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Is the usual consumption of ice cream healthy?

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  • The key is in the ice cream ingredients and the main problem is the ultra-processed ones, according to UOC experts

  • Spaniards consume about 150 million liters of ice cream per year

  • High-sugar ice creams increase thirst instead of quenching it

Half of the annual consumption of ice cream in Spain takes place during the months of June, July and August. The Spanish ate 149 million liters of ice cream between June 2020 and May 20214% more than in the same period of the previous year.

To know if it is healthy or not, the key is in the type of ice cream that is consumed. The collaborating professor of the UOC’s Health Sciences Department Mariona Bolfegó explains that regular consumption of ultra-processed ice cream not the healthiest choice for hydrating the body. Furthermore, contrary to what one might think, its high sugar levels increase thirst instead of removing it.

“Water ice creams and ice creams based on milk or cream have a high sugar content (sucrose, glucose, etc.), which represents at least 20% or 30% of its total weight. Two small balls of ice cream or an ice lolly contain about 25 grams of sugar, the equivalent of four dessert spoons of sugar,” explains Bolfegó.

The 25 grams of sugar that normally contributes a portion of ice cream represent the maximum amount of daily intake of sugars recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) in adults and children. In addition, a study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), published this year, concludes that the consumption of added sugars and free sugars should be as low as possible as part of a nutritionally adequate diet.

In this sense, both Balfegó and Montserrat Rabassa, also a collaborating professor at the UOC’s Health Sciences Department, recommend reduce the consumption of this type of sugar as much as possible that can be found in products such as ultra-processed ice cream, among others.

“Sugars, fats and the additives they incorporate can also contribute to increased body weight, blood glucose or the risk of heart disease. In this sense, the contribution of sugars and saturated fats must be taken into account of ice cream, as well as the rapid increase in blood glucose and insulin levels”, explains Balfegó.

According to Rabassa, we must bear in mind that the body does not respond in the same way when consuming a ice cream —which is basically made of water, sugars and dyes— than when you consume a milk or cream-based ice cream. “In the case of ice cream, sugar rises faster in the blood. On the other hand, with milk ice cream, this process is not as fast: the absorption of sugars is slower due to the nutritional composition (proteins, fats, etc., which come mainly from milk), “he clarifies.

When choosing an ice cream, whether it is water or milk, it is important take into account the quality of nutrients used to make it. The ultra-processed ones use several ingredients, such as casein, lactose, gluten, hydrogenated oils, glucose or fructose syrup, preservatives, dyes, sweeteners or flavor enhancers. “These hyperpalatable commercial products, which contain various ingredients that make them more palatable, can become addictivebecause they stimulate the reward system of the brain”, remarks Rabassa.

To avoid this, the teacher gives advice that also serves as a guide to choose the healthiest option: “the fewer ingredients the composition of an ice cream has, the better; It will mean it’s less processed.

For the experts, if you want consume ice cream regularly, the best option is to prepare it at home, controlling the ingredients that are added and avoiding sugars or unhealthy fats. For example, you can use crushed and frozen fruit (strawberries, blueberries, melon, etc.), milk, yogurt, pure cocoa, nuts, avocado or dates, among others. “A homemade ice cream with chocolate and nuts can be quite caloric, but it has nothing to do with an ultra-processed ice cream; the type of fats and sugars is not the same,” adds Balfegó. As a healthy alternative, the expert also recommends frozen yogurtswith a base 100% plain yogurtwhich can now be found in supermarkets.

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