Ice cream isn't known for its health benefits and it's considered more of an indulgence and comfort food than a functional one. And it also seems like it would be hard to improve on. But a team of US researchers is developing a way to make ice cream not only tastier, but healthier and more satisfying.

By adding nutrients such as fiber, antioxidants and probiotics (beneficial bacteria), certain types of ice cream could soon become functional foods, according to University of Missouri (MU) researchers.

Functional foods are defined as processed foods that have ingredients added that aid in certain physiological functions.

"Our major challenges are texture, flavor and psychological acceptance," said Ingolf Gruen, professor of food chemistry at MU and lead researcher of the project, in a news realease. "The nutrients we add often have bitter tastes and affect the texture of ice cream that we have to mask."

According to Gruen, strong flavors like chocolate could hide the taste of the nutrients.

Some of the nutrients that could be added include probiotics and fiber intended to promote digestive health. Probiotics are known to fight inflammation that starts in the small intestine and that can lead to a number of digestive diseases.

The researchers are also considering adding the acai berry and cast-off grapes from wine manufacturing because of their beneficial antioxidant properties.

In as a little as six months, they could have a prototype of a healthy ice cream, they say.

http://munews.missouri.edu

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