How is ice cream made?

Ice cream is one of the most commonly enjoyed frozen dairy desserts especially during warmer seasons, I am sure that at some point you must have thought how is it made and if it is good for your health. Let me simplify it for you.


Ingredients:

Modern day ice creams are made by using cream, condensed milk, butterfat, sugar, flavorings (natural or artificial), approved additives such as emulsifiers and stabilizers and eggs. These additives including eggs help maintain the quality of the product while preventing heat shock and ice crystal formation. Most commonly used additives are guar gum which is extracted from the guar bush, and carrageenan which is extracted from sea kelp or Irish moss. Another interesting ingredient used is air, which is added to the mixture to make the ice cream frothy and soft.


Processing:

  1. Blending: Milk procured from dairies is collected in huge tanks at 2°C and mixed with ingredients for about 7 minutes.

  2. Pasteurization: The blended mixture is then pasteurized at 82°C to kill pathogens and bacteria.

  3. Homogenization: The hot mixture is then forced through a small opening into a machine called ‘homogenizer’. The sole purpose of this equipment is to make the mixture uniform by breaking down fat particles and prevents them from separating from the rest of the mixture.

  4. Cooling: The mixture is cooled to about 2°C and let it sit for about 8 hours following which flavoring is added and mixture is blended.

  5. Freezing: The mixture is then frozen at a temperature of – 40°C and while simultaneously being injected with air.

  6. Adding chunks: If chunks of fruits or nuts are to be added then they are added at this stage before packaging takes place.

  7. Packaging: Filling machines fill up the containers and further printing of information takes place.

  8. Hardening: The ice cream is to be hardened before being transported. The packed product is moved through a tunnel in which a constant temperature of – 35°C is maintained and ice cream is finally hardened to a temperature of – 23°C.


Ice cream and healthy eating:

Although a typical ice cream may not be the first food that comes to mind while selecting healthy foods and the sugar content coupled with additives make for a compelling reason too, but in moderation, it may have surprising health benefits such as:

  1. Nutrient content: Thanks to the dairy solids present in ice cream, it can be a decent source of vitamin A, D, calcium, phosphorous and riboflavin. If chosen healthier flavors such as dark chocolate the nutrient profile will be enhanced (for health benefits of chocolates, check out my article).

  2. Brain stimulation: who doesn’t like eating ice cream? And the dopamine released while enjoying this delicious treat may be good for enhancing your mood and “waking up” your mind.

  3. Libido and fertility: The phosphorus present in ice cream has been linked to healthy testosterone levels in males while a study has shown better fertility in women who had full fat ice cream in their diet.

  4. Bone health and cancer: strong bones and reduced cancer risks have one thing in common; healthy levels of calcium in an individual’s diet and ice cream can be a delicious source of some.


The takeaway box:

So here is the whole crux of ice cream and if you like to have it then do so but keep this indulgence in a limit. Choose minimally processed varieties by looking at the labels (learn how to read food labels here) and if you can make it at home then nothing is better.


References and further reading:


Chavarro, J.E., Rich-Edwards, J.W., Rosner, B. and Willett, W.C., 2007. A prospective study of dairy foods intake and anovulatory infertility. Human reproduction, 22(5), pp.1340-1347.


Cook, K. L. K., and R. W. Hartel. "Mechanisms of ice crystallization in ice cream production." Comprehensive reviews in food science and food safety 9.2 (2010): 213-222.


Florencio-Silva, Rinaldo, et al. "Biology of bone tissue: structure, function, and factors that influence bone cells." BioMed research international 2015 (2015).


Min SK, Choi K, Kim SK, Lee GI, Cho IC. Phosphorus as predictive factor for erectile dysfunction in middle aged men: A cross sectional study in Korea. Investig Clin Urol. 2016;57(6):442-448. doi:10.4111/icu.2016.57.6.442


Wulaningsih W, Sagoo HK, Hamza M, et al. Serum Calcium and the Risk of Breast Cancer: Findings from the Swedish AMORIS Study and a Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies. Int J Mol Sci. 2016;17(9):1487. Published 2016 Sep 6. doi:10.3390/ijms17091487