Protein ice cream is like standard ice cream, but with extra protein to up the nutrition content. Some protein ice creams also use sugar substitutes to reduce the sugar content, which is fairly high in traditional ice cream.
While a protein ice cream is no replacement for a high quality protein supplement, it’s still a great way to make even your treats and desserts more beneficial for health and performance gains.
If you are looking to have a healthier dessert with more protein and less sugar, read on. We’ve ranked the ten best protein ice creams on the market.
1. FitFreeze Ice Cream Mix
FitFreeze Ice Cream Mix is a powder that you mix up with water and crushed ice, then freeze to make homemade ice cream.
It uses whey protein, milk protein, and a blend of fibers to deliver an impressive 15 grams of protein per serving, with only five grams of sugar.
The balance of the sweetener comes from the Stevia plant. It’s also very low in lactose, so people with mild to moderate lactose intolerance can still enjoy this ice cream.
That’s a strength and a weakness, however—FitFreeze also doesn’t have the health benefits of natural milk that you’d get with a milk-based ice cream. Still, thanks to its all-natural approach and ease of use, FitFreeze Ice Cream Mix is our top pick.
2. Halo Top Ice Cream
Halo Top Ice Cream is a great all-natural ice cream that’s also low in sugar and high in protein.
The primary source of additional protein comes in the form of eggs and whey, while the sugar is replaced with a mix of erythritol, stevia, and chicory root to give it a sweetness almost indistinguishable from real ice cream, but with only five grams of sugar per serving.
Each serving also has six grams of protein plus three grams of fiber.
3. Enlightened Vanilla
Enlightened vanilla is one of the healthiest ice creams out there, as it uses skim milk for less fat, milk protein isolate for lots of high-quality protein, and erythritol and monk fruit extract for more sweetness with less sugar.
Each serving has five grams of fiber, three grams of sugar, and six grams of protein, making it an exceptionally high quality protein ice cream product.
4. Newa Nutrition High Protein Ice Cream Mix
Newa Nutrition High Protein Ice Cream Mix is an instant ice cream powder that’s fortified with whey protein concentrate and egg white powder for a strong dose of protein.
Each serving has an impressive 14.5 grams of protein, and only eight grams of carbohydrates total. The sweetness comes from a combination of stevia and sucralose, and there are no artificial sweeteners, flavors, or coloring agents, making it a solid choice for a high protein ice cream
5. Magic Cup Fortified Nutrition Wild Berry
Magic Cup Fortified Nutrition Wild Berry is specially formulated for people who are on restricted diets: it tries to pack all the nutrients you’d normally get in a healthy diet into a frozen but softly-textured ice-cream like product.
It tastes quite a lot like real ice cream, but it is fortified with milk protein, vitamins, and minerals to give it a calorically dense nutritional punch.
Unfortunately, it dervies a lot of its caloric content (and sweetness) from high fructose corn syrup, so if you are looking to keep the sugar content low, this is not the right product for you.
6. Arctic Zero Ice Cream
Arctic Zero Ice Cream uses a mixture of whey protein, cane sugar, and chicory root, along with monk fruit for extra sweetness, to make an ice cream that’s completely fat-free and contains only 37 calories per serving.
Unfortunately, the fiber content is low, and the protein content (3.4 grams per serving) is mediocre, despite the fact that whey protein concentrate is the second ingredient (after water).
Arctic Zero Ice Cream is a good option for low calorie ice cream, but if you really want to up the protein content, you should look for another option.
7. Quest Nutrition Vanilla Milkshake Protein
Quest Nutrition Vanilla Milkshake Protein is another ‘next-best-thing’ to real protein ice cream. This protein powder mixes up into a sweet and creamy shake that’s got zero grams of sugar and 22 grams of protein per serving.
Like other specialty protein powders, it is almost devoid of fiber, which might be a downside for some people.
However, the lack of sugar (it uses stevia and sucralose instead) and the lack of a need to freeze makes it a good alternative if you want the benefits of high protein ice cream while on the go.
8. LC-Chocolate Ice Cream
LC-Chocolate Ice Cream has jumped on the healthy ice cream bandwagon, and it is indeed low in carbohydrates: thanks to the chicory root, erythritol, and stevia included in the mix, each serving only has 7.8 grams of carbohydrates total.
However, despite the fact that the first ingredient is whey protein isolate, there’s less than two grams of protein per serving, so it’s a poor choice if your objective is to increase protein intake as well as decreasing carb and sugar intake.
9. FinaFlex Clear Protein
If you want the flavor and benefits of high protein ice cream but can’t keep it frozen, the next best thing is ice cream flavored protein, and FinaFlex does the best job of making a protein powder that mixes up just like ice cream or a milkshake.
When served cold, this vanilla flavored powder delivers massive amounts of protein and exactly the sweet, vanilla flavor you’d get in a protein ice cream, without the inconvenience of having to keep it frozen all the time.
10. Astronaut Ice Cream
Astronaut Ice Cream is one of the original alternative ice cream formulations, and though it does include whey, it’s mostly for texture and taste, not for protein content.
Unfortunately, despite the novelty and ready to use nature of Astronaut Ice Cream, it’s still high in sugar and fairly low in protein (just two grams per serving).
Protein ice cream benefits and side effects
Protein ice cream is a healthier version of normal ice cream: as the name suggests, it’s fortified with protein, and many of the best brands also swap out much or all of the sugar for alternatives like stevia or sucralose that don’t have the same negative health effects as sugar.
Some protein ice creams even reduce or eliminate the fat content, which comes from the cream included in traditional ice cream.
Regardless of the specific formulation, the primary benefits of protein ice cream revolve around the substantial increase in protein content and decrease in sugar content per serving.
We’ll take a closer look at some of the potential benefits and side effects of protein ice cream.
Increasing protein intake and decreasing carbohydrate intake can increase feelings of fullness. A lot of nutrition research has focused on the relative benefits of swapping out one nutrient for another, since when you tell people to eat less of something (refined carbohydrates, say), they’re bound to eat more of something else.
So, with protein ice cream, the obvious question is, “is it better to eat more protein (from whey or milk) and less sugar?”
Scientific research suggests that it is indeed better. A study published in 2007 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition specifically looked at the relative effects of increasing whey protein intake while simultaneously decreasing carbohydrate intake (1).
Whey protein is the ingredient most often used in protein ice cream to up the protein content.
In this study, the researchers found that increasing whey protein intake leads to a substantial increase in satiety, which is the technical term for fullness.
In turn, this increase in satiety leads to less food intake at subsequent meals, and creates an overall effect of caloric deficit, which is great if you are trying to lose weight.
The benefits of whey in particular seem to have to do with the peptide content, as well as whey protein’s unique interplay with the hormone insulin.
Upping your protein intake can help you maintain your weight after successful weight loss. Since greater protein intake seems to be related to food intake at later meals, there’s an obvious implication that greater protein intake could help you lose weight and keep it off too..
Scientific research published by a team of researchers at Maastricht University in The Netherlands tested this proposition.
The researchers gathered 113 overweight people who followed a very low energy diet for four weeks, followed by a six month weight maintenance period (2).
All subjects completed the same weight loss program, but were randomly assigned into two groups: one added 30 grams of protein to their daily diet, while the other group added nothing to their daily diet.
After six months, the researchers found that those in the high protein group were much more successful at maintaining their weight loss.
They gained less weight and experienced a decrease in waist circumference. Moreover, the weight that they did regain was exclusively in the form of lead body mass (i.e. muscle), whereas the people in the control group were regaining fat mass as well.
Increasing dairy intake and decreasing sugar intake can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. High sugar intake is one of the best-established risk factors for type 2 diabetes, which leads many people to replace table sugar with erythritol or other non caloric sweetening agents.
But research also suggests that increasing dairy intake could independently decrease your risk for type 2 diabetes.
A study published in the scientific journal Diabetes Care looked at data on dietary intake and risk of type 2 diabetes in almost 40,000 women who were followed for ten years (3).
After adjusting for potentially confounding factors like weight, smoking status, and physical activity levels, the researchers found that the women who consumed the most dairy had a 21% decrease in risk for type 2 diabetes compared to the women who consumed the least.
This suggests that protein ice cream has a double benefit, as a high quality product will help you both decrease your sugar intake and increase your intake of dairy-based protein.
As a dairy based product, protein ice cream is likely to provoke symptoms in people who are lactose intolerant, unless they also take a lactase supplement prior to eating protein ice cream.
While the lactose content may not be as large as in traditional ice cream, it can still cause problems for people with intolerances or allergies.
A few brands of protein ice cream rely mostly on sugar alcohols for their sweetness, which can cause an upset stomach or other gastrointestinal problems in people who are particularly susceptible to sugar alcohols.
Most protein ice creams, though, use a blend of sugar alcohols and other non caloric sweeteners like stevia or monk fruit extract, so the risk of experiencing side effects is low.
Protein ice cream is a great way to swap out a food with low nutritional value (regular ice cream) for something that’s more healthy.
The fact that you are lowering your refined carbohydrate intake while increasing your protein intake has numerous health benefits.
The lower sugar content and high protein content in a high quality protein ice cream work together to help you feel more full, maintain weight loss, and even reduce your risk for type two diabetes.
People who have lactose intolerance might want to take a lactase supplement before eating protein ice cream, and if you are especially sensitive to sugar alcohols, you should limit your intake, but aside from these special cases, protein ice cream is a well-tolerated way to have a healthier and more beneficial dessert.