I’m crushed. I just found out that my favorite dessert in the world is incredibly bad for me. (Okay, my favorite after cheesecake, but I knew that cheesecake was bad for me.) Apparently ice cream contains high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) which has been found to cause significantly more weight gain than regular sugar, calorie for calorie. In a recent story on the Care2 website, Melissa Breyer explains that excess fructose is metabolized to produce fat, while glucose is largely processed for energy or stored as a carbohydrate, called glycogen, in the liver and muscles. And a study released on March 18, 2010 reports that HFCS not only produces body fat, but that this fat tends to accumulate in the abdomen, which has been connected to a higher rate of heart disease. It also causes a rise in triglycerides (circulating blood fats), another contributor to heart disease.
Why am I picking on ice cream? Because it’s such an insidious source of HFCS: it’s everywhere and people eat it by the buckets. Ice cream is not the only food that contains HFCS; staples such as bread, ketchup, mayonnaise, cereal, fruit juice, soda and yogurt do, too. But ice cream usually contains high levels of HFCS. When the choices were few–chocolate, strawberry and vanilla–ice cream was tempting enough. But now the choices are astounding and they’re loaded with ingredients that weigh in heavily on the HFCS scale. Take, for example, Baskin Robbins’ Heath® Shake.
Eric Steinman describes the shake this way:
Beside the fact that this junk food abomination is so filled with corn syrup that it should (holding true to the rules of ethanol propulsion) be able to power a small vehicle, it is also loaded with 266g of sugar (more than a cup of sugar) in a single 32 oz. serving. On the positive end of the spectrum, it contains a whopping 35g of protein, but this comes at a cost of 1560mg of sodium, 64g of saturated fat, and 295mg of artery-barricading cholesterol, with a total caloric intake of 2,310 calories per shake (roughly the entire recommended daily caloric intake for an adult, all in one serving).
I usually stay away from shakes, but they can’t be much worse than Dairy Queen Blizzards®, which I love. (A small Heath Blizzard contains 600 calories; a large contains 1260!) And in case you think you’re safe with a simple vanilla cone, Dairy Queen’s medium size is 330 calories. [I found a very complete–and eye-opening–nutrition calculator on DQ’s web site.] I may never eat at DQ again. But that’s targeting DQ unfairly. From what I can determine, all ice cream is bad for you. Even a low-calorie version is easily 100 calories per half-cup (and who stops at a half-cup? Have you seen four ounces of ice cream?).
The truth is, anything with milk in it automatically has a lot of calories. If you’re looking to add calcium to your diet, even skim milk contains 90 calories per cup and provides less than one-third of the recommended daily amount of calcium. That makes it a viable alternative to ice cream (or yogurt or cheese), but it certainly doesn’t satisfy like ice cream. You’re better off to get at least part of your calcium from supplements. (You might want to check with your doctor first.)
So, the bottom line is, I’m just going to have to convince myself that I really, really hate ice cream, at least until I lose forty pounds and 10 inches around my middle! Good luck with that, Ellen.
For another article by Eric Steinman about HFCS, read “High Fructose Corn Syrup: That Sweet, Sweet Bully.”
Go here for statistics on ice cream consumption in the U.S. I was astonished when I realized how much more ice cream I eat than the average!