Truth or Myth: Ice Cream is a Good Source of Calcium


According to MyPlate, ice cream is placed in the milk group and milk products are generally considered to be good sources of calcium. In order to be considered a “good” source of calcium, a food or drink must contain at least 100 milligrams of calcium per serving. Children aged 5 to 8 need 1000 milligrams of calcium a day and children aged 9 to 18 need 1300 milligrams a day. According to Kidshealth.org, “more than 85% of girls and 60% of boys fail to get the recommended 1300 milligrams of calcium per day.” Those numbers are staggering.

Many foods and beverages count as good sources of calcium; some packed with other beneficial nutrients, and some not! Looking at the food label, ice cream can count as a good source of calcium: a 1/2 cup serving, ice cream contains about 85 milligrams of calcium. However, ice cream does not contain an abundance of other beneficial nutrients. It is also high in saturated fat and sugar, which can be unhealthy for our bodies if consumed frequently. High saturated fat intake is related to obesity and cardiovascular disease. Another concern with the consumption of ice cream is the portion size. A serving size of ice cream is only half a cup and ice cream is often consumed in larger amounts in one setting, which increases the calories, saturated fat, and sugar consumed.

The take home message is that ice cream is a good source of calcium, but should be consumed in moderation due to the high fat and sugar content. There are many good sources of calcium available, which are low in fat and sugar, and also potentially high in nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. These include: low fat milk, low fat cheese, low fat yogurt, and green leafy vegetables. Therefore, ice cream should not be the first choice for a parent to provide a child with the calcium they need, but should be eaten only on occasion.

Verdict: Truth, but it is also high in fat and sugar, and low in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Consume in moderation and not as the sole source of calcium.

Amounts of calcium in a variety of foods & drinks:

Food or Drink

Amount of calcium (in mg)

8 oz low fat yogurt

415

8 oz nonfat milk

302

½ cup firm tofu

204

½ cup cooked spinach

120

½ cup boiled turnip greens

99

½ cup vanilla ice cream

85


Source: U.S. Food and Drug Administration, National Institutes of Health