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Health July 2012

Rainbow Kitchen

Debunking the Junk: Scream for Your Ice Cream – Not at It

By Allison St. Claire

Today most ice creams are synthetic from start to finish. The next time you are tempted by a luscious looking banana split sundae made with commercial ice cream, think of it as a mixture of antifreeze, oil paint, nitrate solvent, and lice killer.

There are dozens of variations of “eat this, not that” books flooding the market these days by a variety of authors. While these have gone a long way to alerting us to start looking more closely at what we’re putting in our mouths, I’ve found them for the most part, simply shifting from one set of junk ingredients to another – and the so called “good” products are often unhealthier overall!

Since their recommendations are almost always focused on losing weight, they’ve lasered in on calorie count even though calories are far from equal -- and fat content while totally ignoring the difference in unhealthy fats such as corn or soy oils, rather than good-for-you fats such as butter, whole milk, or olive oil. And they completely overlook carbohydrates and sugars which are, thankfully, increasingly being fingered as the real culprits in weight gain.

I recently found one of this type of book that finally is sensible, informative, and focused on what’s truly healthy. It’s Unjunk Your Junk Food by Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer with Lisa Tsakos, creators of naturallysavvy.com. (Simon & Schuster Gallery Books, 2011).

They’ve included a helpful pullout chart (to take with you to the grocery store) of the worst ingredients in today’s highly processed food products from additives to artificial colors, preservatives to fat substitutes. The worst offenders are highlighted in red in the ingredients list of reviewed products. Yellow highlighted ingredients are usually chemicals and generally unpronounceable additives, although some are relatively innocuous sounding but still harmful to good health – like caramel color, margarine, vanillin and vegetable oil shortening.

The book’s glossary explains in detail each ingredient’s source (from naturally occurring to petroleum byproduct), its benefits or links to various diseases, allergic reactions, or harmful side effects.

Since it’s the high season for ice cream, let’s look at one egregious example. (I’m not picking on or favoring any particular brand – there’s plenty of deception and blame across the spectrum of supermarket aisles and products.)

Skinny Cow Low-Fat Ice Cream (Cookies ‘N Cream)

The label is attractive and lists apparently good nutrient counts. But here are the ingredients. Try reading this without a dictionary or advanced bio-chemistry degree, or mispronouncing anything. Unhealthy items shown in bold type.

Skim milk, sugar, corn syrup, cookie crumbs (bleached wheat flour, sugar, vegetable shortening (partially hydrogenated soybean oil, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil) cocoa processed with alkali, high fructose corn syrup, caramel color, chocolate leavening (baking soda, ammonium bicarbonate, salt, cornstarch, whey, soy lecithin), polydextrose, whey protein, cream, calcium carbonate, inulin (dietary fiber), propylene glycol monostearate, microcrystalline cellulose, sodium carboxymethylcellulose, guar gum, monoclycerides, sorbitol, carob bean gum, citric acid, vitamin A palmitate, carrageenan, natural flavor.

A couple of additional crib notes: “natural” flavor isn’t – natural that is, although it’s not considered dangerous but it is chemically formulated in a lab. If flavoring was made from actual strawberries, for example, it would list strawberries. Polydextrose is a mixture of dextrose (corn sugar) and sorbitol. The FDA requires that all products containing more than 15 grams of it to put a warning on the label: “Sensitive individuals may experience a laxative effect from excessive consumption of this product.” In other words, if you’re going to have a second helping at a party, eat it near the guest bathroom.

Here’s the comparison to Breyers Smooth & Dreamy ½ Fat (Cookies & Cream). Yes, it has 35 calories from fat compared to 20 in Skinny Cow, but 20 fewer calories per serving size. And I’ll bet you recognize almost everything here as sourced from an actual food, not a lab-originated food product.

Ice cream: skim milk, sugar, corn syrup, cream, whey, egg yolk portions, carob bean gum, salt, natural flavor, betacarotene (Vitamin A); cookies: sugar, wheat flour, palm and palm kernel oil, cocoa processed alkali, salt, sodium bicarbonate, soy lecithin, natural flavor.

According to a study published in the Price-Pottenger Nutrition Foundation Health Journal: Ice cream manufacturers are not required by law to list the additives used in the manufacturing of their product. Consequently today most ice creams are synthetic from start to finish. The next time you are tempted by a luscious looking banana split sundae made with commercial ice cream, think of it as a mixture of antifreeze, oil paint, nitrate solvent, and lice killer.

So now, with just four simple ingredients, make your own. Luscious add-ons like fresh fruit welcomed.

 

Basic Vanilla Ice Cream

(From Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon)

3 egg yolks

½ cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon arrowroot

3 cups heavy cream, preferably raw, not ultrapastuerized

Beat egg yolks and blend in remaining ingredients. Pour into an ice cream maker and process according to instructions. Store in the freezer.

No ice cream maker? Don’t let that stop you. You’ll find dozens of easy alternatives to using a machine or needing rock salt and lengthy churning. Search online for “homemade ice cream without an ice cream maker.” The numerous alternatives will simply involve more time and attention from you to stir, whip or blend the mixture every half hour or so and returning the container to the freezer over a 2 to 4 hour period so it retains a creamy, non-crystallized texture.


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Allison St. Claire loves to dream about, study, grow, play with, prepare and ultimately enjoy eating great food.

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