Sorbet, a frozen dessert made from fruit juice, water, and sweetener, offers a refreshing treat on a hot summer day. With its bright colors and sweet, tangy flavors, sorbet appears to be a better-for-you alternative to ice cream. But is sorbet really a healthy choice?
The Difference Between Sorbet and Ice Cream
Sorbet and ice cream may appear similar, but they have some key differences. Ice cream is made from dairy products like cream and milk and contains fat, whereas sorbet is dairy-free. The base of sorbet is fruit juice or puree, water, and sugar or sweetener. This gives it a lighter, fruitier flavor than ice cream.
The main ingredients in sorbet are:
|Sugar or sweetener
|Dairy ingredients like cream, milk, eggs
|Little to no fat
|Higher in fat due to dairy ingredients
The minimal ingredients and lack of dairy give sorbet a lighter, crisper mouthfeel compared to the rich creaminess of ice cream. Sorbet also derives its flavor primarily from fruit, allowing the fresh, bright tastes to shine through.
So without all the fat from dairy products like cream, is sorbet lower in calories and fat than ice cream? Let’s compare the nutrition facts.
Here’s the nutrition information for a 1/2 cup serving of strawberry sorbet versus strawberry ice cream:
|Strawberry Ice Cream
As you can see, sorbet is significantly lower in fat since it contains no dairy ingredients. However, it’s slightly higher in calories and sugar than ice cream due to the large amounts of fruit juice or puree used in the base.
So while sorbet skips the high-fat dairy of ice cream, the trade-off is higher carbs and sugar from the fruit.
Vitamins and Minerals
One benefit that sorbet has over ice cream is the vitamins and minerals that come from fruit. Strawberry sorbet provides a decent amount of vitamin C – 1/2 cup provides over 30% of your Daily Value. Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that supports immune health.
Sorbet can also contain potassium, vitamin A, and some B vitamins from the fruit. These nutrients are lacking in ice cream since it’s made from cream and sugar rather than fruit.
So while sorbet’s vitamins and minerals may not rival fresh fruit, it does pack more nutrition than ice cream thanks to the fruit base.
Light or Regular – Which is Healthier?
If you’re watching your sugar and calorie intake, you may opt for light or low-sugar sorbet. Light sorbet is made with artificial sweeteners instead of sugar, reducing the calorie count.
Here’s how light strawberry sorbet stacks up against regular:
|Light Strawberry Sorbet
|Regular Strawberry Sorbet
As you can see, light sorbet cuts the calories and sugar substantially. But it achieves this by using artificial sweeteners like aspartame, saccharin, or sucralose rather than real fruit sugar.
Some studies link artificial sweeteners to negative health effects like gut bacteria imbalance, increased appetite and cravings for sweet foods, and a higher risk of obesity and related diseases.1
While more research is needed, at this time regular sorbet made with real fruit sugar appears to be the better choice over artificially-sweetened light sorbet.
Homemade vs Store-Bought
One final consideration is homemade sorbet versus store-bought brands. Homemade allows you to control the quality of ingredients:
- Use fresh, ripe fruit – provides more vitamins and antioxidants
- Avoid preservatives or stabilizers
- Use organic ingredients when possible
- Control the sugar content
- Avoid artificial sweeteners, colors, and flavors
Store-bought sorbet may contain preservatives, thickeners, and artificial colors and flavors. It’s also easy to overdo your portion size when eating straight from the carton.
Portion control is easier with homemade sorbet using an ice cream maker – simply scoop it into bowls rather than eating from the container.
So homemade sorbet provides superior nutrition and quality when made properly. But store-bought can still be an occasional treat if you read labels and stick to a reasonable serving size.
Healthy Sorbet Recipe
Here is a simple, healthy recipe to try making sorbet at home:
Simple Berry Sorbet
- 2 cups mixed frozen berries (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc)
- 1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
- 1 cup 100% fruit juice (such as orange, apple, or white grape juice)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Blend all ingredients in a food processor or high-speed blender until smooth.
- Pour mixture into ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer’s directions. Mixture will have a soft serve consistency initially.
- Transfer sorbet into a freezer safe container and freeze for at least 2 hours to harden further.
- Serve and enjoy!
This simple healthy recipe lets the bright fruit flavors shine through. Feel free to get creative and use any combination of berries or other fruits like peaches, mango, or pineapple.
The Bottom Line
Sorbet can be a tasty treat that offers some nutritional benefits from fruit. It’s lower in fat and calories than ice cream, but can be high in sugar without dairy’s protein and nutrients. Overall, sorbet is a better option than ice cream for an occasional frozen dessert thanks to its fresh fruit flavors and lower fat content. Stick to a small portion and savor it as a refreshing finish to a healthy meal.
1Azad, Meghan B., et al. “Nonnutritive sweeteners and cardiometabolic health: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials and prospective cohort studies.” Canadian Medical Association Journal 189.28 (2017): E929-E939.