How Healthy is Ice Cream?

Now before I go any further to state my view on this, let it be known that my kind of doctorate is, as one pastor once introduced me before a Sunday morning sermon, “not the kind that does anybody any good.” Indeed. So, I stand here with Anne Fadiman who, in At Large and At Small, says just what I think too:
“I take a dim view of healthful ice cream,” she declares with the kind of gusto that only an essayist can muster (p.46).
How about you … Do you like your ice cream frozen hard or softened? What is the best kind of ice cream for you? (And I surely think we ought to include frozen custard. No reason to include frozen yogurt, which is both too healthful and some kind of fu-fu departure from good commonsense.)
As a child my parents a few times a year yanked out our homemade ice cream machine, poured in gobs of salt and water, and then my mom — somehow — converted milk and stuff into the sweetest, finest ice cream I had ever tasted. Of course, the effort involved meant that far more often we wandered through Freeport, IL, to Dog ‘n Suds or to Union Dairy or A & W or Superior Dairy. Good stuff … nickel for one scoop and a dime for two scoops.
For all the good reasons Kris has found to eat bison she’s found no good reasons to go more than once a week to Culver’s for some custard. I’ve found all kinds of reasons to suggest a second every week, but she’s got the facts on her side.
Anne Fadiman knows the history of ice cream — how the ancient Greeks and 17th Century Florentines froze drinks to the delight of everyone. Italy remains at the forefront of ice cream today, and we’ve had a few gelatos ourselves. I cannot tell a lie: George Washington had two pewter ice cream pots, revealing that we got off to a good start in more ways than freedom for us and a headache for England.
Fadiman reveals that if she had not eaten ice cream her whole life she’d weigh 416 pounds less than she does now. She also reveals, with astounding memory, that she and her brother mapped a trip across the USA in accordance with fine ice cream shops, beginning in Santa Barbara at McConnell’s, where everything tastes better because the world looks so sweet.
It’s Thursday. Tonight, if we follow custom, will be our night to visit Culver’s for a two-scoop Turtle Sundae. Honk if you see us.

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://www.rodneyolsen.net Rodney Olsen

    So, ice cream was only invented in the 17th century.
    I guess that explains why there is no record of Jesus distributing ice cream to the 5000 once they’d finished their fish and bread.

  • Peggy

    Scot,
    I’m mostly brain dead and my children are not yet in bed…YIKES!…but I will come back tomorrow and share with you the wonderful health benefits to the good ice cream I make in about one minute with our Vita Mix…and two times a week for my “healthy” ice cream isn’t bad at all. YUM YUM YUM…I mean it!

  • Ben

    Ice cream is toxic to all!! It still tempts me occasionally.

  • http://www.communityofjesus.blogspot.com/ Ted Gossard

    Yeah, nothing beats the homemade variety in my experience. Deb’s Uncle Bob makes among the best in that way.
    I like Coldstone around here: http://www.coldstonecreamery.com/, but it’s true that I notice a body change if I eat too much of that.
    And through Deb we’ve tried this substitute stuff getting away from dairy: http://www.soyproducts.com/soydelicious.html
    Of course they say soy’s not good for you either, so who cares?

  • Alice

    Ya’ know … if you and Kris share the turtle sundae, then it builds community, which is probably shown to be good for the heart. So, dig in, I say. Dig in. :)

  • http://burlyfamily.blogspot.com Burly

    Best “ice-cream” in the world is chocolate gelato from Vivoli in Florence, Italy. Close second is lemon gelato from Spain.

  • J. B. Hood

    Should you desire to factor in “affordability” then hands down, Blue Bell ice cream (from Texas) wins spectacularly. Cookies and Cream and Homemade Vanilla are tops–their Homemade Vanilla makes fruit fall in love with it, too.
    Retails for about 1/2 of a Ben/Jerry’s pint.

  • http://www.theparablelife.blogspot.com Michelle Van Loon

    Culvers’ regular-size banana malts weigh in at over 900 calories. They were one of my favorite late-night treats until I discovered the calorie count.

  • John

    Ice cream like macaroni and cheese is basically a vegetable and we all know that vegetables are good for us. Think about it, where does the cream come from that makes up the bulk of the ice cream? It normally comes from the milk/cream of a cow and where does the cow get the material to make the milk? From grass and other GREEN LEAFY THINGS….thus at its basic form ice cream is really just another vegetable, at least this is what my 85 year old father is telling the doctors who want him to quit eating it (he refuses)…

  • RJS

    Ice Cream is a staple – more like potatoes or bread than vegetables.
    Kemps is good, standard homemade is better, but for the best take half and half, vanilla, and sugar. Mix 1 cup of ice cream mixture with one cup of liquid nitrogen, stir well until all nitrogen evaporates. Eat soon. Can’t be beat. Ask the kids.

  • http://bobbyorr.wordpress.com Matthew

    Tip-o-the-hat to my country roots – we made very rich, tasty homemade ice cream in a hand crack unit. People would usually ask for seconds. They often had second thoughts when it was revealed that our secret ingredient was goat’s milk from our goats. But handled correcty, goat’s milk is creamy and does not taste goaty. It made wonderful ice cream.
    Currently, I have a habit of stirring ice cream with milk in a glass. It is sort of like a milk shake.

  • Heather

    Ted (#4)– I worked at a Cold Stone Creamery for a year and I gained twenty pounds! =) Free ice cream every time I worked, which was about five days a week…let’s just say it wasn’t pretty. Good ice cream, though.

  • http://bobbyorr.wordpress.com Matthew

    RJS,
    Sounds great! Leave it to the scientists to know the good stuff! But I wanted to verify my understanding. Is the “ice cream mixture” the half-and-half, vanilla, and sugar? So the total ingredient count is 4: half-and-half, vanilla, sugar, and liquid nitrogen?
    Now where did I put my liquid nitro? I know I left it laying around here somehwere…

  • Andie

    J.B. #7, you are so right about Blue Bell, but my favorite is Rocky Road! Oh, and I really like the Vanilla Bean for something more straight forward.

  • Andie

    I forgot to answer the question. Ice cream is good for the soul, and simply makes a party all by itself. So, yes, ice cream is very healthy, and don’t you believe anyone who says otherwise.

  • http://www.calacirian.org sonja

    Ice cream … heaven on earth! So it cannot possibly be bad for you.
    My favorite used to be Ben & Jerry’s before they sold out to Unilever. And … I can lay claim to having gone to their first original scoop shop that was in a gas station in Burlington, VT.

  • RJS

    Matthew
    Yes four ingredients. I can’t remember the ratio for half and half to sugar to vanilla in the ice cream mix off the top of my head. The ratio of liquid nitrogen to this ice cream mix is 1:1.
    But what – everyone doesn’t have liquid nitrogen on tap? Or dewars (think big vacuum thermos bottles) to carry it around in?

  • http://julieclawson.blogspot.com Julie Clawson

    I’m generally not a sweets person, but occasional ice is a treat. I can’t stand most think creamy American ice creams that are so full of stabilizers that the flavors gets overpowered by them. Hence I can’t even walk into Coldstone it makes me physically sick. This was a bit of an issue when I got married since my mother-in-law worked for a guy who invents ice cream flavors (like Moose Tracks)…
    Gelato on the other hand… I think the melon gelato I had in Florence had to be one of the best sweets I have ever had. Since I don’t have a gelateria near me, I settle for Ciao Bella pints (sold at Whole Foods and our local Italian deli).
    I’m trying to get the homemade thing down. Does anyone by chance have a good recipe for Irish Cream homemade ice cream?

  • http://redemptionjunkie.blogspot.com Heidi Renee

    Hey Scot – if you ever get up to Covenant Harbor or Lake Geneva you have to stop by Kilwins on Main Street – take it from this former dairy fairy – you won’t regret it (well, your waist line might, but your taste buds won’t).
    Oh, and as a dairy fairy Frozen Custard (the real stuff is even better)!

  • http://wjbrandomthoughts.blogspot.com/ Bill Baltrus

    I came up with the brilliant idea after reading one of Brian McLaren’s books or sermons that I needed to permanently give up something as fasting practice or sacrifice. I chose ice cream because it was one of my favorite things to get.
    The family and I go to several ice cream establishments at least twice a week. What a great reminder it is for me to go and watch my children enjoy their treat.

  • http://www.JesusCreed.org Scot McKnight

    Heidi,
    Been there; done that. Good stuff.
    Bill,
    You’re Franciscan with a will of steel.

  • Christine

    Okay, ignorance here, but out West, we don’t have frozen
    custard. Is it a true custard, frozen, or???
    John, tell your father to stick to his guns! Why should he give it
    up at 85?! And yup, Andie, ice cream IS good for the soul.
    Christine

  • http://redemptionjunkie.blogspot.com Heidi Renee

    glad you enjoyed it Scot! Lake Geneva is my home town and I haven’t been back in a couple year but have such great memories – especially working at CHBC in the summer!
    Christine – somehow eggs are involved and it’s richer and creamier and of course much less healthy for you than ‘low fat breyers vanilla’!!

  • http://www.godthoughts.net john page

    To Burly #6, I must disagree with your best gelato. I think it is the chocolate gelato from Giotti’s in Rome, Italy.
    So, Scot, does gelato count as ice cream in this discussion? I just know it’s a richer taste and texture than anything I’ve had here in the States, including coldstone or marble slab.
    Ice Cream is a food group – calcium and protein – both GOOD for you….so eat up!

  • http://burlyfamily.blogspot.com Burly

    john page – what makes the chocolate gelato from Giotti’s better … for the next time I swing by Rome?
    And yes, is gelato up for discussion?

  • Peggy

    RJS,
    Yes, my son’s 6th grade science class made your liquid nitrogen ice cream…I think it was the fascination with the chemistry that was fun (he has already been hooked on my homemade stuff)!
    Okay, here’s the deal:
    1. Any low-fat, low-calorie anything, especially ice cream, it going to be terrible for you, as well as tasting wierd. Protein from the milk has to have the naturally accompanying saturated fat in order to be properly utilized by the body. And yes, Soy is terrible as a source of protein…phytic acid problems as well as the whole estrogen slew of issues, especially for the males… Don’t go the nonn-fat way…. Low-calorie usually has to put so many aweful things in it to make up for the loss of the wonderfully flavorful fat, not to mention the terrible sweeteners they use…yuck!
    2. I make my ice cream with Xylitol (a low glycemic sugar alcohol derived from “woody” vegetation–from birch trees to corn cobs) instead of sugar. (Actually, I use it instead of sugar in all my recipes–it’s especially good for oral health, which makes it good for your heart!)
    3. I use heavy cream instead of half and half, which will have been homogenized–making the wonderful fat in the cream bad for you :(
    4. I use either ice cubes or frozen fruit to “set” it, using the VitaMix.
    Here’s the favorite at out house (although strawberry and peach ice cream are outstanding): Chocolate Banana
    1 cup heavy cream (not ultra pasturized)
    2 t cocoa powder (or carob powder)
    2 t Xylitol
    2 cups frozen slices of ripe banana
    The great thing is that this is enough for our family of five to have a good ice cream cone full or a nice bowl full…and no left overs to eat by the sneaked spoonful.
    Takes about a minute to make….
    sometimes we add a plash of cinnamon or vanilla powder…
    If we buy icecream, our favorite is Julie’s Organic Chocolate…so my, it’s amazingly creamy…
    Moderation is serving is the key to frequency! 8)

  • Peggy

    That should have been “oh my,…” and Moderation in serving size is the key to frequency…

  • Christine

    Thanks, Heidi!

  • RJS

    Peggy – I went and did some demos in my son’s 5th grade class this spring. Although he has favorite demos, the only thing he insisted on was ice cream – it makes him the hit of his classmates.

  • steph

    Frozen Custard is a Wisconsin staple. Good, good stuff. Kind of like the wedding cake of ice creams – the best answer is ‘it’s the extra egg’. Kopp’s, Storheim’s, Oscar’s…. great chains, great custard. :)

  • Peggy

    RJS–understandably so ;)

  • http://www.godthoughts.net john page

    For Burly, #25, I’d say it’s because they pile it high on these delectable cones and it comes right from their kitchen fresh to your cone. Giotti’s is near the Pantheon.


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