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What’s in This?: Halo Top Ice Cream

All 13 ingredients in this allegedly healthy ice cream, explained (yep, even organic stevia leaf extract)

We’re often told that you should never eat anything (or put anything on your body) if you don’t recognize everything on the ingredients list. But since most of us have no idea what xanthan gum or potassium benzoate are — or more importantly, what they’re doing to our bodies — we’re decoding the ingredients in the many things Americans put in (and on) themselves with the help of an expert.

This edition: Halo Top ice cream (chocolate), which is made from 13 separate ingredients that we’ve broken down in the exact order they appear on their website.

The Ingredients

1) Skim Milk: This is simply fat-free milk.

2) Eggs: These come from chickens. They make ice cream even creamier.

3) Erythritol: This is a so-called sugar alcohol, which is essentially a less harmful version of sugar (it’s even been shown to improve gut health, increase bone strength and support healthy skin). However, the body can sometimes have trouble digesting sugar alcohols when consumed in large amounts, which can lead to things like bloating and diarrhea. You’ve been warned.

4) Cream: Cream is basically a layer of fat that rises to the top of milk before undergoing homogenization, a process that breaks down the fat molecules in milk to prevent them from separating.

5) Organic Cane Sugar: One serving (half a cup, which, as always, lol) of this ice cream contains six grams of sugar, which isn’t much — the same size serving of chocolate Häagen-Dazs ice cream, for instance, contains a whopping 19 grams. For reference, the American Heart Association recommends men consume no more than 36 grams and women consume no more than 25 grams of added sugar a day (and that doesn’t include sugar found naturally in foods like fruits and vegetables).

6) Milk Protein Concentrate: This is a concentrated version of the same proteins found in fresh milk (one serving of this ice cream contains five grams of protein). “It comes as a powder that can be added to products to keep them moist, boost their protein content, enhance flavor, extend shelf-life and improve texture,” explains Dagan Xavier, ingredient expert and co-founder of Label Insight.

7) High Fat Cocoa: Cocoa is a powder made from roasted cocoa beans, used to give a chocolate flavor to foods. It’s naturally high in fat, although that doesn’t mean this ice cream is — in fact, it only contains 2.5 grams of the stuff.

8) Vegetable Glycerin: Vegetable glycerin is a liquid produced from plant oils (usually palm, soy or coconut oil). It’s often added to foods to help maintain moisture levels, but it also can be used as a sweetener. While the small amounts normally found in foods aren’t an issue, large amounts of vegetable glycerin can cause nausea, vomiting and headaches.

9) Prebiotic Fiber: Prebiotic fiber is necessary for a healthy gut and improved digestion, which might help to counteract any of the above-mentioned digestive-busting effects of sugar alcohols.

10) Sea Salt: For flavor.

11) Organic Carob Gum: This is a natural food additive derived from — you guessed it — carob seeds. It’s used primarily as a thickening and stabilizing agent.

12) Organic Guar Gum: “Guar gum is derived from guar beans and acts as a stabilizer and thickener to improve texture,” Xavier explains.

13) Organic Stevia Leaf Extract: This is a plant-derived sweetener generally considered to be a healthy alternative to heavily-processed added sugars. It’s 200 to 300 times sweeter than table sugar, meaning a little bit goes a long way.

The Takeaway

Overall, just as they claim, Halo Top ice cream really does seem to beat many of the more standard ice cream brands when it comes to calories, sugar and fat, which generally means a more guilt-free product.

However, none of this means that Halo Top is healthy — it’s still ice cream, which means it’s basically just dairy and sugar (and in this case, several sugar alternatives). Also, eating too much Halo Top can cause some digestive issues thanks to the presence of sugar alcohols, but realistically, the same can probably be said about other ice creams that are packed with regular sugar.

All in all, just remember that whatever you tell yourself at 2 a.m., nothing that tastes like ice cream is ever going to be completely harmless.