A new study from the University of Naples published in the Journal of Functional Foods examines the sensory and nutritional aspects of non-dairy olive oil ice cream.
The researchers found that plant-based ice cream offers less fat and fewer calories than traditional milk-based ice cream.
Additionally, the research identified that chemical interactions allowed polyphenols to be released upon digestion, providing potential antioxidants. The data showed that extra virgin olive oil offers the possibility for innovative ice creams which can be potentially healthy and functional.See Also:Gelato With EVOO Is a Functional Food, Italian Researchers Say
The study examined ice creams designed and developed by replacing milk cream with extra virgin olive oil.
The olive oil ice creams had less saturated and more mono-poly-unsaturated fatty acids. Finally, olive oil ice creams provided bioaccessible polyphenols and increased antioxidant activity.
Milk and chocolate-flavored ice creams containing 14.1 percent and 10.2 percent milk cream, or 5.1 percent and 3.6 percent extra virgin olive oil, were produced.
“Data showed that extra virgin olive oil can be a functional fat replacer in ice-cream recipes to produce healthier products,” the study authors wrote.
Sensory descriptions of the ice cream in a triangle test found that only the milk-flavored ice cream with extra virgin olive oil was distinguished from its traditional counterpart.
Compared to traditional ice creams, the greater concentrations of specific volatile organic compounds were described as “grassy.”
“What stands out about this study is the versatility of extra virgin olive oil,” Simon Poole, a physician and nutrition instructor for the Olive Oil Times Sommelier Certification Program, told Olive Oil Times.
“It is a functional food and can be added to other foods to become an innovative part of food cultures,” he added. “This can help people enjoy foods found in a traditional Western diet and experience some of the health outcomes associated with extra virgin olive oil.”
“The term you’ll hear is ‘polyphenol.’ These compounds are considered most important for their extraordinary impact, specifically their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits,” Poole said.
A few examples illustrate the positive effects of extra virgin olive oil. Just two tablespoons of olive oil each day is correlated with a 44 percent reduction in rates of heart disease.
Regular consumption of olive oil reduces the risk of diabetes by between 50 and 80 percent, varying in the populations studied. Additionally, regular consumption of olive oil is associated with a 40 percent relative reduction in the risk of strokes.
“The purpose of this experiment was to see if an ‘ice cream-like’ product that used extra virgin olive oil in place of the milk fat found in traditional ice cream would have an acceptable taste,” Mary Flynn, an associate professor of medicine at the Miriam Hospital and Brown University, told Olive Oil Times.
“The results showed that not only was the taste acceptable, but the chocolate version was also found to taste the same as the traditional version made with milk fat,” added Flynn, who founded the Olive Oil Health Initiative at Brown University.
Poole advised, “Using olive oil as an ingredient in ice cream offers consumers a wonderful way to explore the flavors and benefits of olive oil.”
However, he added that extra virgin olive oil is just one component of the Mediterranean diet which also encourages regular consumption of fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, among other ingredients.
“While ice cream is part of many food cultures, it is best to consider it a treat,” Poole said. “Don’t let a treat distract you from understanding the power of polyphenols and the crucial role of extra virgin olive oil. The real power of olive oil is using it with healthy vegetables, drizzling it on foods, and consuming it as a core part of the daily diet.”
“I’m hopeful that people can explore the tastes and benefits of extra virgin olive oil, and this may be a doorway to fully embracing the real Mediterranean diet lifestyle,” he added.
For consumers looking to experiment in their homes, the Vegconomist identifies Wildgood as “the world’s first plant-based ice cream made with extra virgin olive oil.”
The ice cream contains 2 grams of saturated fat per serving and is reported to have 40 percent fewer calories than leading dairy ice cream brands.
“The study showed that phenols found naturally in extra virgin olive oil were shown to be present, indicating the olive oil version would provide the same health benefits that are found in all extra virgin olive oil,” Flynn said.
“While traditional ice cream would not be labeled ‘unhealthy’ except where excessive consumption led to weight gain, having an alternative product that would provide the health benefits found in extra virgin olive oil would be a welcome addition to the desserts currently available,” she added.
On a personal note, Poole said, “I love ice cream. It’s a sugary treat. I often enjoy it by calling it ‘gelato’ to make it seem delicious and healthy.”
“Many traditional ice cream producers create ice creams that are highly processed, use emulsifiers, and contain additives,” Poole added. “While we are seeing food producers use olive oil as an addition to a product, it’s vital to look at all the ingredients.”
“Just like Starbucks introduced olive oil in coffee drinks, it’s important not to lose sight that these are nice treats,” he concluded. “Yet, do not confuse these as a substitute for using 30 to 50 milliliters of olive oil in daily food preparation for a healthy Mediterranean diet.”