Deep-sea discovery in diet ice cream

I was picking up a sale carton of Breyer’s diet ice cream this week when I discovered vanilla comes in both yin and yang versions: one with no fat and one with no sugar.

Each registers 2 Weight Watchers points per half cup serving. Since they were on sale, I figured we’d try them both — with the ulterior motive of thinking it might be easier to control my intake if I had two dishes (each containing a half-cup serving) sitting in front of me.

That dietary strategy worked perfectly, while the taste test was inconclusive. Ben and I preferred the No Sugar Added, while Cassie and Colleen liked the Fat Free. (Bob abstained, and Rowan’s off at college).

But the real question was this: Why was the nonfat ice cream labeled as “creamy vanilla,” while the version that actually contains cream was not?

The pout fish contains an ice structuring protein that keeps its blood from freezing.

At first I thought it was just a marketing ploy, but it turns out that the “creamy vanilla” contains an “ice structuring protein” originally discovered in an eel-like arctic fish that keeps their blood from freezing.

Despite jokes in the British media about “vaneela” ice cream, food scientists don’t extract the protein but clone it. In the version approved by the FDA, the genetic structure of yeast is altered to form the protein during the fermentation process, and it is this protein that is harvested for use in ice cream, according to the website of Unilever, maker of the Breyer’s brand.

Another ingredient in the fat free version also has a sea link: carrageenan is derived from sea weed.

The No Sugar Added vanilla has its own lengthy list of weird food additives: Besides both  Sorbitol and Sucralose (Splenda), it contains five kinds of “gum” (guar, tara, xanthan, cellulose and carob bean). As someone who can’t stand any form of gum, is this something I really want to be eating?

And as for my coveted McDonald’s low-fat vanilla cone I wrote about earlier this week? Though its first three ingredients are legitimate foods — milk, sugar and cream — it also contains a bit of seaweed (carrageenan) along with two kinds of plant gums, guar gum and cellulose gum.

No Sugar Added on the left, Fat Free on the right.

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2 Responses to Deep-sea discovery in diet ice cream

  1. Of course now I’m curious of the ingredients for regular vanilla. So interesting when you read what’s really in there! We’ve been doing Rice-dream, Soy-dream or frozen yogurt these days —my husband has to be careful of cholesterol.

  2. tischcaylor says:

    I should note that I’m not necessarily opposed to eating seaweed. I’d just rather do it intentionally rather than inadvertently.

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