Larry A. Law
2015 US Dietary Guidelines
But after 40 years of getting it wrong, researchers unexpectedly discovered the de novo lipogenesis metabolic pathway in 2014. This mechanism showed how the body takes sugar and turns it into fat. After creating sugarholics for half a century with the resulting explosion in type 2 diabetes, nutritionists realized that refined sugar was actually the bad guy all along. As a result, saturated fats, animal fat, avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil are all back in—you might not have gotten that message. The federal government changed the food guidelines in 2015 ending the 35% limit on total dietary fats. Excessive refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils have done an incredible amount of damage to our health in those intervening 40 years when the government sponsored all that misinformation.
By law, ice cream must contain at least 10% butterfat (milkfat), which is the most expensive ingredient but probably the healthiest. It is cheaper to get your fat from other good food sources, but it is hard to argue about it when a bowl of delicious ice cream is placed in front of you. One popular brand of vanilla ice cream lists their ingredients as:
Milkfat and nonfat milk
Less than 2 percent: buttermilk, butter, natural flavors, salt, carmelized sugar, guar gum, mono- and diglycerides, xantham gum, polysorbate 80, cellulose gum, carrageenan, annatto
Notice that the first ingredient is "milkfat and nonfat milk." If they listed milkfat alone, it would be way down the list—after nonfat milk, sugar, corn syrup, and whey. This is a marketing label trick to make you think you are getting a product composed mainly of cream.
Next are two refined sweeteners: sugar and corn syrup. Two labeling tricks are at play here. One is that "corn syrup" is probably high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) thanks to a recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruling which allows this sleight of hand. HFCS is an ingredient many people choose to avoid with good reason. It is particularly detrimental to children. Why don't they list just a single sweetener? Because it would probably go to the top of the list as it would represent the first ingredient in ice cream by weight. It is bad marketing in today's sugar-conscious environment to have the first ingredient be sugar, so they divide it into two.
How about the 'less than 2% additives'? Guar gum and its cousins, xantham gum, cellulose gum, and carrageenan, are all complex carbohydrates that serve as emulsifiers. Multiple studies associate them with altering the gut biome and causing dysfunction of the gut wall. If your child/grandchild gets a stomach ache after eating ice cream, this is probably why.
Monoglycerides and diglycerides are also emulsifiers that can contain unlabeled trans fats and toxins like nickel. The FDA has declared that trans fats are unsafe and must not make up more than 0.5% of a serving of food. But why eat any trans fats?
Carrageenan—see this great summary of the controversy surrounding it.
Finally, polysorbate 80 is an additive that can cause havoc with your gut flora.
These are the labeled ingredients. One ingredient not labeled is propylene glycol, a "food-grade" antifreeze, which keeps the ice cream soft and spoonable. Propylene glycol is considered an "industry standard" practice and so the FDA does not require it to be on the label. The code of federal regulations covering exemptions to food labeling requirements states, "Substances that have no technical or functional effect but are present in a food by reason of having been incorporated into the food as an ingredient of another food, in which the substance did have a functional or technical effect." The additive is generally considered harmless in small amounts, but poses a danger for people with kidney and liver disease.
And that's just plain old vanilla ice cream. Other flavors of ice cream can contain food dyes and questionable artificial flavorings.
Homemade Ice Cream
While there are few good organic ice cream products on the market if you require convenience, the best solution for this quandary is to make your own ice cream. It is easy to do if you have an ice cream maker. Here is a yummy vanilla ice cream recipe if you would like to try:
3 egg yolks from properly raised chickens
1/3 to 1/2 cup organic coconut sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Generous pinch of sea salt
1 quart of heavy cream (raw)
Whisk ingredients together and place in ice cream maker.