In 1984, while president of the U.S., Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month. He did this in recognition of ice cream's status as a fun and popular food, which is sprinkled with positive nutritional value and consumed by more than 90 percent of Americans. That was a sweet thing for Reagan to do, perhaps realizing that maybe ice cream has surpassed apple pie's iconic status as an American dessert staple.
Think about it; how many kids do you see nowadays pestering parents to ignore the musical ice cream truck driving through the neighborhood on a hot summer day and, instead, take them out for a hit of hot apple pie? Never has the old saying, "I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream" ever been as timely as it is now, for kids and adults alike.
We are a nation that loves our ice cream. According to the International Dairy Foods Association, more than 10 percent of all the milk U.S. dairy farmers are producing goes into making ice cream, in turn making ice cream beri, beri good for business. In some ways, ice cream can be beneficial to our health, as long as we eat it in moderation – hint, a big bowl filled to the brim with scooped ice cream, whether it be plain vanilla or one of Ben and Jerry's creatively-named concoctions, goes well beyond moderation.
Here's the good nutritional news for ice cream lovers: A Sharecare editors' blog posted at blog.doctoroz.com says that women who consumed a daily helping of full-fat dairy products, to include ice cream, gained less weight than those who didn't (source: the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition). The blog also references a Harvard study, as reported in a publication titled Human Reproduction, that women eating full-fat ice cream at least twice a week were 38 percent less likely to have ovulation-related infertility.
Ice cream's nutrients include calcium and phosphorous, both of which reportedly help strengthen bones while increasing libido and muscles' energy reserves. Also present are potassium, which aids in reducing blood pressure, B vitamins that also are energizing, and protein, which is linked to tissue repair and cell growth.
So, there you have it. Run to the grocery store, buy a couple big cartons of Rocky Road and Death by Chocolate, grab a big spoon back home, and then melt into your easy chair in front of the telly, stuffing your belly while digging your way to superhuman health, right? Not exactly. For one thing, when nutritionists talk about eating in moderation, they are talking a mere half-cup of ice cream. For most humans over the age of three, that's nowhere near enough to activate the taste buds or satiate the craving that tugs at you once you get started.
Gorging on ice cream can be too much of a good thing, with "good" being a relative term here – there's "good" as in eating fruits and leafy greens that skimp on calories vs. the kind of "good" associated with cold, creamy mounds of sweetness that may have health-redeeming qualities – if you look closely enough.
Bottom line: normal, store-bought ice cream is high in fat as well as saturated fat and dietary cholesterol, all of which can potentially raise your risk of heart disease. Also, because ice cream is a dairy product, as explained at healthyeating.sfgate.com, it contains lactose, which can be rough on lactose-intolerant people. For those folks who still want to plow through and eat the stuff, supplements are available to help ward off lactose's effects. Either that, or find an ice cream made with soy milk or another dairy substitute.
According to livestrong.com, the American Heart Association suggests that men and women limit their daily consumption of sugar to 150 and 100 calories, respectively (with sugar referred to as "empty calories" by the experts), noting that one serving of vanilla ice cream (remember, that's just a half-cup) on its own contains about 40 calories from sugar. Eating two or three, or more, of those small servings of ice cream daily? Let's just say, it leaves little dietary room for anything else that day, keeping in mind that, essentially, all foods contain some sugar.
One scoop or two? There's probably no harm in two; just don't forget to keep the rest of your diet in shape.