How Ice Cream Chases Away the Blues

Is Ice Cream The Ultimate Cure For The Blues?

If you’ve already booked your summer gelato tour of Italy or you're passionate about whipping up delectable scoops of ice cream with quality ingredients like pure Madagascar bourbon vanilla extract, rich chocolate, or smooth coconut cream, you probably instinctively know that this frozen delight has an ability to lift you to cloud nine with just one bite. If you're curious about the science of it all, however, take note. A handful of studies have shown that ice cream instantly makes us feel happier, helps us weather that ‘down in the dumps’ feeling with a smile, and lights up the orbitofrontal cortex - the part of the brain that is activated when we are feeling good about life.

What Makes A Comfort Food Comforting?

Popular comfort foods don’t have to be calorie-dense. Our list of favorite foods also varies by age. Thus, young adults may scream for ice cream, while those above 50 may find comfort in a steaming bowl of soup. When it comes to ice cream, the magic, say scientists, lies in its fat content. Richer foods tend to make us less vulnerable to negative emotions, and often, just a small amount gives us an instant mood boost. A large body of psychological research also shows that the one sense that dominates when it comes to picking comfort foods, is the sense of sight. Ice cream, which is colorful, spherical, and often served with slices of chocolate, nuts, or other appealing ingredients, certainly fits the bill when it comes to visual splendor.

In Search Of Ice Cream’s Health Benefits

If you love ice cream but are worried about its high fat content, one solution is to alternate low-fat ice cream (i.e. made with non-dairy alternatives like almond milk) with your favorite decadent flavor. In many parts of the world, ice cream isn’t very high in fat and sugar at all. Alaskan ice cream contains powerful superfoods like raspberries and other winter berries, mixed with ice. In some Asian countries (including the Philippines, Thailand, and Korea), ice cream’s nutritional quotient is increased with ingredients like purple yam (ube), fresh mango, and fresh baby coconut flesh. These ingredients can make ice cream seem more luxurious and add interesting textures, without necessarily upping your total caloric intake.

Ice Cream And Mood

Neuroscientists at the Institute of Psychiatry in London have a pretty good explanation to ice cream’s ability to bring a smile to our faces. Using a functional magnetic resonance imaging machine, they saw that when study participants ate ice cream, the brain’s orbitofrontal cortex (the part of the brain that lights up when we're happy) showed markedly increased activity. Just one spoonful lit up this special area of the brain, as though the participants had just been given a reward.

If you're an ice cream buff who enjoys eating it as much as you do preparing it, share the study results you've just read with clients, family, and friends. All sweet and fat-containing treats should be consumed in moderation, but you do have a choice with respect to the ingredients you put into your ice cream. By offering clients a wide variety of flavors and textures, you will also enable them to give their mood a boost, since many would argue that ice cream is no less than a reward for those seeking a beautiful moment of comfort in their day.