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Ice Cream for Diabetes – Good or Bad for Diabetic Patients?

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Dietary management is an integral part of living with diabetes or prediabetes. Maintaining normal blood sugar levels is crucial. Therefore, one needs to monitor carbohydrate intake.

Also, select foods that do not cause a blood sugar spike. However, frozen desserts like ice cream can be part of a healthy eating pattern, even with diabetes.

The key is to read nutrition labels, make healthy choices, and pay attention to serving size.

Most types of ice cream are high in sugar and calories. As a result, it can cause blood sugar levels to spike. However, some brands offer low-sugar/sugar-free, low-calorie options.

These may be a better choice for people with diabetes. Therefore, even with diabetes, you can have occasional sinful ice cream. 

Is Ice Cream Good for Diabetics?

It is true that ice cream contains carbohydrates and can therefore have an impact on blood sugar. However, eating ice cream in moderate amounts may not necessarily cause a spike in blood sugar levels.

One small scoop of ice cream once every 3 weeks should be a good treat for anyone managing diabetes.

Ice creams with aspartame, mannitol, or sorbitol are less likely to raise blood sugar levels than other sweeteners.

In addition, protein and fat in ice cream can help slow down sugar absorption into the bloodstream. But too much-saturated fat is not suitable for anyone. 

If fat is a concern, gelato contains low amounts compared to regular ice cream. Whether gelato or ice cream, they are only good when consumed occasionally and in moderation.

What Does Research Say?

Research shows that ice cream is a promising carrier for health-promoting ingredients such as probiotics, prebiotics, synbiotics, and natural antioxidants.

This type of ice cream is called functional ice cream. Here the unhealthy common ingredients get replaced with beneficial, uncommon ingredients. For example, fats and sugars get replaced with healthier alternatives. Functional ice cream is healthy and suitable for people with diabetes of all age groups. 

A study attempted to make a healthy and nutritious ice cream suitable for diabetic consumers.

It consisted of 24 natural ingredients, including millet, legumes, ground nuts, almonds, jaggery powder, ragi, and cardamom. These ingredients made the functional ice cream rich in nutritional value, with cytoprotective, antioxidant, and anti-diabetic activities. 

The HealthifyMe Note

Ice cream can be part of a healthy diet for those with diabetes, as long as it is in moderation. Those with diabetes should choose ice cream without sweet toppings. Further, monitor the portion sizes to avoid spikes in blood sugar levels. In terms of calories, fat, and carbs, you can choose functional ice cream, gelato and keto ice cream as alternatives to regular ice cream. 

Frozen Yogurt vs Ice Cream for Diabetics

Both frozen yoghurt and ice cream contain sugar and dairy. However, while ice cream uses cream, frozen yoghurt uses cultured milk.

As a result, frozen yoghurt contains probiotics and tends to be lower in fat. It is also worth noting that ½ cup of frozen yoghurt has 111 calories and vanilla ice cream has 140 calories, as per USDA

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), ice cream should contain at least 10% milk fat. However, some varieties may have over 25% milk fat.

On the other hand, low-fat frozen yoghurt includes 2–4% milk fat. Full-fat frozen yoghurt has 3–6% milk fat, much less than ice cream. 

The fermentation process of frozen yoghurt leads to lower lactose content than ice cream. Therefore, diabetic people with lactose intolerance can digest frozen yoghurt better than ice cream. However, regular yoghurt has more probiotic benefits. It is because some live cultures may not survive the yoghurt’s freezing process. 

Ice Cream for Diabetics – What to Look for?

If you struggle with controlling your ice cream portions, talk to a HealthifyMe nutritionist to find the right serving size.

They can also suggest some form of physical activity after eating ice cream to prevent blood sugar spikes. You could also use HealthifyPRO CGM to check your blood sugar 1 to 2 hours after eating ice cream. It can give you helpful information about ice cream’s effect on glucose levels.

No Sugar Added or Sugar-Free Claim

The sugar-free or no-sugar-added ice cream varieties are marketing claims. They contain sugar substitutes like sugar alcohols or sucralose and naturally occurring sugars.

Most sugar-free ice creams get made using milk, which has the natural sugar lactose. Therefore, sugar-free ice cream is not free of sugar. However, they contain reduced sugar levels.

As a result, the sugar in sugar-free or no-sugar ice cream does not raise blood glucose as dramatically as table sugar. 

Protein and Fat

Most blood-sugar-friendly ice cream comes with a decent amount of protein and fat. It may help reduce the risk of a blood sugar spike. These ice creams can certainly be an option for diabetes. Nonetheless, keeping tabs on the portion size is still important.

It is also vital to keep saturated fat in check. Typically, select ice creams with no more than 2-3 grams of saturated fats and 5 grams of total fat per serving. 

Low Sugar or Carbs

One serving of ice cream is about half a cup and approximately 15 grams of carbs. It counts toward your daily carbohydrate limit. Make adjustments in your meal to compensate for the carbs in ice cream.

For example, if you plan on eating ice-cream as a treat post the meal, make sure you avoid the carb content of the meal  such as potatoes and pasta or simply reduce the carb to 1/3rd portion and balance the entire meal out. It ensures that your total amount of carbs remain within the limit. 

Another option is keto-friendly ice cream. These ice creams are lower in calories and carbs than regular ice cream. Studies suggest the keto diet as an adjunctive treatment for type 2 diabetes.

It can help with glycemic control and lipid profile improvements. So, for diabetic patients following a ketogenic diet, keto ice cream is a suitable option to control net carb intake.

The HealthifyMe Note

Look for ice cream varieties with no more than 150 calories, 15-20 grams of carbs, 5 grams of total fat, and 3 grams of saturated fat per 1/2 cup serving. In addition, ice cream adversely affects your blood sugar if you pair them with the wrong foods. So instead of separately, eat desserts with foods containing protein and fibre to stabilise blood sugar.

Conclusion

Ice cream, a frozen treat, is often off the menu for people with diabetes. However, with a mindful selection of healthy options and attention to portion size, ice cream can be part of a balanced diet for diabetes. Look for ice creams that are low in sugar, contain some protein and good fats, and are lower in calories.

You can also find keto-friendly options. They are lower in carbs than regular ice cream. As long as the total carbs of a given meal remain within your target, you can have sweet treats like ice cream now and then.

Different people have different nutritional requirements and blood sugar responses. Therefore, talk to a HealthifyMe nutritionist to determine your recommended portion size.

The Supporting Sources

1. Alessandro Genovese, Andrea Balivo, Antonio Salvati, Raffaele Sacchi, Functional ice cream health benefits and sensory implications, Food Research International, Volume 161, 2022, 111858, ISSN 0963-9969

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0963996922009164

2. Kingsley, J. & Saraswathi.G, Shuruthi & Nila, Balaji & Devi, Durga & Saayee, Arjunan. (2020). Development of a Healthy and Sugar-free Ice Cream with Antidiabetic activity. 2395-0056. 

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/344310052_Development_of_a_Healthy_and_Sugar-free_Ice_Cream_with_Antidiabetic_activity

3. Data by the US Department of Agriculture. Data Type: Branded| Food Category: Ice Cream & Frozen Yogurt | FDC ID: 1008989 

https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1008989/nutrients

4. Food and Drug Administration (FDA): Frozen Desserts: Part 135

https://www.ecfr.gov/current/title-21/chapter-I/subchapter-B/part-135

5. Alarim, R. A., Alasmre, F. A., Alotaibi, H. A., Alshehri, M. A., & Hussain, S. A. (2020). Effects of the Ketogenic Diet on Glycemic Control in Diabetic Patients: Meta-Analysis of Clinical Trials. Cureus, 12(10), e10796. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7641470/

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