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If we want to splurge on soy ice cream, which one is the least fattening?

It is not likely that we will find a soy ice cream that is actually good for us. Anything that is creamy and sweet enough to taste like ice cream can't be healthy, can it? Follow along below as we analyze the ingredients in a few vegan frozen desserts. To understand our discussion of the different products, take our quick course in reading nutrition labels.

Turtle Mountain Purely Decadent

Purely Decadent

This company wins awards for the great taste of their soy ice cream. Their line made of coconut milk instead of soy milk is especially popular. But will it fit with our weight loss program, and is it healthy?

The Nutrition Facts label tells us much of what we want to know:
Purely Decadent label
  • One serving contains 210 calories and 120 of those calories are from fat. At 57% fat, it truly is decadent.....and fattening. And a serving has 9 g of saturated fat.

  • There are 40 mg of sodium in a serving. No problem there.

  • A serving contains 6 g of fiber. That is great.....for ice cream.

  • The calorie density is 210/85 = 2.47 calories per gram or 70 calories per ounce. (2.47 x 28.35) That is too high.
Not familiar with calorie density? Read this important information about the calorie content of foods.

Next we look at the list of ingredients:
  • Purely Decadent ingredientsThe first ingredient is coconut milk, a highly saturated fat. Not only is it fattening, but it will damage our blood vessels too.

  • The peanut butter they added contains soybean oil, sugar, and salt. Too bad it wasn't simply ground peanuts.

  • The coconut oil in the chocolate flake adds more saturated fat to the mix.

  • We would like to know exactly what natural flavors they added.
The good news is, agave nectar is a low glycemic sweetener, although it is still a sugar. And carob bean gum and guar gum are better thickeners than carrageenen. We appreciate the fact that this company tries to use high quality ingredients. And without a doubt, this product is delicious.

But for us, the coconut milk is the problem. Some people will tell you that coconut milk/oil is a "good" saturated fat. Some even say it promotes weight loss. In our book, the less saturated fat the better, no matter what the source. And a product that is 57% fat will not help our weight loss efforts at all. Let's look at another product.

Soy Dream

Soy Dream

Here is another soy ice cream for us to analyze. The front of the carton says it is made with green tea. That sounds healthy, doesn't it? Ignore the front of the carton and read on.

Here are the important Nutrition Facts:
  • Soy Dream labelThere are 70 fat calories in a 140-calorie serving. That means it is 50% fat: clearly not a weight loss product.

  • The sodium is OK, at 125 mg in 140 calories. Up to 140 mg would be acceptable.

  • Less than a gram of fiber is pretty poor.

  • The calorie density is 140/70, or 2 calories per gram. That is the same as 57 calories per ounce. It is not a low calorie food.

What can we learn from the list of ingredients?
  • Soy Dream ingredientsThe first ingredient in the "soy base" is sugar. Brown rice syrup solids are another form of sugar. This product contains twice as much sugar as soybeans.

  • It would be nice if all of the fat came from whole soybeans, and not from processed oils.

  • We want to avoid carrageenan if possible.

  • Natural green tea flavor could be very different from healthful green tea. And we have questions about the other natural flavors.
 Read our suggestions about choosing a milk substitute to understand why we try to avoid these ingredients. Let's look at another product.

Turtle Mountain Soy Delicious

Soy Delicious

Turtle Mountain's coconut milk ice cream was way too rich for our healthy weight loss diet. Maybe their "fruit-sweetened' soy ice cream is a better choice.

First we read the Nutrition Facts label:
Soy Delicious label
  • The fat content is 40/140, or 29% of calories from fat. That is a little better.

  • There are 175 mg of sodium in a 140-calorie serving. That is a bit too high. There should be less than 140 mg in a serving.

  • A serving of this product contains 3 g of fiber. Pretty good.

  • For the calorie density, divide 140 calories by 81 g and you get 1.73 calorie per gram. Multiply by 28.35 and you get 49 calories per ounce, the same as in whole soybeans. 
It is time to read the list of ingredients:
  • Soy Delicious ingredientsThe main sweetener is not fruit at all, but tapioca syrup and/or brown rice syrup. The fruit juice concentrates are close to the bottom of the label.

    This is the reason we ignore nutrition claims on the front of packages; they can be misleading. However, all sweeteners are empty calories, more or less.

  • We see the same problem ingredients that were in the previous soy ice cream: added oils, natural flavors, and carrageenan.

There must have been a lot of salt on the roasted almonds to drive the sodium level so high. Most of their other "fruit-sweetened" flavors have acceptable sodium levels. The almonds and pecans also raised the fat content of this flavor. The fat in most other flavors was about 13 - 15%. Of course, if you add more sugar, the fat percentage goes down.

Our conclusion: for those special occasions when you want a non-dairy ice cream, Soy Delicious is a lower fat product that tastes great. Turtle Mountain makes some rich, high-fat products too. Be sure to read labels carefully when you shop.

In our search for low fat soy ice cream, we found some other vegan ice cream substitutes that are 8% fat or less. Of course, they do contain sweeteners. So stick with fresh fruit most of the time and save the frozen desserts for treats.

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