Memorial Day has arrived. You’re off from work. You were able to sleep in. And now you want to enjoy this holiday by being outside. The sun is beating down on your face, and sweat is forming on the sides of your head. It’s a warm day, and your kids just spied a not-so-subtle ice cream parlor. Their reaction is almost instantaneous, and soon you find yourself walking to its window. Guilt is already starting to form but you push it back. A couple of cones for kids later, your kids are happy and you’re pensive. Do you get a serving for yourself? Or should you pass and get something else later? Just then, the answer catches your eye: fat-free ice cream is an option. You quickly decide on that and feel like you’ve gotten the best of both worlds. But what if that weren’t the case? What if the issue of dairy fat is not what you’ve been led to believe?
Let me tell you right away: fat-free ice cream is not a “healthy alternative” to ice cream. Ice cream should be enjoyed the way it was meant to be enjoyed – creamy. And not creamy as a result of added synthetic gum-like substances, but creamy from the natural cream that comes as the original base of it.
Those of you who know me are aware that I’m strongly against this artificial process of stripping fat from foods that are meant to have a healthy portion of fat in them. Not only are fats not your enemy (sugars are), but the fat-free and low-fat diet that started in the USA in the 1970s has only led to a persistent increase in the average body weight of this country over the years. To make things even worse, the very diseases that the fat-devoid diet was supposed to prevent and diminish have only showed up in higher numbers year after year.
Just like with other products, the amount of processing that has to occur for something as fatty as ice-cream to become “fat free” is extraordinary. After all the processing, instead of a whole food, you have this highly-processed unnatural edible item. Sounds bad already, but now you have the next problem. As you know, fat tastes great. A luscious scoop of normal fatty ice cream hits the spot. Yumm. So, when you lose fat, you also lose taste. You then have to replace the fat with something that tastes good but isn’t fat. And manufacturers end up replacing fat with – guess what – more sugars! They replace removed fats with artificially added extra carbs – sweeteners that are synthetically derived and usually fructose-based. OH MY BLOODY GOD! But these kinds of fructose-based sugars hit the liver directly, which then leads to an increased amount of stored fat in the body!
Glucose can be metabolized by almost all cells in your body, but fructose can only be metabolized by your liver because only liver cells have the proper receptors and transporters for fructose metabolism. Your liver can do just fine with a normal amount of fructose, especially if it comes in a natural form, like in fruits where it is bound to other compounds, like fiber and pectin. But when all these artificially added fructose-based sugars in processed foods hit the liver, fructose metabolites overwhelm the mitochondrial capacity of the liver cells, which then leads to de novo lipogenesis, or in layman’s terms the production of new fat cells and tissue, which then causes chronic metabolic disturbances that make you gain even more weight.
You say, “Dr. Inna, but regular ice cream has plenty of saturated fat.” Yes, it does. And you need that. You need saturated fat for many necessary processes in your body in order to stay strong and healthy. Saturated fat is not the enemy you’ve been led to believe it is. But that’s a topic I will cover in another article.
For now, if you’re looking to indulge, do yourself a favor: make a smart choice and choose real ice cream, based on real cream. Whole dairy cream is not your foe. It is your friend.
Hmm. Writing about ice cream has made me crave it, so I’m now going for a hearty helping of this creamy, fatty, delicious, cold treat myself. Cheers!
So very truly yours,