What is Ice Cream?

Ice cream is a mixture of air, milk, fat and flavourings or extras, like chocolate, fruit, nuts, etc[1]. This doesn’t sound too appealing, but for those who have tasted ice cream, they know there is no going back!

Ice cream has to contain more than 10% milk fat in order to earn the right to be called ice cream. Other variations include sorbet and frozen yogurt. First of all, ice cream begins life as pasteurised milk. This means it has been heated to a high temperature so that harmful bacteria that might be lurking in the milk is killed off. This process is named after the scientist Louis Pasteur, who incidentally discovered penicillin! But let’s return to ice cream. After pasteurisation, the ice cream is homogenised. This process breaks down the fat particles, making the product much smoother and giving it better texture and taste. It also helps the ice cream melt slower, so it is less likely to drip down your hand as you consume it.

Typically, the ice cream is then moved into a special freezer barrel. This barrel was originally invented by American Nancy Johnson in the 1840s. It is very special, as it freezes the ice cream while keeping it moving. This constant movement is what prevents the ice cream forming like an ice cube. While the fat molecules are freezing, the whipping movement forces extra air into the product. In fact, half the volume of most ice creams is actually air! The ice cream is eventually cooled to somewhere between -30°C and -40°C, before being stored and transported to your local retail outlet[2].

The History of Ice Cream

The Roman emperor, Nero (AD 54-68) kept slaves employed to climb the local Italian mountains in search of snow, which he ate with pieces of fruit. It was a little later in China during the reign of King T’ang in Shang, that ice was mixed with milk and served as a delicacy[3]. In England, Charles I ate cream ice in the 17th century, and it is recorded that in 1660 the general public were allowed to taste the dish. Before this time, early versions of ice cream were limited to those ruling the country and the very rich[4]. In 1782 George Washington, the first President of the United States of America, recorded an ice cream machine in his possession. However, it wasn’t until 1850 that ice cream was produced on a commercial scale for mass consumption. In fact, by World War II, ice cream had become so popular in America that it was seen as a national symbol. So much so, that the Italians (who were against the Americans during the war), banned all ice cream[5]! How terrible!


Nutritional Profile of Ice Cream

Ice cream contains a number of vitamins and minerals our bodies need for their daily functions. The exact proportional of your daily recommended amount varies according to the type and variety of ice cream. Those with fruit and nuts will be affected by the added vitamins. Here, we will focus on the traditional vanilla ice cream. Ice cream can contain around 10% of Riboflavin, which is another name for Vitamin B-2. Riboflavin is vital for body growth and it also helps in the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen around your body. Vitamin B-1 or Thiamine is also present, but this vitamin helps your body fight off sicknesses, diseases and infections by boosting your immune system. Vitamin B-12 is found in ice cream: this is essential for maintaining your body’s nervous system as well as your blood cells. Your body also draws Vitamin C from ice cream. Vitamin C is commonly found in citrus fruits like oranges, lemons or limes, and is used in your body to heal wounds and as an antioxidant. Antioxidants fight free radicals which can build up and cause your body problems later on. Eating ice cream can actually help your blood clot when you have cut yourself, as it contains Vitamin K[6].

Ice cream and your bones

Ice cream contains around 10% of your recommended daily calcium dose. Calcium is very important in the development of bone density. It is one of the reasons that children are encouraged to drink full fat milk every day for the first few years of their life. Ice cream can play a part in this! For those of us who are ageing, our bones developed many years ago, but we still need plenty of calcium to prevent bone disintegration from causing problems like osteoporosis and arthritis[7].

Ice cream and your muscles

Ice cream is a good source of Protein[8]. We mainly gather our body’s protein needs from meat, fish and pulses like beans or soya. However, ice cream can serve us Protein too! Protein is essential in our daily lives. It helps our bodies heal and helps our nails and hair grow! Protein also builds our muscles. You have several types of muscle in your body. The most famous, but probably most unrecognised is your cardiac muscle. That’s right, your heart! This muscle works tirelessly, pumping blood around your body, and without it you don’t last very long. In fact, it starts pumping before you are born and continues until your dying breath. You also have around 650 skeletal muscles which are the ones you might think of, when considering Ghana’s most muscular man[9]! All these muscles require some Protein every day to grow, develop and stay healthy.

Ice cream and your body tissues

Ice cream contains almost 10% of your daily requirement of Phosphorus. Yes, your body really does need and use Phosphorus on a daily basis. Most people, when they think of this element, remember glowing sticks or luminous objects from sci-fi movies. Don’t worry, your body doesn’t want that! But it does need some Phosphorus in regular daily doses. The Phosphorus in ice cream helps to build and maintain your body tissue. This includes muscles, parts of your nervous system, and even your skin! However, the benefits of Phosphorus don’t stop there. Your body uses Phosphorus to make excellent use of all the Vitamins thrown into your body by ice cream. Phosphorus acts like a facilitator, helping the Vitamins go to the parts of your body that need them most[10].

Ice cream and fighting disease

Ice cream doesn’t only contain Antioxidents which help to fight disease, and Vitamins which boost your immune system. Ice cream is also rich in Lactoferrin and Cytokines. These strange sounding elements increase your immunity to disease. This helps your body prevent disease rather than having to fight to cure the sickness or disease once it has entered your system. It has been widely reported for many years that ice cream is so cold it can give you a cold (make you sneeze, your nose run and generally feel a little unwell). You’ll be glad to discover there is no scientific evidence at all to back up this rumour; in fact, the opposite is true! ThisLactoferrin found in ice cream fights against Pathogens[11] and helps keep you fit and healthy[12]!

Ice cream and your blood sugar

Ice cream has a low Glycemic Index. This means that although it gives your body a quick injection of sugar, your blood sugar levels do not suddenly go very high and then quickly drop down low again. These fluctuations are called blood sugar spikes and can be caused by other carbohydrates. They can cause problems for people, especially those with diabetes. Ice cream gives your body sugar, but the low glycemic index helps keep your blood sugar levels more stable[13].

Ice cream and energy

Ice cream is an excellent source of energy for your body, as it is rich in carbohydrates. On average, half a cup of ice cream will give your body 137 kilocalories of energy to burn. This is the amount of energy you would need to climb stairs for 15 minutes[14]! Imagine that, without a stop! It’s a lot of energy. Your body is using energy all time, just to function. Even to stand upright or sleep, you need energy! The food we eat is a vital source of energy to help us support an active lifestyle without getting overtired or needing to stop and rest every few minutes.

Ice cream and happiness

Ever wondered why you smile when eating ice cream? Well, it’s because scientifically, ice cream makes you happy! It’s true! As your body digests the ice cream, a hormone called Thrombotonin is stimulated. This hormone is a happy hormone and helps you feel in high spirits, which is a common reason to smile widely[15]!


[1] Science of Summer, 
retrieved 16 September 2013, at 07:23.

[3] Who Invented It?, 
retrieved 16 September 2013, 07:05.

[4] International Dairy Foods Association, 
retrieved 16 September 2013, at 07:06.

[5] Who Invented It?, 
retrieved 16 September 2013, 07:05.

[7] Healthy People, 
retrieved 11 September 2013, at 10:03.

[8] Ice Cream Delight, 
retrieved 11 September 2013, at 10:03.

[9] Live Science, 
retrieved 16 September 2013, at 21:44.

[10] Healthy People, 
retrieved 11 September 2013, at 10:03.

[11] An agent causing disease or illness to its host, such as an organism or infectious particle capable of producing a disease in another organism.

[12] Healthy People, 
retrieved 11 September 2013, at 10:03.

[13] Mobile Life, 
retrieved 11 September 2013, at 10:03.

[14] Fit Watch, 
retrieved 16 September 2013, at 22:01.

[15] Ice Cream Delight, 
retrieved 11 September 2013, at 10:03.