Protein ice cream has quickly become a favorite among dieters searching for a healthier way to satisfy their sweet tooth.
Compared with traditional ice cream, it contains significantly fewer calories and a higher amount of protein per serving.
However, you may wonder whether the health benefits of this popular product live up to the hype.
This article takes a look at the benefits and downsides of protein ice cream, and provides a simple recipe to start making it at home.
Protein ice cream is marketed as a healthy alternative to regular ice cream.
It’s generally higher in protein and lower in calories than the regular frosty treat, making it a popular option among health-conscious consumers.
Most brands use low-calorie sweeteners like stevia or sugar alcohols to cut calories and added sugar.
They also usually contain around 8–20 grams of protein per pint (473 ml) from sources like milk protein concentrate or whey protein.
Furthermore, some varieties add fiber to promote feelings of fullness, or prebiotics, which are compounds that aid the growth of beneficial gut bacteria (1Trusted Source, 2Trusted Source).
SUMMARYProtein ice cream is higher in protein and lower in calories than regular ice cream. Some types contain low-calorie sweeteners, protein, and added fiber or prebiotics.
Protein ice cream may be linked to several evidence-based health benefits.
High in protein
As its name implies, protein ice cream is relatively high in protein.
Though the exact amount can vary, most brands pack 8–22 grams of this nutrient per pint (473 ml), or 2–6 grams per serving.
Protein is important to many aspects of your health, including blood vessel function, immune health, and tissue repair (3Trusted Source).
It also plays a central role in muscle-building, which is why it’s generally recommended to consume a good source of protein after resistance training to optimize results (4Trusted Source).
Whey protein, in particular, is a common ingredient in many protein ice cream products.
Studies show that whey protein can boost muscle growth, weight loss, and muscle recovery after working out (5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source).
Low in calories
Protein ice cream is significantly lower in calories than regular varieties.
While traditional ice cream can pack around 137 calories per 1/2 cup (66 grams), most types of protein ice cream contain less than half of that amount (8).
This can be incredibly beneficial if you’re looking to lose weight, as cutting your calorie intakecan be an effective strategy for weight management.
According to one large review of 34 studies, low-calorie diets may decrease body weight by an average of 8% over 3–12 months (9Trusted Source).
Nevertheless, low-calorie foods like protein ice cream should be paired with a well-rounded, healthy diet to maximize weight loss and sustain results long term.
Easy to make
One of the biggest benefits of protein ice cream is that it’s easy to make at home.
Most recipes use protein powder along with frozen bananas, flavorings, and your choice of milk.
Making it at home also puts you in control of the ingredients.
This can be a good option if you have food sensitivities or difficulty tolerating any of the ingredients found in store-bought varieties.
SUMMARYProtein ice cream is high in protein and low in calories, which can support weight loss and muscle growth. It’s also a quick and convenient snack that you can easily make at home.
Though protein ice cream offers several benefits, there are a few drawbacks to consider.
May contain added sugar
Most types of protein ice cream use sugar alcohols and natural sweeteners like stevia to help reduce their calorie contents.
However, many brands still contain around 1–8 grams of added sugar per serving.
Though this is significantly less than regular ice cream, which may contain double or even triple this amount, added sugar can still harm your health.
Studies show that added sugar intake can contribute to a number of chronic conditions, including obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and liver problems (10Trusted Source).
The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting added sugar consumption to less than 10% of your total daily calories, which is equal to about 50 grams per day on a 2,000-calorie diet (11Trusted Source).
Eating even one or two servings of protein ice cream per day can contribute a significant amount of added sugar to your diet, which is why it’s absolutely essential to moderate your intake.
Low in nutrients
While protein ice cream contains a good amount of protein in each serving, it typically lacks many other important nutrients that are necessary for a healthy diet.
Aside from calcium, protein ice cream usually contains minimal amounts of most other vitamins and minerals.
In most cases, this may not be much of a concern if you’re getting these nutrients from other foods as part of a healthy diet.
However, if you regularly eat protein ice cream instead of other healthy snacks like fruits or vegetables, it could increase your risk of nutritional deficiencies in the long term.
May cause digestive issues
Many types of protein ice cream contain added ingredients that could trigger digestive issues in some people.
In particular, some add prebiotics, which stimulate the growth of bacteria in your gut and can cause mild digestive side effects like gas (12Trusted Source).
Sugar alcohols, which are also found in many products, are associated with adverse symptoms like nausea, gas, and bloating (13Trusted Source).
The exception is erythritol, a common sugar alcohol found in protein ice cream that is not associated with the same digestive issues as most other types (13Trusted Source).
Still, in large amounts, it has been shown to cause symptoms like stomach rumbling and nausea in certain people (14Trusted Source).
Can promote overeating
Protein ice cream is marketed as a low-calorie alternative to traditional ice cream, and many brands advertise that they contain a relatively low number of calories per pint (437 ml) on the label.
Yet, many people don’t realize that each container holds around four, 1/2-cup (66-gram) servings per container.
This could promote unhealthy eating habits and overeating by encouraging you to eat the entire container in a single sitting.
What’s more, it could take the place of other, more nutrient-dense foods that are rich in many of the vitamins and minerals that your body needs.
SUMMARYProtein ice cream is low in nutrients but often contains added sugar and other ingredients that can cause digestive issues. It may also promote unhealthy eating habits and overeating.
Protein ice cream is easy to make at home using just a few simple ingredients.
To get started, add 1 frozen banana, 2 tablespoons (30 grams) of protein powder, and 3 tablespoons (45 ml) of your choice of milk to a food processor.
You can also use other mix-ins to boost the flavor of your ice cream, including frozen fruit, chocolate chips, vanilla extract, or cacao nibs.
Then, simply blend the mix for one to two minutes until it reaches a creamy, fluffy consistency.
If you’re pressed for time, protein ice cream is often available at many major supermarkets.
Popular brands include Halo Top, Yasso, Chilly Cow, Enlightened, and Arctic Zero.
Ideally, look for a product with at least 4 grams of protein per serving and less than 5 grams of added sugar to maximize the potential benefits.
SUMMARYProtein ice cream is easy to make at home. There are also many different brands and varieties available at most major supermarkets.
Protein ice cream is a low-calorie, high-protein alternative to traditional ice cream, making it a good option if you’re looking to decrease your calorie intake without cutting out sweets.
Still, it shouldn’t be a staple in your diet, as it contains added sugars and is low in many important nutrients.
Therefore, it’s best to enjoy protein ice cream in moderation as an occasional sweet treat as part of a healthy, well-rounded diet.