Slow churned ice cream is a dairy-based ice cream marketed as a healthier alternative to regular ice cream.
It’s made with traditional ice cream ingredients, including milk, cream, and sugar, but is lower in total calories and fat due to its unique manufacturing process.
This article details what slow churned ice cream is, how it differs from regular ice cream, and its potential benefits and drawbacks.
Slow churned ice cream is created using a manufacturing process called low-temperature extrusion.
The presence of fat generally influences the texture of foods, which contributes to satisfaction. The low-temperature extrusion process helps to recreate the experience of eating higher fat ice cream without requiring additional fat to achieve the same result.
This sensation occurs because this technology uses an extremely low temperature paired with an extruder that stirs the ice cream mixture. The process stresses the mixture, which forcefully reduces the particle size of the ice structures (1).
The reduced particle size is important because it helps recreate the creamy texture you expect from eating dietary fat (2).
The final result of slow churned ice cream and its smaller particle size results in a creamy texture with the same mouthfeel as regular ice cream but up to half the fat (3).
Slow churned ice cream is made using a manufacturing process that reduces the size of the ice cream particles. The result is an ice cream that may contain up to half the fat of regular ice cream, but with the same creamy texture.
The difference between slow churned ice cream and regular ice cream comes down to how the ice cream is processed and the final nutrient profile.
Nutrition facts will vary between brands and flavors of ice cream. The chart compares 2/3 cup (78–86 grams) of slow churned and regular vanilla ice cream from a nationally recognized brand (4, 5):
While relatively similar, there are a few important differences between the two varieties. Slow churned ice cream has fewer calories than regular ice cream, half the fat, and is slightly lower in cholesterol and sodium.
However, the slow churned ice cream is slightly higher in added sugar.
Reducing total fat in foods often results in increasing the amount of added sugar to compensate for taste and texture. The result is a lower fat product that is higher in carbohydrates and sugar (6).
Slow churned ice cream is lower in total calories and fat than regular ice cream. However, it’s often higher in added sugar to improve taste and texture.
Choosing a slow churned ice cream has a few benefits, including its traditional ice cream taste and lack of sugar substitutes compared to other low fat options.
Slow churned ice cream might be the best choice for you if you’re looking for a dairy-based ice cream lower in total fat or calories than regular ice cream.
Since slow churned ice cream is created from traditional ice cream ingredients, you may find that the taste is closer to that of regular ice cream.
For some, that might be more appealing than consuming a plant-based alternative with a different flavor or texture than you’d expect from regular ice cream.
Many slow churned varieties are free of artificial sweeteners, which may be a better option than other low calorie ice cream varieties if you have a digestive condition, such as irritable bowel syndrome (7, 8).
Additionally, some people find the taste of artificial sweeteners unappealing.
Finding an ice cream that’s lower in calories while also avoiding artificial sweeteners is a bonus if you find you don’t enjoy the flavor of many sugar substitutes (9).
Slow churned ice cream is made from dairy which might be more satisfying for those looking for the most authentic ice cream experience, but one that is lower in calories and fat.
Slow churned ice cream has a traditional taste despite its reduced fat. However, it doesn’t come without a few drawbacks related to its sugar and calorie content.
Slow churned ice cream is marketed as delicious ice cream with half the fat. But lower fat doesn’t mean lower sugar.
Slow churned ice cream varieties may be slightly higher in added sugar than regular ice cream. However, keep in mind that both regular and slow-churned ice cream contain added sugar.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend no more than 10 percent of total calories come from added sugar.
Added sugar intake is particularly a concern as it contributes calories to the diet without any nutritional benefit, so-called “empty” calories. Studies have linked many chronic diseases to eating excess empty calories, such as those from added sugar (10, 11).
Studies have also shown that diets high in refined carbohydrates and added sugar are associated with a higher risk of heart disease, independent of fat intake (12).
In fact, reducing saturated fat in the diet and replacing it with refined carbohydrates does not reduce heart disease risk, which is contradictory to what was once thought (12).
Slow-churned ice cream is marketed as a lower calorie and lower fat alternative to regular ice cream. This is true by comparison, but slow-churned ice cream is not inherently a low calorie food.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the term “low calorie” on food labels. It’s defined as having 40 calories or less per serving if the amount typically consumed is greater than 50 grams (13).
In the case of ice cream, the amount typically consumed is 2/3 cup, which in the case of slow-churned ice cream equals approximately 80 grams (14).
As listed above, slow churned ice cream contains 140 calories per serving or more than three times what can be considered a low calorie food per the FDA.
Regular and slow-churned ice cream are both made from real dairy, which contains calcium, potassium, and protein. However, its high fat and added sugar content make it best served in moderation as part of a healthy eating pattern.
Finally, slow churned ice cream may differ in taste and texture compared with regular ice cream.
Despite the complicated manufacturing process used to recreate the creamy mouthfeel of higher fat ice cream, it’s lower in fat may still contribute to a texture that’s not as desirable as regular ice cream.
Additionally, the lower fat content may influence satisfaction as research shows that dietary fat intake plays an important role in satiety (15).
Both slow churned ice cream and regular ice cream contain added sugar and are not low calorie foods. Therefore, perhaps you should consider whether you enjoy eating slow churned ice cream or regular ice cream.
Remember, you can enjoy ice cream in moderation as part of a healthy diet pattern, so choose an ice cream you truly enjoy eating.
Choosing slow churned ice cream may mean eating more added sugar than regular ice cream but both varieties contain added sugar and neither is low in calories. Ice cream can be an enjoyable treat eaten in moderation as part of a healthy diet.
Ice cream is a classic dessert with a seemingly unlimited number of flavors and ingredients.
Slow churned ice cream may be for you if you’re looking for a dairy-based ice cream lower in calories and fat. However, if you’d rather enjoy the regular ice cream, keep in mind that a healthy eating pattern can include the occasional dessert.
The most important thing is to choose an ice cream you truly enjoy eating – even if it is the higher calorie, full-fat type.
If you’re not sold on the slow churned ice cream, check out our list of healthy, low-calorie ice creams.
Last medically reviewed on May 20, 2022