Is Frozen Yogurt Actually Healthier Than Ice Cream?

With the increase in health conscious lifestyles, frozen yogurt has become a popular alternative to ice cream. In fact, CNN reports that about 95 percent of Americans think that frozen yogurt is healthier than ice cream. But is it really?

While ice cream's main ingredient is cream, frozen yogurt is made from cultured milk. Since cultured milk typically contains probiotics, frozen yogurt is thought to help maintain the "good" bacteria in the digestive system and also help boost the immune system (via Insider). CNN reveals that what frozen yogurt lovers don't know is that healthy bacteria in cultured milk can actually be killed off during the freezing process needed to make this dessert. Some manufacturers, in order to make up for the loss, add probiotics back in afterwards, but some don't. Alissa Rumsey, R.D., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, advises that you "look for the 'Live and Active Cultures' seal" to know you're getting the probiotics you think you're getting.

But probiotics aren't the only thing to be considered here. Let's take a look at the sugar content of both treats. A typical serving of frozen yogurt (about one half-cup) carries about 17 grams of sugar. Since yogurt typically has a bit of a tart taste, sugar gets added to balance out the flavor. Compare that to the same serving size of ice cream which has about 14 grams of sugar. Surprised? 

Frozen yogurt does edge out ice cream in the fat category, however, containing only 4 grams to ice cream's 7 grams. Rumsey doesn't necessarily consider more fat to be a bad thing, though, since fat can slow down the body's digestion of sugar, making you feel satisfied longer and avoiding blood sugar spikes that might come with the added sweetness of frozen yogurt. 

Toppings are another hidden villain when it comes to the ice cream versus frozen yogurt war. With frozen yogurt chains giving you carte blanche to add all your favorites, it's pretty easy to go overboard. Rumsey says the large servings are already well over the half-cup recommendation and with unlimited toppings "you'll likely add on another few hundred calories."

So is frozen yogurt actually healthier than ice cream? Ice cream and frozen yogurt turn out to be pretty even competitors. It all comes down to what you enjoy the most and not letting your craving talk you into overindulging. If you eat a reasonable amount (that's one half-cup!), and don't go nuts with toppings, you really can't go wrong.