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Which is healthier: ice cream or sorbet?

Ice cream and sorbet

Ice cream and sorbet are both delicious treats, but which is the healthier choice?

Ice cream

This is typically a mixture of milk, cream and sugar – and the calories and saturated fat vary widely depending on the ratio of each.

The nutrition lowdown

Most ice creams are made using full-fat milk and double cream, so they stack up almost double the calories of a sorbet and significantly more fat. However, dairy ice creams are also higher in most nutrients, especially calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iodine, vitamin A and riboflavin because they contain milk. Lower-fat versions tend to be made from skimmed milk and sweeteners, so they have similar amounts of nutrients but fewer calories, making them a better choice for managing weight, on the ratio of each.


This is made from two main ingredients: sugar and water. Fruit purées or infusions are added to the sugar syrup, then it’s frozen.

The nutrition lowdown

Because it contains little other than water, sugar and some form of fruit, sorbet tends to be much lower in calories and fat than ice cream. But, with the exception of vitamin C, it also tend to be low in nutrients (the amount of vitamin C will vary according to the type and quantity of fruit used). Basically, sorbet provides a heavy dose of sugar with little else!

The verdict

Is not clear-cut. It depends on what your health goals are. If weight loss, cutting calories and a healthier heart are your aims, it makes sense to choose sorbet. But ice cream is more nutritious, with higher levels of some vitamins and minerals (although a small glass of skimmed milk will give you good amounts of these, minus the fat and sugar). Both are high in free sugars, so eat them only as an occasional treat.