‘The prospects are tantalizing’: Prebiotic fiber can make low-calorie ice cream as creamy as the full-fat stuff

The study also suggested that combining multiple types of dietary fibers can bring about a multitude of sensory and physical benefits, with a potential to elevate the low-cal ice cream category to neigh heights.

Dietary fiber promotes gut health and immunity and is mostly found in plant foods, such as fruit, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. In ice cream, dietary fibers are used as fat replacers, but their effects on ice cream’s sensory profile have been less well-documented.

Dietary fibers also have functional benefits, making them a sought-after ingredient in food products targeting health-conscious consumers. Meanwhile, nutritional research has found that the Western diet is associated with a lower intake of dietary fibers and an increased risk of chronic illnesses like obesity, diabetes and cancer[1]​​. In the US, for example, the low consumption of dietary fiber is a public health concern[2]​​.

With health and wellness being a main trend topic in the food and beverage industry in recent years, the potential of low-calorie ice cream has been bolstered, but formulators often face challenges in creating low-fat options that are as palatable as the full-fat alternatives on the market. For example, achieving the right consistency with minimal fat content may require the use of artificial emulsifiers, which could compromise clean-label claims.

Researchers from Italy’s University of Verona and the Free University of Bolzano-Bozen investigated how adding dietary fibers – specifically, inulin, acacia, oat and apple – to low-fat vanilla ice cream affected the ice cream’s viscosity, freeze and melt temperature range, flavor and color.