At the University of Missouri, ice cream won’t be a high-fat, high-calorie junk food for much longer. It’s going to be packed with nutritional goodies, such as antioxidants, fibre, probiotics and prebiotics.
At least, that’s what food chemist Ingolf Gruen is hoping. Gruen, an associate professor of the university’s food science department, is working with a team of researchers to make a full-fat ice cream to deliver nutrients to consumers. Previous attempts to make the chilly treat healthy by lowering the fat and sugar content resulted in desserts that simply don’t taste good. So, Gruen’s approach will be to add healthy ingredients to the real deal.
Said Gruen, “The problem with using healthy foods is that people don’t really like them. We believe it is smart to use foods that everybody likes.’
Students will get the first taste in September at the campus ice cream parlour, but in the meantime, Gruen and his team are tweaking the formula. Not surprisingly, the addition of these healthy ingredients has changed the texture and taste of ice cream: When probiotics were added, they lent the sweet dessert an unpleasant sour tang, and the bacteria clung together to make the ice cream crunchy!
Some critics have already noted that marketing the food as a healthy option could lead to people eating too much. If the U of Missouri team manages to make a "multifunctional" ice cream that tastes like the real thing, it will be delicious because it still contains lots of fat and sugar.
And how much additional nutritional value will the ice cream actually offer? Ice cream is a low-fibre food, according to the BC Cancer Agency. By adding 15 percent more fibre (the most the researchers could add before ice cream became gluey), are you really getting more benefit than you would eating delicious, high-fibre fruits, such as figs, guavas and raspberries (or, in other words, healthy foods that people actually like) instead?
Finally, in the end, doesn’t making a treat such as ice cream healthy take some of the pleasure out of eating it? Who wants bacon cheeseburgers packed with goji berry essence, or doughnuts with soy protein? Not I.
What do you think? Are you appetized by "healthy ice cream"?