Sometimes nothing is more satisfying than a creamy frozen treat.

When you’re looking at options in the grocery store, you may wonder whether frozen yogurt truly is healthier for you than ice cream, as its marketing often claims.

This article compares frozen yogurt and ice cream, including their nutrition and ingredients, to uncover which might be the healthier option.

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Claims that frozen yogurt is ice cream’s healthier cousin focus on frozen yogurt’s probiotic content and lower fat level.

However, the ingredients of the particular brand and flavor of frozen yogurt largely determine whether it’s actually healthier than ice cream.

Ice cream and frozen yogurt share two main ingredients: dairy and sugar. Both also contain flavorings or other swirled-in ingredients.

Unlike ice cream, frozen yogurt incorporates cultured milk, or yogurt. The fat content of the milk largely determines how much overall fat is in the final product.

On the other hand, cream is typically used as the base for ice cream. Air is folded into ice cream during the churning process, and egg yolks may also be added (1).

It’s important to note that some frozen yogurts may contain just as much added sugar as ice cream — even or more — to compensate for the yogurt’s naturally tangy flavor.

Summary

Frozen yogurt and ice cream both contain dairy and sugar. While frozen yogurt uses cultured milk, ice cream uses cream. Frozen yogurt tends to be lower in fat, but it may contain more sugar.

Ice cream and frozen yogurt are made with different ingredients and via different processes.

Fat content

Ice cream should contain at least 10% milk fat to be considered ice cream, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). However, some ice cream can contain up to 25% milk fat (1, 2).

As its name suggests, ice cream uses cream as a base, and this is the source of its milk fat.

The fat in frozen yogurt comes from cultured milk instead. Full fat frozen yogurt typically contains 3–6% milk fat, while low fat frozen yogurt contains 2–4% (1).

Probiotics

To culture the milk for frozen yogurt, pasteurized milk is fermented with a gut-friendly bacteria, typically Lactobacillus bulgaricus or Streptococcus thermophilus (1, 3, 4).

However, unlike the term “ice cream,” the term “frozen yogurt” is not regulated, so there’s no requirement regarding how much yogurt should be in the final product (4, 5).

In contrast to frozen yogurt, ice cream is not made with fermented milk products.

Process

To make ice cream, cream is churned along with sugar, flavorings, and sometimes egg yolks until the mixture is frozen. The amount of air incorporated into the batter is also measured, as it helps impart a fluffy texture (1, 6).

To make frozen yogurt, milk and sugar are heated together, and then active bacterial cultures are added before it’s allowed to cool and ferment. As the mixture freezes, air is folded into it to create a smoother texture (6).

It’s worth noting that frozen yogurt’s beneficial bacterial cultures may be killed during production in the pasteurization or freezing stage (7).

Summary

The main difference between ice cream and frozen yogurt is the dairy base. While ice cream uses cream, frozen yogurt uses cultured milk, which may contain probiotics.

When it comes to nutrition, ice cream and frozen yogurt vary most by their fat and sugar contents.

Below are more details on how 1/2-cup (118-mL) portions of full fat vanilla ice cream and frozen yogurt compare (8, 9):

Vanilla ice creamFrozen yogurt
Weight67 grams87 grams
Calories140111
Carbs16 grams19 grams
Fat7 grams3 grams
Protein3 grams3 grams
Cholesterol10% of the Daily Value (DV)7.5% of DV
Calcium8% of the DV7% of DV
Potassium3% of DV3% of DV
Phosphorus6% of DV6% of DV

Both are decent sources of calcium. Frozen yogurt contains 7% of the Daily Value (DV) and ice cream contains 8% of the DV in a 1/2-cup (118-mL) serving. Calcium is especially important for bone, muscle, and heart health (8, 9, 10).

Neither contains any dietary fiber, which helps promote a healthy gut (11).

It’s also worth noting that both ice cream and frozen yogurt pack lots of calories and sugar.

This is fine for most people to eat every once in a while. However, a diet high in added sugar can harm your health. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans define a diet high in added sugar as one in which added sugar comprises more than 10% of daily calories (12).

A diet high in added sugar can increase your risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (12, 13, 14, 15).

Summary

Frozen yogurt tends to be lower in fat and calories than ice cream, but it could have more added sugar. Both frozen treats are decent sources of calcium but contain no fiber.

Due to its cultured milk content, frozen yogurt typically has a tangier flavor. To balance this, some frozen yogurts contain more added sugar.

Ice cream will generally have a fluffier, softer texture, which comes from the air that’s folded into it during the churning process (1).

Soft-serve versions of both ice cream and frozen yogurt will tend to be smoother than their hard-packed counterparts. However, textures may differ slightly.

Summary

Frozen yogurt is typically tangier and a bit harder, while ice cream is generally sweeter and fluffier.

Ice cream and frozen yogurt are both delicious ways to treat yourself. However, if you eat either, you should do so in moderation.

Both will contribute calcium and protein to your diet. However, they also contain added sugar, which may harm your health.

That said, here are some potential health benefits of frozen yogurt.

Makers of frozen yogurt use active bacterial cultures to ferment the milk. These probiotics may benefit your gut bacteria (3, 16).

Studies have shown that probiotic yogurt may also improve your health by helping reduce your total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. It may also help reduce anxiety and depression (17, 18).

These are just some of the potential health benefits of probiotics. However, it’s important to note that these studies looked at the effects of probiotic yogurt — not frozen yogurt.

Frozen yogurt may not have the same probiotic benefits as non-frozen yogurt, as not all of frozen yogurt’s live cultures may survive the freezing process.

Thus, it’s important to read the label to find out whether the frozen yogurt you’re considering contains live cultures.

If you’re seeking out frozen yogurt purely for its probiotic benefits, you may be better off eating regular yogurt (16).

Another potential benefit of frozen yogurt is its lower lactose content compared with ice cream.

The fermentation process of frozen yogurt may reduce the amount of lactose in the final product. For this reason, people with lactose intolerance may digest frozen yogurt better than ice cream (19).

Summary

Frozen yogurt may have a lower lactose content than ice cream and contain probiotics. However, you’ll get more probiotic benefits by sticking to regular yogurt.

Since ice cream and frozen yogurt contain protein and calcium, they may be a healthier treat choice than candy, chips, or other empty-calorie foods.

However, both frozen treats also deliver added sugars and calories.

Therefore, if you eat them, be sure to indulge only once in a while.

When you’re treating yourself, also consider controlling your portion size and the amount of extra toppings and flavorings you add.

Frozen yogurt, more than ice cream, tends to be sold as a self-serve product with a full toppings bar. This might make it more difficult to gauge the size of your portion.

The average self-serve, soft frozen yogurt container holds 16–24 ounces of the creamy treat, so be careful to limit your portion size. Asking for a child-sized serving container can be a good way to do this.

Furthermore, toppings bars include many high sugar, low nutrient options like candies and syrups. These toppings will add to the overall calorie and added sugar contents.

Instead of adding these, try adding fresh fruit and nuts to make your frozen yogurt more nutritious.

Summary

Ice cream and yogurt both contain added sugar and calories, especially if you include toppings like candy and syrup. Instead, try topping your frozen treat with fruit and nuts to make it more nutritious.

Whether ice cream or frozen yogurt is healthier depends largely on how each is made and what ingredients they contain. Portion size and toppings will also affect the overall nutrition content.

Generally, ice cream has more fat, while frozen yogurt can have more added sugar.

Some but not all frozen yogurt contains probiotics, which are beneficial for the gut. To reap these benefits, look for frozen yogurts that label their products as containing live and active cultures (3, 16).

People with lactose intolerance may prefer frozen yogurt with live cultures because it may have a lower lactose content (19).

If you have diabetes or insulin resistance, you’ll probably want a lower sugar option. In that case, it might make more sense to choose ice cream as an occasional treat. Look for reduced sugar or no-sugar-added varieties.

If you’re limiting your fat intake, frozen yogurt will be a better choice for you. You could also opt for lower fat or nonfat frozen yogurt for an even lighter treat. At the self-serve line, be mindful of your portions and take care not to overfill your cup.

Whether you choose ice cream or frozen yogurt, always check the product label, as every brand and flavor will be different.

Try topping your frozen treat with fresh fruit or nuts to increase its nutrient content.

Summary

Generally, ice cream has more fat, while frozen yogurt may have more sugar. Look for frozen yogurt with live and active cultures for the healthiest option, and opt for fresh fruit and nut toppings.

While ice cream is higher in fat, frozen yogurt can be higher in added sugar. Both use dairy and sugar, although ice cream is made with cream, and frozen yogurt uses cultured milk.

Ice cream tends to be fluffier, while frozen yogurt is tangier. The healthiest frozen yogurt will contain live and active cultures, which are beneficial to your gut.

Every brand and flavor has a different nutrient profile, so check the label and compare your options before buying.

Keep in mind that both ice cream and frozen yogurt both contain sugar and calories, so whichever treat you choose, enjoy it in moderation.