When Dairy Queen founder JF McCullough and his son Alex introduced soft serve ice cream in the 1930s, they had no idea their creation would go on to revolutionize snacking around the world. Today, 70% of America's ice cream servings are soft serve, and unless you're a die hard fan of solid ice cream you can understand the appeal. Soft serve is the perfect way to cool down without giving yourself painful brain freeze.
But fans of the frozen treat should know that it has a downside. To make the gravity-defying spirals we love, ice cream makers have to add some questionable ingredients.
Regular ice cream is very simple: ingredients like milk, cream and sugar are churned until they're frozen, then moved into chilled containers where they harden. Soft serve, on the other hand, is designed to imitate the soft "just-churned" cream.
To keep the ingredients together until it's served to the customer, some very high tech chemistry is involved. Whether it's stored in a powdered form or as a liquid, chains like Dairy Queen use a laundry list of ingredients to keep everything glued together.
The average soft serve contains red seaweed extract, artificial flavors, and products like these:
- Magnesium hydroxide: An inorganic compound used to make laxatives and antacids. You'll also find it in things like deodorant and fire retardants.
- Polysorbate 80: Used to keep the milk and fat from coating each other, this chemical has been linked to infertility in studies with mice.
- Calcium sulfate: While it may be made from animals and plants, this is pretty much the same thing we use for drywall.
Odds are if you're a soft serve fiend nothing could stop you from enjoying a chocolate and vanilla swirl this summer, but it's good to think about the products our food is made from.
There's also a silver lining: soft serve is mainly cream whipped with air, and it can be over 60% air, so you're not getting much of these nasty ingredients.
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