The Low Down on Ice Cream vs. Gelato

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Gelato is the Italian word for ice cream, but the two desserts are definitely not the same thing. Gelato starts out with a similar custard base as ice cream, but has a higher proportion of milk and a lower proportion of cream and eggs (or no eggs at all). It is churned at a much slower rate, incorporating less air and leaving the gelato much denser and much more rich than ice cream. The process of making ice cream involves a mixture of cream and/or milk, sugar and sometimes eggs. The mixture is then frozen while being churned to create a cold, creamy product. In commercial ice-cream making, stabilizers, such as plant gums, are usually added and the mixture is pasteurized and homogenized.

The differences between gelato and ice cream is even regulated by the FDA. To be designated as ice cream, the U.S. FDA stipulates that the product must contain at least 10-per-cent fat. If it has more than 1.4-per-cent egg yolks, then it can be called frozen custard, French ice cream or French custard ice cream.

As with anything else in life, ice cream and gelato each have their own pros and cons. Here’s a few things to consider when you’re deciding on which tasty treat to have for dessert:

On average, a 3.5-ounce serving of vanilla gelato contains 90 calories, 3 grams of fat and 10 grams of sugar. A typical 3.5-ounce serving of vanilla ice cream contains 125 calories, 7 grams of fat and 14 grams of sugar. The fat in frozen treats coats your taste buds, preventing them from completely experiencing the flavors. Because the lower fat content in gelato means your taste buds can experience flavors more intensely, gelato does not need as much added sugar as ice cream to produce the same sweet flavor.

Since gelato is denser than ice cream, a scoop of it would weigh more than the same size scoop of vanilla ice cream. Since the nutritional comparison is based on ounces, unless you serve yourself a smaller scoop of gelato, you may be consuming the same calories, fat and sugar as ice cream.

Deciding on which treat is “better for you” when it comes to gelato and ice cream is a bit complicated. If it’s fat content that you’re worried about, gelato will most likely be your best option since it is most often lower in fat. If you have a sweet tooth and it’s difficult for you to monitor portion sizes, ice cream might be better for you because it’s not as dense.

No matter which you prefer, we hope you beat the heat with one of these decadent, frozen desserts!

Lauren lives in OB with her French bulldog, Elvis Presley. She loves laughter and the great outdoors. You can contact her at [email protected].

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