Gelato With EVOO Is a Functional Food, Italian Researchers Say

Research carried out at the University of Naples Federico II shows that extra virgin olive oil can be added to the Italian-style artisanal ice cream as a functional ingredient.
Feb. 3, 2020 09:25 UTC
Ylenia Granitto

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The lat­est find­ings in the devel­op­ment of novel foods with improved nutri­tional pro­files will delight gelato lovers.

According to stud­ies con­ducted by Raffaele Sacchi, a pro­fes­sor of agri-food indus­tries and the Mediterranean diet at the University of Naples Federico II, extra vir­gin olive oil can be added to the Italian-style arti­sanal ice cream as a func­tional ingre­di­ent, improv­ing its health ben­e­fits with­out affect­ing the taste.

Extra vir­gin olive oil can be used as a fat replace­ment in gelato, since it does not sig­nif­i­cantly change the orig­i­nal fla­vor, low­er­ing the ratio between sat­u­rated and unsat­u­rated fats, improv­ing the amount of polyphe­nols, and increas­ing the antiox­i­dant activ­ity.- Raffaele Sacchi, University of Naples Federico II

We aimed to char­ac­ter­ize an inno­v­a­tive gelato and, with the sup­port of a gelato maker from Caserta, we made this type of ice cream adding an extra vir­gin olive oil pro­duced in Battipaglia, char­ac­ter­ized by medium bio-phe­nol con­tent and a green-herba­ceous fla­vor with a mod­er­ately bit­ter taste,” Sacchi told Olive Oil Times.

Basically, we used the extra vir­gin olive oil as an ingre­di­ent added to the basic scheme of pro­duc­tion and we for­mu­lated the gelatos in order to com­pare the chem­i­cal-phys­i­cal and sen­sory pro­files, and there­fore look­ing into what hap­pened at the level of aro­mas, antiox­i­dants and so on,” he added.

See Also:Cooking with Olive Oil

The analy­sis con­firmed an inter­est­ing fact that had been pre­vi­ously hypoth­e­sized: the inter­ac­tion of the extra vir­gin olive oil polyphe­nols with the milk pro­tein matrix.

This means that if you add a very bit­ter and fruity olive oil to the gelato, the inten­sity is damp­ened by the bonds that are formed with pro­teins, and for exam­ple in a fior di latte ice cream, you don’t per­ceive the bit­ter­ness and pun­gency, but pleas­ant flo­ral, herba­ceous notes,” Sacchi said.

The total phe­no­lic con­tent, volatile com­pounds and the results of the sen­sory analy­sis indi­cated that this inno­v­a­tive extra vir­gin olive oil gelato can be regarded as a func­tional food,” due to the improved health ben­e­fits.

Moreover, the inter­ac­tion between the ice cream matrix and the extra vir­gin olive oil com­po­nents may be a solu­tion to enhance con­sumers’ accept­abil­ity of the bit­ter­ness inher­ent to the oil by reduc­ing the sen­sa­tion in the mix­ture. It could also impact the extractabil­ity of phe­no­lic com­pounds.

The prob­lem is that, even if today we well know the ben­e­fi­cial effects of extra vir­gin olive oil’s bit­ter com­pounds on our health, not all con­sumers accept bit­ter­ness,” Sacchi said. Then, the mask­ing effect’ can be a novel strat­egy for cre­at­ing a func­tional Mediterranean ice cream’ that main­tains sen­sory and nutri­tional qual­ity char­ac­ter­is­tics.”

In fact, with the inser­tion of eight to 10 per­cent of extra vir­gin olive oil in the ice cream, we sup­ply a fair amount of polyphe­nols,” he added. Moreover, the indus­try could look for other strate­gies of adding olive deriv­a­tive phe­no­lic com­pounds, includ­ing those from the olive leaves and mill waste­waters.”

The find­ings of this study also led the researchers to carry out a sec­ond exper­i­ment.

The inves­ti­ga­tion focused on the full replace­ment of milk with extra vir­gin olive oil, keep­ing con­stant the amount of total fat, with the aim to bet­ter under­stand the mech­a­nisms involved in the inter­ac­tion between milk pro­teins and olive oil bio­phe­nols, and the bioavail­abil­ity of the lat­ter,” Sacchi said.

During the exper­i­ment, which was the sub­ject of a degree the­sis in food sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, the researchers made two types of gelato: one vanilla and the other with choco­late. Additionally, each fla­vor was for­mu­lated in two vari­ants, one with milk cream and the other with extra vir­gin olive oil.

Considering the var­i­ous fac­tors such as humid­ity, the four gelatos were made so that they all had the same amount of fats, pro­teins and other ele­ments.

Using the oil as a lipidic com­po­nent of the ice cream, then chang­ing the pro­file of fatty acids while adding antiox­i­dants and fla­vors, the aim was to assess sen­sory qual­ity vari­a­tions and find out if the polyphe­nols could still be absorbed and bio-avail­able.

Sensory and chem­i­cal analy­ses were car­ried out and then the sam­ples were sub­jected to an in vitro stan­dard sys­tem that sim­u­lates diges­tion.


We ver­i­fied that the antiox­i­dant mol­e­cules present in the olive oil are released from ice cream under the con­di­tions of diges­tion and become bioavail­able,” Sacchi said. Compared to the choco­late polyphe­nols, the antiox­i­dants of the extra vir­gin olive oil were found to be even more avail­able, being smaller and more eas­ily released and poten­tially absorbed.”

Furthermore, the panel did not dis­tin­guish the choco­late gelato made with the oil from the one with milk, appre­ci­ated both and per­ceived only a slight dif­fer­ence in vis­cos­ity.

Meanwhile, in vanilla ice cream, the dif­fer­ence was sta­tis­ti­cally per­ceived but, the olive oil ice cream was con­sid­ered very accept­able” in terms of taste, aroma, and vis­cos­ity.

We are there­fore writ­ing a sec­ond arti­cle, that will soon be pub­lished, on the func­tion­al­iza­tion of this gelato,” Sacchi said. This work shows that extra vir­gin olive oil can be used as a fat replace­ment in gelato, since it does not sig­nif­i­cantly change the orig­i­nal fla­vor, low­er­ing the ratio between sat­u­rated and unsat­u­rated fats, improv­ing the amount of polyphe­nols, and increas­ing the antiox­i­dant activ­ity.”


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