If you have the need to reduce the amount of sugar that you consume, you may be interested in knowing the difference between “no sugar added” and “sugar free.” Some people do not even realize that there is a difference, and the difference is not markedly clear on most ice cream packaging. These terms do not mean the same thing. The difference between sugar free and no sugar added is really quite simple, but unfortunately many consumers are not aware of it. No sugar added only means that there was no sugar added to the ice cream during its production; the sugar content from the original ingredients, however, remains in the final product.
For a product to be labeled sugar free, however, the requirement is that the product have no more than .5 grams of sugar per serving. This is difficult with a product such as ice cream, for many of the ingredients which are in ice cream contain their own natural sugars. The sugar free status is hardest to achieve in ice creams which contain fruit or nuts, for both are quite high in their own natural sugar content. Even the basic ingredients needed to produce ice cream contain natural sugar. Some ice cream manufacturers are currently working on methods to improve their sugar free ice creams, in order for these products to remain healthy while not sacrificing taste and quality.
An important consideration for those on weight-loss diets is that the calorie content itself of fat-free, lowfat, and light ice creams is not significantly different from the more standard styles. These designations are more relevant to those who specifically have dietary restrictions on their fat intake.
The standards by which these differences are determined begin with the requirement that ice creams which are labeled light or reduced fat must have a lower fat content than the regular style. Both have a higher fat content than products which can be labeled low-fat. As cream, the main ingredient in regular ice creams, has a very high concentration of fat, it is difficult to produce ice cream with a very low or nonexistent fat content; doing so generally places it in the category of ice milk.
Although ice cream in its natural state is a dairy food that is rich in calcium, those with a special dietary interest or health concern may wish to consider ice creams which are fortified with calcium. This would be a good choice for children and teens whose teeth and bones are still developing, and for women who have a concern or family history of osteoporosis. Although calcium fortified ice creams may tend to be a bit more expensive than the regular varieties, the long term health benefits to choosing calcium fortified ice cream are well worth it.
Ice cream is no longer as simple as it used to be. But becoming informed about the differences in the many choices which are available to day is the best step toward making healthy choices.