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Did you know that ice cream is more than 50% air? Do you even know what gelato even really means? Of course they are both amazingly great cold treats that you want to cheat on your diet with.

What is gelato anyway?

Gelato in gelateria
Many people think that gelato means ice cream in Italian which is not quite true, it actually means frozen. But in the USA you cannot label ice cream unless it has at least 10% butter fat, gelato does not have that much butter fat. In Europe ice cream and gelato are pretty much interchangeable words.

Gelato is similar to ice cream, but uses way less butter fat, usually around 7% or less. It also has much less air incorporated into the mix. Gelato has about 25-30% air, about half what ice cream does. That is what gives gelato the totally unique taste and it is lower in fat, and usually lower in sugar depending on what flavors you choose or what topping you add.

Gelato is also served at a much lower temperature than ice cream, because of the lower fat and air content it would too hard to serve at the temperatures of ice cream. It also tends to have a more intense flavor because there is less butter fat to coat your taste buds so you taste the flavor much more.

Gelato dates back to at least the late 1500’s

The Medici family paid the famous Bernardo Buontalenti for a feast preparation for the King of Spain’s visit to Italy. What he prepared with his culinary expertise was the creamy frozen treat that we now call gelato. Buontalenti is touted as the gelato inventor. But it was not Buontalenti who made gelato famous, Francesco Procopio dei Coltelli through his restaurant made gelato famous throughout Europe.

Ice Cream is less than you think it is!

gelato al gusto di caffè
So more than 50% air, and you thought your bag of chips was disappointing. But if you love the taste of heavy cream than ice cream is your choice for the rich flavor and creaminess of butter fat. The flip side of the coin is that ice cream because of the air is less dense than gelato the same amount of ounces of ice cream by weight is nearly the same in fat, sugar and calories as gelato.

Which is honestly healthier?

That is a huge controversy in which is healthier, ice cream or gelato. Consider this example, a 3 1/2 oz serving of each:

Vanilla ice cream

125 calories

7 grams of fat

14 grams of sugar


90 calories

3 grams of fat

10 grams of sugar

It just depends what you are concerned about in your treats; calories, fat or sugar. Some people prefer one or the other because of the flavor or texture differences. It really is a preference type of choice. Now if you are going to sit down and eat a half gallon you probably want to choose gelato so you feel less guilty. If eaten in small servings once in awhile for a treat either one seems to be just that a treat.