What’s Healthier, Frozen Desserts or Ice Creams?

We understand now that the distinction between ice creams and frozen desserts is based on process differences than quality differentiation. But what about the health and nutritional aspects? Sid Khullar explores.

Given that old line about beauty and the beholder, it stands to reason that digging into a bowlful of thick, sweet, chilled creaminess is a matter of taste and independent of technical nomenclature. An ice cream by any other name will taste just as delicious, sounds apt, even though I have misquoted the Bard. Matters of taste apart, there is the subject of health, which we appear to take quite seriously. If you’ve read my previous article on the subject, Frozen Desserts & Ice Creams – Why the Difference?, you’ll know by now that the decision to separate the terms, “ice cream” and “frozen dessert” were likely based on technicalities and sensitivity to cultural issues. This is done for similar reasons in many other countries worldwide, with nations like Italy and Argentina choosing not to differentiate between the two at all.

The prime question to be answered here therefore, is how does the substitution of vegetable fat for milk fat and non-milk protein for milk protein effect the final nature of the product from a nutrition/health point of view?

What’s in the Carton?

Vanilla ice cream with fresh raspberries

Ice creams may look simple, but that chilled, thick and delicious mixture has a fair bit of science going on. The science is required for brands to adhere to the strict regulations laid down by FSSAI, which in both cases, i.e. for ice creams and frozen desserts are identical, with the two differences mentioned below. That said, both variants must contain 36% milk solids as per the official FSSAI gazette notification

  • Ice creams must contain milk fat and frozen desserts must contain milk fat or other fat of vegetable origin.
  • Ice creams must contain milk protein and frozen desserts must contain milk protein or other protein of vegetable origin.

Take a look at the table below. It displays the nutritional information for both variants, based on 100 grams of the Vanilla variants of two leading brands of each type.

TypeEnergy (kcal)Protein (g)Added Sugar (g)Carbohydrates (g)Cholesterol (mg)Fat (g)Saturated Fat (g)
Ice Cream1152810.718.97.14.6*
Frozen Dessert1102912Nil5.53

The Difference Between Milk Fat and Vegetable Fat

Glass Bottles

The primary difference between milk fat and vegetable fat, is that one is extracted from milk and is close to ghee as we know it, while the other is extracted from plant sources and is close to refined vegetable cooking oil as we know it. I’ll begin by asking you to recall which fat you consider appropriate for your family, and choose to use in your daily cooking – ghee or a refined cooking medium. I’ll also ask you to think of why you and thousands of others have chosen to do so. 

[quote]While cream is the embodiment of milkfat for most of us, it is actually a mixture of milk solids, water and fat; remove the milk solids and water and you’re left with a substance quite similar to ghee.[/quote]
Anatomy of Atherosclerosis in artery due to cholesterol plaque
Anatomy of Atherosclerosis in artery due to cholesterol plaque

So here’s the kicker.

Dairy fat or milkfat contains 65% saturated fats, 30% mono-unsaturated fats and 5% polyunsaturated fats. Conventional medical knowledge at this point suggests that a diet high in saturated fats can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes; both highly undesirable conditions. 

I’m going to ignore the other component, non-dairy protein, as being of little interest in the entire health oriented discussion about dairy or vegetable fats in our ice creams. What it appears to come down to, is the use of a type of fat in one variant that contains saturated fat and cholesterol and the type used in the other, that contains saturated fat, but no cholesterol. 

I cannot speak for you. Speaking for myself however, I’d much rather avoid unnecessary cholesterol in my diet and that of my family. What would you do?



* Calculated based on dairy fats containing 65% saturated fat, from the product’s overall fat composition.

By Sid Khullar

Sid Khullar is a wellness coach who works with different aspects of lifestyle change towards the accomplishment of goals such as weight loss and blood sugar management among other health situations that require the presence of specialised, precise diets and lifestyle change. His methods address aspects of food, nutrition and the mind.