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What’s healthiest when it comes to cool summer treats?

Wondering which cold treat — ice cream, gelato, sorbet, sherbet or granita — is the best for you nutritionally speaking? This guide will help you decide.

Pistachio gelato

Have you ever stood in the ice cream shop, faced with dozens of choices and different varieties — ice cream, gelato and sorbet — and wondered which sweet treat would be best for you? Perhaps you’re trying to slim down and counting calories, or maybe your biggest concern is sugar and you want to know which one will best suit your dietary needs. This will help guide your choice.


Sorbet is usually made with pureed fruit, water and a sweetener. It can also contain alcohol. Since it’s made with real fruit, it is often perceived as a healthy choice, but this is not necessarily true. Sorbet contains a lot of sugar, and this can cause a spike in your blood sugar level. What sorbet does have going for it is that it does not contain dairy ingredients, which makes it an option for people who are lactose-intolerant.


People often think sorbet and sherbet are the same thing. They are indeed similar in many ways, as sherbet also contains pureed fruit, water and a sweetener. But sherbet usually also contains other ingredients, such as milk or cream, egg whites or gelatin. Given these additional ingredients — namely milk — sherbet is not suitable for anyone who can’t consume dairy products.

Ice cream and gelato

Ice cream and gelato are quite similar. They both contain milk and cream (although ice cream contains more cream, which you might expect, given its name!). Their differences lie in how they are processed, specifically in how they’re churned. Gelato (which is Italian) is churned for a longer time and more slowly, which causes there to be less air in it, making it denser and creamier in texture. Both ice cream and gelato contain more fat than sorbet, but when it comes to the specific breakdown, it can vary greatly from brand to brand, so it’s hard to make a fair comparison.


Like gelato, granita hails from Italy (Sicily, to be specific). It is grainier in texture compared to other cold treats. Made from water, sugar and other flavourings, granita is suitable for anyone who cannot eat dairy products. One way it’s made is by scraping or shaving it as it freezes, creating that coarser texture, but it can also be made in a gelato machine, which results in a smoother, creamier texture. Granita has a more slushy texture and is often served as a palate cleanser between meal courses. Common flavourings include lemon, orange and strawberry, so granita, like sorbet, could be a concern if you’re watching your sugar intake.

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