color in the food industry has some kind of detrimental health effect. These include neurotoxicity, organ, developmental, and reproductive toxicity and cancer.
Carrageenan is another emulsifier and stabilizer. It comes from algae or seaweed extract common in the Atlantic Ocean. It is typically extracted from natural sources using powerful alkaline solvents. Carrageenan is often touted as 100% vegetarian and natural. So does that mean it's safe? Just because something comes from a natural source does not mean that it is safe. There are also natural sources of MSG and Aspartame which are chemically identical to the artificial brands. These are equally poisonous to humans as those marketed in the food industry.
Several studies on humans have demonstrated that digestive enzymes and bacterial action convert high weight carrageenans to dangerous low molecular weight carrageenans and poligeenans in the human gut. These carrageenans, even at low doses, have been found to destroy human cells and are linked to various human cancers and digestive disorders.
Carrageenan has also been found to impair and depress cell-mediated immunity and cause the proliferation of tumour growth. The mechanism responsible for carrageenan-induced immune suppression is believed to be its selective degenerative effect on white blood cells.
It is also important to understand how overrun calculations affect the concentration of ingredients in ice cream. This is never stated on the label of any brand. Overrun is the percentage increase in volume of ice cream greater than the amount of mix used to produce that ice cream. In other words, if you start off with 1 litre of mix and you make 1.5 litres of ice cream from that, you have increased the volume by 50%. Economy and standard brands of ice cream are the lowest quality and have the greatest percentage of overrun (greater than 100% and as high as 120%) meaning they will require an increased percentage of emulsifiers to increase their volume than higher quality brands. This keeps manufacturing costs low since there is a smaller quantity of medium to higher quality ingredients used for every litre of final product.
Premium and super-premium brands have a lower percentage of overrun (less than 90% and as low as 25%) and don't use as many emulsifiers in their formulations. This results in the highest body and quality of ice cream. It also means that more nutritious ingredients typically make up for the volume. This increases manufacturing costs due to a greater quantity of high quality ingredients used for every litre of final product.
If your store brand or parlor ice cream melts rapidly, that's a good sign as it likely has a low overrun and little fat destabilization, which means a lower percentage of toxic emulsifiers and stabilizers. When made with wholesome and natural ingredients, homemade ice cream will always melt quickly. There is simply no healthy way to keep the fat from destabilizing naturally.
Keep in mind that any frozen treats that are made with dairy products and engineered to be low fat (i.e. frozen yogurt, low-fat ice cream) will typically have the highest overrun and emulsifier/stabilizer percentages. Here's a breakdown of brands, fat content, solids, overrun and cost:
* Fat content: usually legal minimum, e.g., 10%
* Total solids: usually legal minimum, e.g., 36%
* Overrun: usually legal maximum, ~120%
* Cost: low
* Fat content: 10-12%
* Total solids: 36-38%
* Overrun: 100-120%
* Cost: average
* Fat content: 12-15%
* Total solids: 38-40%
* Overrun: 60-90%
* Cost: higher than average
* Fat content: 15-18%
* Total solids: >40%
* Overrun: 25-50%
* Cost: high
The highest overrun percentages are found in ice creams that use guar gum and xanthan gum, typically in a 3:1 ratio respectively.
Xanthan gum is produced by fermentation of glucose or sucrose by the Xanthomonas campestris bacterium. One of its most remarkable properties of is its capability of producing a large increase in the viscosity of any liquid by adding a very small quantity of gum, usually less than one percent. For this reason, it is used as an emulsifier in a very large percentage of ice creams around the world.
As a polysaccharide, one of the problems with this food additive is that it is typically made from corn. People who have corn allergies may not be aware that these additives can cause diverse reactions when consumed. Moreover, a very large percentage of corn around the world is now genetically modified (GM) which is then reflected in the production of many types of xanthan gum. GM foods are a cause for great concern.
Some people develop an allergy to conventional xanthan gum, with various gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Even consumption of a very minor amount can lead to days and days of recovery and many trips to the bathroom. For others a xanthan reaction can also precipitate migraine headaches and skin itchiness.
Plant sourced organic xanthan gum is non GM and non corn-derived without any chemical reproduction in a laboratory. Some people who develop reactions to synthetic xanthan sources and then consume organic sources experience no symptoms at all.
If the xanthan gum is not labeled as organic, avoid the product.
Guar gum is an emulsifier, a firming agent, a formulation aid, stabiliser, a thickener and even a plasticizer. It is a natural hydrocolloid that is obtained from the ground endosperm of the guar plant. When untreated ice cream melts and refreezes, grainy ice crystals often form. Guar gum has the natural ability to bind with water molecules, preventing them from forming the unwanted crystals. The gum functions dynamically and synergistically with xanthan gum by increasing the viscosity of ice cream.
The use of conventional guar gum as an ingredient in non-prescription diet aids was officially banned in the early 1990s in Canada and the U.S. The guar gum would bind with liquids in the stomach and swell, causing a feeling of satisfying fullness. However, this mass of swollen guar gum would also cause dangerous intestinal and duodenal blockages, as well as abdominal cramps, nausea, flatulence and diarrhea. Guar gum was declared unsafe and ineffective for use as a non- prescription diet aid, but then allowed in small doses in the food supply.
Conventional and synthetic guar gum has been linked through studies to a high molecular weight agent that can cause occupational rhinitis and asthma. Its ingestion may also cause a significant reduction in the absorption and bioavailability of calcium, iron, and zinc.
Organic guar gum containing a high quantity of soluble fiber can be a very good aid to both irritable bowel syndrome and diarrhea. The soluble fiber present in organic guar gum dissolves in water though it is not digested. Moreover, when fully organic, this natural laxative contains no harmful chemicals as found in synthetic and conventional versions and thus has no side effects.
If the guar gum is not labeled as organic, avoid the product.
Soy Lecithin or Soya Lecithin
Healthy sources of soy lecithin have many benefits and are a source of choline. It helps dissolve fat and cholesterol and can help regulate your kidney, liver and gallbladder function.
The problem is, just as corn, a very large percentage of soy lecithin is produced from soy which is GM and unfermented. Fermented soy is the only soy fit for human consumption. Unfermented soy has been linked to digestive distress, immune system breakdown, PMS, endometriosis, reproductive problems for men and women, allergies, ADD and ADHD, higher risk of heart disease and cancer, malnutrition, and loss of libido.
If you can contact the food manufacturer and firmly source the soy lecithin and confirm it's non GM and fermented ...fantastic, otherwise stay away from any food product with this additive.
Commerical Varieties and Making Your Own
Some of the largest ice cream chains in the world such as Baskin-Robbins, Ben & Jerry's, Dairy Queen and Häagen-Dazs all use the above toxic ingredients in their flavours. All local ice cream parlors also include them in their formulations. There are literally hundreds of other conventional ice cream manufacturers and brands around the world. With the exception of companies that emphasize organic all-natural products (i.e. Mapleton's), we have yet to find one ice cream producer that does not use any of the above ingredients in their manufacturing process.
These days, there is only one way to eat healthy ice cream....make it yourself. Here's how:
Borrowed from "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon:
* 3 egg yolks
* 1/2 cup maple syrup
* 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
* 1 tablespoon arrowroot
* 3 cups heavy cream, preferably raw, not ultrapasteurized
Beat egg yolks and blend in remaining ingredients. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to instructions. (Remember to choose the highest quality ingredients you can find like raw cream, eggs from pastured chickens, or at least organic eggs, and organic (grade B, if you can find it) maple syrup. Pure vanilla extract and arrowroot powder or flour can be found in most health food stores.)