At Butter Nutrition, we LOVE ice cream and we think it can be a truly nutritious food if you're not sensitive to dairy, and if it's made from clean, high quality ingredients. When sourced with high quality dairy products and if it's made without additives, it's loaded with vitamins A, D, calcium, and saturated fat! Ice cream has been said to have a macro-nutrient profile similar to breast milk, so no wonder it's a comfort food!
Unfortunately, most commercial ice cream brands do not make the cut, when it comes to sourcing and ingredients.
Did your favorite ice cream make the grade?
I ventured out to my local grocery stores to compare ingredient lists. This is what I found:
Grading explained: all ice cream brands started out with a grade of a B. Each offending additive deducted a grade from the overall score, and the use of organic and rBST free milk products increased the grade. Also remember that this is JUST for vanilla ice cream, and likely there will be more additives with more complex flavors.
The most common ingredient offenders:
- Gums- gums and thickeners such as xanthan gum, guar gum, carrageenan are commonly found in things like boxed nut milks, deli meats, baby formulas, milk products, salad dressings, sauces, gluten free products and most ice creams! These additives can irritate the gut (source), cause digestive distress, and carrageenan in particular can also interfere with your liver’s ability to detoxify harmful substances from the body. According to Dr. Ray Peat, "Carrageenan contributes to the disappearance of the liver enzymes (the cytochrome P-450 system) that detoxify drugs, hormones, and a variety of other chemicals."
- Natural flavors- natural flavors is a blanket term used to mask hundreds if not thousands of chemical additives, including MSG! Usually I don’t like to get too technical, but I find the FDA’s definition of natural flavors comical:
The term natural flavor or natural flavoring means the essential oil, oleoresin, essence or extractive, protein hydrolysate, distillate, or any product of roasting, heating or enzymolysis, which contains the flavoring constituents derived from a spice, fruit or fruit juice, vegetable or vegetable juice, edible yeast, herb, bark, bud, root, leaf or similar plant material, meat, seafood, poultry, eggs, dairy products, or fermentation products thereof, whose significant function in food is flavoring rather than nutritional.” (source)
If that is not very broad, loose definition, I do not know what is!
- Colorings- annatto comes from the seeds of the achiote tree and is sometimes found in ice creams where it is used as a colorant. Annatto has been suspected of causing digestive distress and possibly IBS. (source)
Ice cream doesn't work for everyone
If you have weak digestion due to a slowed metabolism or nutritional debt, your chances of being lactose intolerant or being sensitive to dairy increases. This doesn't mean you can't have ice cream! There are a few non-dairy alternatives that use coconut milk and taste delicious.
Control the ingredients- make your own!
Homemade ice cream will always top my list for the best ice cream options, so don't forget to try making your own if you can't find a clean option where you live. Here are two ice cream recipes you might want to give a whirl:
Raw Milk Ice Cream
Ingredients: cream, milk, egg yolks, sugar, salt, vanilla extract, collagen hydrolysate (optional)
Double Chocolate Ice Cream with Coconut Milk
Ingredients: additive free coconut milk, egg yolks, cacao powder, chocolate chips, organic sugar, collagen hydrolysate (optional, for protein), eggshell calcium (optional, for calcium), vanilla extract, salt
So remember-- always check your ingredient lists and be suspicious of anything other than cream, milk, sugar, egg yolks, ground vanilla beans, vanilla extract and salt!
Did your favorite ice cream make the cut? Please share with me in the comments!
CFR – Code of Federal Regulations Title 21 by US Food and Drug Administration
J Allergy Clin Immunol. 1995 May; 95(5 Pt 1): 933-6. Anaphylaxis to carrageenan: a pseudo-latex allergy. Tarlo, S M Dolovich, J Listgarten, C Retrieved on 28 October 2014 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7751512
Peat, Ray. Milk in context: allergies, ecology, and some myths. 2011. Retrieved on October 28, 2014 from http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/milk.shtml
Stein, Herbert L., MD. Annatto and IBS. Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology:November/December 2009 - Volume 43 - Issue 10 - pp 1014-1015. Retrieved on 28 October 2014 from http://journals.lww.com/jcge/Fulltext/2009/11000/Annatto_and_IBS.27.aspx
Let's say I don't have time to make my own ice cream (or, OK, I just don't feel like it). What brands/flavors are acceptable?
Are the ones with an A grade on the chart not available where you live?
No, oddly enough -- I've lived in metro Chicago and metro Detroit and even worked at Whole Foods -- and have never seen either brand. 🙁
I checked Three Twins (grade A+) website. Whole Foods, in the Chicago area, is listed as carrying their ice cream. Straus (the other grade A+) is not found in the Chicago area. Hope this helps. 🙂
I have seen and bought Three Twins ice-cream in Chicago Whole Foods.
super interesting about the gums. that is very helpful to know considering that I have digestive issues because of corn. in fact I have found that usually natural flavors involves corn ... even mSG is commonly made with GMO corn.
Neither of your A plus brands are sold in the Austin, TX area. There is a Natural
grocers, Whole Foods and HEB Grocery Stores that carry Organic Ice Cream. Three Twins (madagascar) and .Straus vanilla has an excellent grade.
How does Blue Bell Ice Cream rate? You left out the best Ice Cream in TEXAS.
I'd like to know this also.
Just answered this 🙂
While I can't find the ingredient list for Blue Bell's ice cream online (never a good sign), I do see that it says "Natural and artificial flavor added" on the front of the label.
My guess would be it's not pretty, but if you have a tub of it and want to email me the ingredient list, I'm happy to share my thoughts.
Bluebell unfortunately has carrageenan. I will no longer be buying it as I have a low tolerance for it, sad because they could probably make it just as well without it.
Turkey hill is a good substitute for what Breyer's used to be,
No, it's not, they use "natural flavors".
I am disappointed in Trader Joe's. I think many (myself included) at the beginning of our journey believed it is okay or better for you if you found it at Trader Joe's. I use as much caution there when shopping as I do at my grocery store. I can find Haagen-Dasz at my local store. I have to drive about 30 minutes to a Trader Joe's to have the wool pulled over my eyes. lol
Honestly, I think Trader Joe's is worse than regular grocery stores and have just as much organics as the average big chain store these days. Its a junk food store! Ive read some articles that claim that TJ is very stingy with information about where the TJ brand (which is most items) are sourced. Why would they refuse to say? That's pretty shady. I don't shop there anymore and if I do it's to get one or two items that I can't find elsewhere - like the organic broccoli slaw.
How terrible about Breyer's. It used to be such a good ice-cream and when did all those ingredients pop up? It used to be so simple but then Tara Gum ruined it. Now there isn't even the Tara Gum. And egg yolks??? Breyers was the "watery" brand because of the no eggs. It was already ruined with the Tara Gum but this ingredient list is an utter nightmare of what used to be one of the finest. I'm in shock. It looks so common now. I feel like crying like finding out someone died a slow death.
There is a difference between Breyers Vanilla and Breyers Natural Vanilla. Here is the ingredients to Natural Vanilla: MILK, CREAM, SUGAR, TARA GUM, VANILLA BEANS*, NATURAL FLAVOR, NATURAL VANILLA FLAVOR*. Ingredients and Nutrition Facts are current as of 2/11/15. Please see shelf packaging for any changes.
I've watched Breyers go down hill. Natural vanilla ain't so natural any more. June 2017
Straus is our favorite ice cream, but we also buy Three Twins sometimes. Both are readily available in Southern California. Yay!
I've loved Straus anything for a couple years now (since I began my real food journey). At Raley's I'm able to find their milk, butter, yogurt and (most importantly) ICE CREAM! At Whole Foods I find all that plus their cream which I've used to show my kids how to make butter. Any other ice cream causes embarrassing gastrointestinal issues so I avoid them at all costs. I haven't tried Three Twins brand though.
very unhappy to see Alden's listed as bad ingredients...my eyes are bad so it is hard for me to seel all the ingredients in products....when I see that it is organic I feel safe purchasing it. Was sad to see all the bad stuff included in their ice cream....why are they allowed to be labeled organic of all the ingredients are not organic? Very confusing but good to know...I was willing to spend the extra money because I thought it was actually better for me...thanks for pointing out the bad stuff in it...will look for the organic brands you mentioned had no offenders in them..
I reject the vilification of carob beans here. Carob is a known health food, and has been used for many years as a tasty and healthy caffeine free alternative to chocolate. It contains selenium, a trace mineral vital to organ function, and other vitamins and minerals, and is more high protein than chocolate itself is. It is quite weird that it's added to vanilla icecream here. but I do not like that it was put in red ink along with all the other legitimate offenders against health and humanity. Unless you know of a reason that carob gum is somehow substantially different, health wise, from whole carob?
Personally-- I don't believe tapioca starch or carob gum have a place in ice cream. Gums and thickeners can cause digestive distress in sensitive individuals. Would you add these ingredients to your homemade ice cream? I sure wouldn't.
Thanks for reading and joining the conversation.
Now that I look again, I'm also concerned that tapioca starch was included as a villanous item. Tapioca starch is exactly the same as tapioca flour, sort of like a puma is the exact same animal as a mountain lion. It's different names, but the same thing. It is not derived from a natural ingredient, it is in and of itself a natural and wholesome ingredient. I'm wondering why two valid ingredients were put on the 'bad guys' list now.
What about Turkey Hill? Their website lists the ingredients.
The original Breyer's (which is still available, but you must read the labels), has 4 ingred. and none of the rest--you were not careful in choosing and need to add that eval right before the bad "F" one) and also Breyers is caving in their standards.
Long ago my DOG who loved Breyer's vanilla when I ate some, would touch no other and I m sure she knew and could smell the additives as she would NOT TASTE them and would sharply turn her head to the side. Same with use of anything but butter on .her home cooked food. Loved vegs but would not touch any food when i once bought and used I Can't Believe It's Not Butter for a wk...she totally stopped eating and lost about 5 lbs. (18#down to 13# )before I realized WHY what was happening
The original Breyer's is NOT available. I challenge you to find what they call "Natural" without Tara Bean Gum.
A long time ago, before the rBST degradation, Breyer's All Natural had only four ingredients and was as real as it could get.
Breyer's is owned by Unilever now, and as far as I am concerned that stuff you see that looks like Breyer's is just another form of junk that should never be eaten by humans. .
Noting "rBST likely" next to some of these brands is unethical and frankly, lazy. If you're going to publish a list like this, how about just doing the research and finding out about the safety and quality of their milk/cream and whether they use rBST/rBGH or not. Either they do or they don't; there is no "likely". Accurate/truthful information matters.
I know that Häagen-Dazs does not use milk/cream with rBST, so it's possible you're being dishonest about the other companies as well. What gives?
This article was written over a year ago, so some facts and ingredient lists may be outdated. Since writing it, in early 2015 Breyers and Dreyers have made the commitment to go RBST free. I'm not sure when Haagen-Dazs made the switch.
Such a great article! We've been buying the Breyer's "Natural Vanilla" - no corn syrup, and the ingredients are pretty good except for the "natural flavors." Definitely wanna try the homemade ice cream! Just did a post on how to make homemade healthy chocolate magic shell and linked to your website. You might like it: http://simplynatureplusnurture.com/2016/01/29/homemade-chocolate-syrup-magic-shell/
I LOVE all of your information! Just got the "Creating Wealth" ebook and love it!
You seemed to leave out HFCS??? Do you know the effects of using this ingredient and why so many companies are using it?
Do you know how much water is in ice cream? Would you believe 60%? What happens if you freeze water?
If I am a regional or national ice cream company, should I use stabilizers that bind the free water and keep the ice crystals apart for a creamy ice cream experience....................that we all desire.
If you ship your ice cream across town or to the next State, how should be handled?
What is Heat-shock?
Just looking at the ingredients does not tell the whole story.
Are you a food scientist?
Ok to the last guy, all your points are invalid. If ice was a factor why are stabilizer free ice creams like Straus and even some flavors of Haagen Dazs which only use eggs have.absolutely zero problem with ice? Ill tell you why, the others are producing low quality ice cream with lower butterfat that need 1000 stabilizers. As far as HFCS, she has got corn syrup clearly labeled red as she should. And as to whether or not shes a 'food scientist' I had to chuckle. If you need a food scientist to create ice cream you have ZERO business producing anything edible period. Ice cream is five ingredients: milk, cream, eggs, sugar, and flavor. Thats It. And youll notice the high ranked brands have only those things.
So you're paid by the brands you recommend; you cite as evidence pure opinion pieces by non-qualified mumbo-jumbo spouters like Ray Peat, and you make blanket assumptions - "likely RBST" - based on what?
I don't want gums in my ice cream, either, because they taste bad. I don't want hormones because I prefer not to ingest them or allow my children to. But with all due respect, you'd be a lot more credible if,you upped your methodology and solid facts game.
If a company does not state they are RBST on the label or on their website in their marketing, they likely are not RBST-free. I am not paid by any of these companies.
Heh you're calling Ray Peat mumbo jumbo? If you could read or comprehend even one of his detailed articles complete with cited studies and observations I might take you seriously. As it stands, that is just a ridiculous comment. Ray Peat is 100% correct on just about everything. And it doesnt take a Ray Peat fan to agree with the way this blogger is grading. She is dinging for all of the exact same stuff most of us want to avoid.
It has been said that Jersey cows don't contain the A1 casein protein that produces adverse reactions. How about ice cream made from the Jersey cows that contain the A2 protein. Those A+ ice creams are still too low in quality. The higher cream ice creams should get higher ratings.
Incorrect. The Straus listed in A+ is infact a super premium. You can tell by the calories and fat content per serving. Three Twins is a little less premium but has better flavors. Either way both are head and shoulders above everything else. Organic plus no fillers or additives.
A1 beta casein milk protein creates the BMC-7 fragment protein. This has many negative health consequences i studies that have been done. Many people think they are lactose or dairy intolerant when it it the A1 milk protein that is causing the problems. Only ice cream certified to be A2 protein milk should considered high quality. Any A1 ice cream listed should have a foot note explaining this problem. All A1 derived ice cream is poison especially to me, There are a few types of cows which do produce A2 milk. I think 65% of Jersey cows produce A2 milk. Guernsey cows are 70 to 95 percent A2 milk.
calories and fat are irrelevant in this discussion. i agree that taste wise, fat content is the most important. fat doesn't contain the mik protein itself.
Why not just advocate for vegan ice cream? Milk is meant for calves, not humans. The fact that you are ignoring the cholesterol, saturated fat, and egg yolks?? You focus on the colorants, gums, and natural flavors instead - which, of course many are indeed unhealthy. You are a nutritionist, so I assume that your education in school provided you with a lot of misconceptions about dairy and how it is okay in moderation. In reality, we should be advocating for almond milk, soy milk, coconut milk to be used instead of milk in ice cream. Plant based ice cream alternatives are FAR healthier than anything produced by the dairy industry.
Not even mentioning their destructive impact on our planet?? Plus a lot of the inhumane treatment these cows have to go through?
You don't have any B's or C's. How can Haagan Daas and Blue Bunny get D's on speculative wrong doing?
Your posted grades are not consistent with your described grading explanation. Ice creams with no objectionable additives but not rBST-free should be listed as grade B. Instead, they are all listed as grade D.