In Ice Cream, Olive Oil Adds Health Benefits Without Compromising Flavor

Extra virgin olive oil offers the possibility for innovative, healthier ice creams.

By Thomas Sechehaye
Jun. 20, 2023 15:34 UTC

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.”

Poole explained that olive oil is the key­stone ingre­di­ent of the Mediterranean diet and pro­vides pro­found” health ben­e­fits.

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.”

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