The healthiest choice: Ice cream, gelato or sorbet?

Do you pick sorbet over ice cream because you think it’s healthier? Nutritionist Joy McCarthy disagrees.


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On a recent hot afternoon in Toronto, my friend and I were lured into a gelato shop. The various colours on display were like a beacon calling us to come hither. And hither we did. But it took me a long time to order because I wanted to get the healthiest (most slimming) option – afterall, I would soon have to try and squeeze myself into last year’s bathing suit. I opted for chocolate gelato, but was that the best choice?

In an effort to find out, I contacted nutritionist Joy McCarthy at Joyous Health and asked her which of the summertime favourites is the healthiest: ice cream, sorbet or gelato?

“It really depends on each person’s individual dietary needs and what their health goals are,” says Joy. “For example, if you’re sensitive to eating dairy, then you should go for the sorbet. But if you’re watching your blood-sugar levels, then sorbets aren’t the best choice because they raise blood sugar quicker.”

I used to think sorbets were the weight loss go-to treat of the summer. But Joy explained they tend to contain more sugar than ice cream or gelatos. According to My Fitness Pal, 1 cup of strawberry sorbet has 40 g of sugar! So does that mean we should choose ice creams and gelatos instead? Not necessarily — because ice cream and gelatos can have high fat content.

There’s also a misconception that gelatos are dairy-free, and thus contain less fat. But actually, the only difference between gelato and ice cream is in the processing — gelato is churned at a slower speed so less air gets in, which results in a denser product. Gelato also contains more milk and less cream. Also, the fat content in gelato and ice cream varies from place to place, so it’s difficult to say if one has less fat than the other, explains Joy.

Unfortunately, there was no quick and easy answer to my question so I asked Joy which of the three she would eat. Her answer: a cream-based gelato due to the fact that fat slows the release of sugar, which satisfies cravings and makes you feel full for longer. When purchasing from grocery stores, she recommends choosing better-quality brands with less additives and preservatives, such as Breyers or Haagen-Daaz, or organic brands such as Organic Meadow and Mapleton’s Organic. If you want a dairy-free option, we suggest trying Coconut Bliss or So Delicious.

And for a fun summertime activity that comes with an instant reward, making your own all-natural homemade ice cream is the healthiest way to go. Here are some recipes to try:

Coconut-dream ice cream
Tangy lemon sorbet
Chocolate-malt gelato
Old-fashioned vanilla ice cream

2 comments on “The healthiest choice: Ice cream, gelato or sorbet?

  1. Pingback: What’s the difference between ice cream and sorbet? | What's The Diff!

  2. What about frozen yogurt by Chapman’s? How could you compare all of the above without including frozen yogurt.


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