I scream, you scream we all scream for... coronary heart disease? Brian Gould, professor of Agricultural Economics at the University of Wisconsin, reports that the average U.S. citizen consumes over 14 lb. of ice cream in 2006. It's clear that most people enjoy the frozen treat on a regular basis. Unfortunately, like most tasty foods, ice cream is high in some potentially harmful ingredients, particularly to the cardiovascular system. Ice cream is a dessert best consumed in moderation if you want to avoid screaming for an angioplasty.
Like all dairy products, ice cream is high in fat. A 1/2-cup serving of a leading brand of the most widely consumed flavor of ice cream, vanilla, contains 9 g of fat. While fat is a nutrient and the body needs a certain amount to produce hormones, provide energy and protect organs, too much can result in cardiovascular disease. Fat should account for about 20 to 35 percent of your total calories. If you consume a typical 2,000-calorie diet, you'll want to avoid consuming more than 78 g of fat each day. One serving of vanilla ice cream contains more than 10 percent this amount. Also consider that a 1/2-cup serving is quite small.
Saturated fatty acids are commonly found in animal products such as meat, milk, eggs and butter. Excess consumption of saturated fat can increase your blood cholesterol levels, causing arterial blockage and ultimately resulting in heart attacks and strokes. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises limiting saturated fat intake to less than 10 percent of your total calories. A 1/2-cup serving of vanilla ice cream contains 6 g, or about 28 percent of this amount, based on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Excess consumption of foods that are high in dietary cholesterol can increase your blood-cholesterol levels and increase your risk of heart disease. A 1/2-cup serving of vanilla ice cream contains 25 mg of cholesterol. The USDA recommends consuming less than 2,300 mg of cholesterol each day to avoid increasing your blood-cholesterol levels, and less than 1,500 mg a day if you are over 50 or have a history of heart disease or diabetes. While a serving of vanilla ice cream does not place you in danger of reaching the USDA's recommended limit, the Institute of Medicine does not set recommended dietary allowances for this substance and advises limiting it as much as possible. Your body produces about 1,000 mg of cholesterol a day on its own.
Sugar is an empty calorie. It contains caloric value, but contributes no other nutrients to the diet. You can eat all the sugar you want and reach your daily caloric requirements, but you still need to consume additional calories to meet your other nutrient needs. Therefore, sugar can significantly contribute to weight gain and, ultimately, cardiovascular disease. Sugar's immediate impact on blood-glucose levels can also result in diabetes. The American Heart Association recommends men and women limit their daily sugar intake to 150 and 100 calories, respectively, to avoid these health setbacks. A serving of vanilla ice cream contains 40 calories from sugar, or about 27 to 40 percent the AHA's suggested limit for men and women.