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Carb Solutions: Summertime Ice Cream

By Dennis Linden

Over half of the U.S. adult population, some 154 million, qualify as being overweight or obese. Another 29 million of us have Diabetes, many as a direct result of being overweight. Then there are the 23.9 million overweight children who are dutifully following the example of their XXL adult role models. Diabetes and these extra pounds cost this country billions annually in both medical and economic resources; not to mention the affect these weight-related maladies have on a person’s overall mental well-being and happiness. However, both diabetes and being overweight are very manageable, even preventable, with a few lifestyle tweaks. By maintaining a sensible diet in conjunction with some consistent exercise, no matter how minimal, we can all be in total control of our own weight. One easy way to start taking that control is to make decisions about the foods we eat based on the glycemic index [GI] and glycemic load [GL].

Simply put, our bodies convert all foods into sugar calories that provide energy to the body via the blood stream. The Glycemic Index assigns a score of 1 to 100 to all foods based how speedy the body converts that food into sugar. Foods that break down slowly enable the body to assimilate theses calories of energy more efficiently without overwhelming the body with more sugar than it can process. While this is especially important for diabetics who process sugars much slower than others, everyone can benefit from eating foods that have low glycemic scores since they also reduce appetite and encourage the metabolism to burn body fat. Conversely, a diet of foods high on the glycemic charts have been proven to actually increase appetite and impede effective fat oxidation.

A Quickie Glycemic Primer:
  • The glycemic index of a food compares its effect on blood sugar level to that of pure glucose, which has a score of 100. White breads, which are made of processed white flour, are at the top of this scale, scoring a “perfect” 100 on the glycemic index. For perspective, a score of 55 or below denotes a low-glycemic-index food; 70 or above is considered very high. Serving size is not a consideration in arriving at a food’s Glycemic Index number.
  • The glycemic load, on the other hand, focuses on how much digestible carbohydrates (sugars) a food contains in a typical single serving, which is defined as approximately 3.5 ounces. For glycemic load, a score of 20 or more is high, while 10 or less is low. 
  • Both the Index and Load scores should be checked to determine how a food affects the metabolism. A parsnip, for instance, has a very high glycemic index (97) but the fiber in a parsnip slows the conversion of its starch to glucose, so its glycemic load score is a very “digestible” 10.
    There are not many culinary pleasures that are enjoyed universally by young and old, rich and poor, right and left leaning voters alike; a bowl of ice cream is one of them. “I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream!” was an advertising jingle first popularized in the 1920’s that kind of sums it all up, especially on a hot June day. Unfortunately for us carb counters, that jingle was pushing the original Eskimo Pie (aka The I-Scream bar), a double sugar rush of high carb ice cream, on account of both refined and processed sugars, dipped in a chocolate coating! Not exactly glycemic-friendly ingredients!

    And do not be fooled into assuming that “LOW FAT” ice cream has anything to do with being lower in carbs or having less of glycemic impact either. We have been ingredient-programmed over decades to respond to sweetness of any kind as positive; so when the fat in dairy products is removed, sweeteners (usually corn syrup) is added in to compensate for the perceived flavor (richness) loss. Just compare labels -- a half-cup of “regular” vanilla ice cream has a relatively medium high GI of 54 and a GL score of 68; same amount of “low fat” vanilla ice cream scores an even higher 67 GI and whopping 114 GL!

    While the above two paragraphs makes the case against ice cream for diabetics and carb counters, it’s still June and it’s still sweltering hot. Since we are trying to quench the “I-scream urges” yogurt can be a great base ingredient, if also chosen with some care. While both plain yogurt and Greek-style yogurt are healthy alternatives in providing the required creaminess, the straining process in Greek style has a much thick, richer creaminess with double the protein and less sugar content than regular yogurt. Again, the same bait ‘n switch of increased sugars happens in low-fat yogurts. Numbers tell it all: Plain Yogurt GL 17 / Non-fat Plain Yogurt GL 57!

    The solution recipe below that blends Greek yogurt with two fresh fruits of the summer season produced the closest ice CREAMINESS to the real thing. It does require periodically stirring during the first few hours of the freezing process to prevent the water in the fruit from freezing too quickly, forming crystals more reminiscent of a snow cone in texture. Stirring allows for the dairy/water to slowly bond into a creamier consistency. I would have to say that the blueberry freeze came out a bit creamier than the melon freeze, but there is much more water in a melon so that makes sense. Next batch I will use a more fibrous fruit, like maybe a peach or nectarine! And, sure, the stirring process is a bit of a pain; but face it fellow carb counters, we would all be willing to walk over hot coals for the taste of real ice cream again – this comes pretty close! Both flavors were relatively creamy smooth, with just a slight bit of unavoidable sherbet-like crystallization on the edges. As far as the primary goal of having a cooling, almost-ice cream experience on hot summer day this recipe did the trick – no hot coals necessary!

    Sweet Note: I tweaked this recipe found on a web site dedicated to low carb recipes for diabetics. I added the mint and ELIMINATED COMPLETELY the totally unnecessary “6 TBS No Calorie Sweetener, Granulated” in the original suggested formula. The obesity epidemic in this country is due in part to our continued dependence on sugar to “make things taste good”! This adding in of a sweetener to two perfectly delicious whole fresh fruits is a quintessential example – double so on a web site devoted to cooking as part of a healthier lifestyle i.e. not dependent on sugary additives to make a dish “taste” better. What is “better” than two fresh fruits? It’s not whether the sweetener will spike blood sugar or not; a serious carb counter should not be focused on finding no-carb sugar substitutes, but rather on weaning the palate from such an unhealthy dependency. Try this refreshingly short (and sweet!) recipe to kick-off a carb-less summer!

    Blueberry-Melon Freeze
    Yield 4-6, depending on serving container

    Ingredients for Blueberry-Melon Freeze


    2 cups honeydew melon, cut into chunks
    3 TBS fresh mint leaves, plus additional whole leaves for garnish
    32 ounces low-fat Greek plain yogurt, divided
    2 cups blueberries


    Place melon, mint, and 2 cups of yogurt in a blender and purée until smooth.

    Place melon, mint, and 2 cups of yogurt in a blender and purée until smooth. Transfer purée to plastic container, cover and freeze; stirring every 30 minutes for the first 2 hours to break up ice crystals.

    Place blueberries and remaining 2 cups of yogurt in a blender, purée until smooth.

    Place blueberries and remaining 2 cups of yogurt in a blender, purée until smooth. Transfer to a different plastic container, also cover and freeze; stirring every 30 minutes to break up ice crystals.

    Plating: Depending upon the formality of the occasion, layer each frozen purée into either large wine, fountain, or dessert glasses, garnished with mint leaves.

    Note: If purées are too firm to serve, flash microwave (10-20 seconds) to soften slightly.
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