For those who love ice cream, dieting can seem like torture! No one wants to give up their favorite treat, so sugar-free ice cream might seem like the perfect solution. However, there is more to sugar-free ice cream than its position as a tasty diet food. Before buying tubs of sugar-free ice cream, learn the facts so you can make an educated decision.
Calories in Sugar-Free Ice Cream
Although sugar-free ice cream might seem like a guilt-free way of enjoying an otherwise calorie-laden treat, it is still far from being health food. It’s important to remember that sugar-free is not calorie-free. In most cases, sugar-free ice cream has only 25% fewer calories than regular ice cream. While 25% is a significant calorie cut, research has shown that people who eat a food labeled as "sugar-free" tend to eat considerably more than they do when they believe they are eating food with the regular amount of sugar. So if you treat yourself to two scoops of sugar-free ice cream rather than the one scoop of regular ice cream you typically eat, you could end up eating almost 200 calories instead of the 130 you would eat with regular ice cream. Since weight loss is determined by how many calories you take in and how many calories you burn, sugar-free ice cream could actually cause you to gain weight instead of lose it.
Sugar Substitute in Sugar-Free Ice Cream
Since there’s no sugar in sugar-free ice cream, it has to get its sweet flavor from something. In most cases, the sweet flavor comes from sugar alcohols. Sugar alcohols are used in many foods that are labeled as "sugar-free," such as gum, ice cream, and other sweet treats. Since these foods are so often marketed towards diabetics, it’s tempting to think that they are safe for diabetics to eat. Sugar alcohols, however, typically still contain a fair amount of carbohydrates. That can be very dangerous if a diabetic doesn’t check the nutrition label! If you’re looking to sugar-free ice cream to avoid the carbohydrates, be sure to read the label before assuming that it is free of carbohydrates. Many diabetics, particularly those with Type 1 diabetes, have elevated blood sugar levels if they eat a lot of food with sugar alcohols.
There are also some negative side effects when sugar alcohols are eaten excessively. They can cause bloating—definitely not a side effect dieters want—and they tend to cause diarrhea. Although many sugar alcohols occur naturally in fruits and vegetables, the ones typically used to sweeten ice cream are artificial. They are not as sweet as sugar, and as a result, manufacturers use a lot more of them in sugar-free ice cream to get the same amount of sweetness found in regular ice cream.
Clearly, sugar-free ice cream is not a problem-free solution to ice cream cravings. If you choose to eat sugar-free ice cream, be sure to eat in moderation and read the nutrition labels to avoid illness or excess calories.