Gelato - Healthy Ice Cream

Can you keep on licking without feeling guilty? Yes but choose the correct stuff - Gelato

Ice-cream need no longer be synonymous with sinful eating. In a study last year, 83 per cent of a panel of European nutritionists agreed that “tempting” foods, such as ice-cream, can help you to maintain a long-term healthy diet. It concluded that not only is ice-cream a good source of protein and the essential minerals calcium and phosphorus, both vital for healthy bones and teeth, but those who add variety and enjoyment to their diet are more likely to stick to healthy eating than those who rigidly exclude treats.



“Ice-cream is common to all food cultures and transcends class and age,” says James Lambert, the chief executive of Richmond Foods, the UK’s largest ice-cream manufacturer. “For many people, ice-cream has very positive memory associations with childhood, holidays, sunshine and good times.”

The Italians have known this for years. Social networks are built around the gelateria: the source of flavours providing the perfect debate. In Italy, Alberto Pica, the president of the Italian Ice-Cream Makers Association, has redefined ice-cream as a panacea, distributing millions of booklets on the nutritional qualities of premium gelato. According to Pica, it is that rare thing: a treat that manages to be healthy. “It is not only a good mood-enhancer but a food that can replace a meal,” he beams. Talking about a fivelitre tub of his own tangy lemon ice-cream that contains 5kg (11lb) of fruit from the Amalfi coast, he adds: “It’s organic, full of vitamins from the fresh fruit, and contains only 145 calories in a 100ml serving.”

Back in the UK similarly healthy flavour Gelato and sorbets which are homemade“ boast a low fat and low sugar Content.

According to the UK’s Ice-Cream Alliance, a trade association for the industry, the fat and sugars in Gelato provide energy (milk fat is especially useful in that it contains vitamins A and D) and there’s more milk protein in a quality Gelato ice-cream than in the same weight of milk.

It may not be surprising that the world’s No 1 dessert option gives you a psychological boost when you choose it off the menu, but the fact that Gelato can also have nutritional benefits may be harder to swallow. A huge amount of ice-cream is beyond nutritional redemption. Ice Cream in general is high in fat and sugar, uses whey protein, high amounts of vegetable fats and butter, artificial colourings and allot of artificial flavorings, emulsifiers and stabilisers. The resulting Ice cream is a world apart in goodness from a vitamin-rich premium Gelato.

Britain has a more natural range of Gelato than ever before. In many cases the ingredients consist of fresh cream and milk, with less artificial ingredients. Where a small amount of skimmed-milk powder is used, it is to make up for less sugar. The resulting taste in Gelato is subtler, fresher, healthier, and less fatty in taste. A recent Mintel survey shows an increase in demand for “super premium” Gelato.

 “More people are reading labels and making sense of them. They find it comforting to recognise the ingredients, many manufacturers of ice-cream use allot of hydrogenated vegetable fat to increase the fat content in Ice cream, and provide a artificial creamy taste which leaves a lacquer on the palate. Vegetable fat is also known as trans fatty acids, which have been linked to clogging of the arteries and heart disease. Gelato on the other hand has reduced fat content which is fresher in taste, and healthier.

Because ice-cream is sold by volume rather than weight there is one ingredient not declared on the label — air. “Cheap ice-cream contains half air or more; you can blow it up like a balloon. Premium Gelato is dense and smooth. So it seems that ice-cream has shed its knickerbocker seaside glory and gone urban chic.

In the case of Gelato Italia, the transition has meant accepting both health trends and unbridled fantasy. The makers of its new bespoke Gelato Range take into consideration dietary needs, but also allow customers to create their own flavours.

Recent orders have included Parmesan and pear; alcoholic Gelato, and, to meet the craving of one man, Peanut Butter. 

Unlike in Italy, Gelato has a lot of catching up to do on alcohol as the Brits’ favourite socialising agent, but that it’s no longer seen as just a summer thing. “Our Gelato is now being consumed year round by a crowd that is more discerning and adventurous than previously.

The other big trends in ice-cream manufacturing are more low-fat and no-fat options.



A more naturally healthy option from the frozen-food family is sorbetto. Gelato Italia‘s Low fat and dairy-free sorbets are hand-made with pure water and include an ever increasing range of flavours.

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