Whether true or not, legend has is that ice cream was invented in Italy. In truth, things may be a bit more complex than that, as well explained in our article on the history of ice cream, yet Italy is considered the homeland of this delicious dessert by very much everyone. This is due, of course, to the fact Italian gelato is amazing, but also because the country and its people did a lot to popularize ice cream throughout the world. For example, many Italian immigrants to the US, especially in the early 1900s, opened ice cream parlours as a way of earning a living in their new surroundings, making this Italian delicacy famous on the other side of the ocean.
Italians continue to be among the highest consumers of ice cream, and this consumption is usually spread throughout the year, with peaks during the hot summer months. While many industrial products of high quality are available, Italians go to great lengths to identify artisans who produce special products and tend to prefer artisanal ice cream to its cheaper (yet, not as nice, let’s face it) industrially produced counterpart.
In Italy, it is not unusual to see large crowds queueing to get their gelato, often even outside the store. And beware: in each and every town and village in the country, you are bound to find more than one gelateria, so it is never a matter of “this is the only place making gelato in 30 miles.” No, Italians just love their gelato: they like traditional flavors, like chocolate or pistacchio, strawberry or cream, but are also intrigued by novelties: salted caramel and candy floss, rose and carrot cake, ice cream remains a winner in all its varieties. Recent statistics indicate that in the last 2 years, more than 2200 artisan ice cream establishments were inaugurated in Italy, and 54 percent of the Italians eat ice cream at least once a week.
Alas, we do tend to think of ice cream as something we should not eat: there are sugar, milk and sometimes cream in it, so not all of its ingredients are the best for dieters or for people with food allergies. However, more and more studies have proven that, when enjoyed occasionally, ice cream can not only be part of a calories controlled regime, but can also help us being healthier. Let’s see how.
1. Ice cream is nutritious and not that bad for your diet
Cream and milk based gelato is full of healthy carbohydrates, proteins, calcium and vitamins. Fruit based flavors are lower in calories and packed with vitamins and antioxidants. Of course, gelato is full of water, which means it is ideal to keep us hydrated; for this reason, in fact, gelato is considered a healthy, post-training snack for athletes. It also has a very low glycemic index, which means it keeps you fuller for longer.
As said, not all ice cream flavors are bad for your waistline: many nutritionists advice people on a diet not to ditch ice cream from their weekly meal plan: all they need to do is to choose fruit based flavors, which only reach an average of 160 calories per 100 grams. Of course, cream based flavors such as chocolate are much heavier and should only be eaten occasionally. These simple data, however, are enough to show how a nice portion of “gelato alla frutta” could well be a fresh, healthy alternative to a meal.
2. Ice cream is a mood booster
Yes, indeed. Recent studies have shown that eating ice cream helps us feel happier: it makes us feel well in the body and in the mind and often brings us back to the serene, beautiful years of our childhood. Alessio Penzo, the vice-president of the International Society of Psychology says this happens because the sugars in ice cream are quickly absorbed by our body and contribute to increase the production of serotonin, the so called hormone of happyness. Eating ice cream also helps to keep stress at bay. And did you know that it can even help you sleep better? Yes, ice cream contains L-tryptophan, a natural tranquilizer, which contributes to relax our nervous system.
It makes you happy and rids you of insomnia: is there anything better than gelato?
3. Gelato may help reduce the risk of cancer
Recent studies have shown that, thanks to its high calcium content, ice cream can indeed help protect you from certain types of cancer, such as colon cancer.
4. Gelato says a lot about your personality
Doctor Alan Hirsh has conducted a study, according to which our ice cream flavor choices give important indications about our personality. If you like vanilla, you are very likely an impulsive and an idealist. If you prefer chocolate, you may tend to be dramatic and charming. If cookie dough (which we do not really have in Italy, but this study is American and, hey! Cookie dough is delicious!) is your go-to choice, it means you are ambitious and competitive.
Gelato is one of Italy’s favorite treats, we love it and we eat with pleasure all year round. It is lovely to know that something so good to eat can also be good for you: of course, if consumed in limitation. Never forget it!