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[Recipes] Make Your Own Lean, Raw Vegan Ice Cream — And What To Avoid When Buying Dairy-Free Versions

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Let’s be real. Almost EVERYONE has cravings for sweets. I don’t care how clean of an eater you are, there’s always a time when you wish you had a little wiggle room in your diet and could sink your teeth into a warm brownie, that doughnut your coworker brought in, or some other ridiculously naughty concoction.

Conveniently, you might think that reaching for a pint of ‘healthy’ almond, soy, or rice milk ice cream at your local health food store is the best of both worlds. After all, who wouldn’t want to indulge in something that tastes so sinful, yet might actually be good for you?

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but stop right there — ‘healthy’ dairy-alternative ice creams aren’t as great as they’re marketed to be. In fact, most dairy alternatives are likely no healthier than traditional dairy products. Why? Because dairy alternatives are specifically designed for people who have a dairy intolerance or allergy. That means that most almond, soy, or rice milk-based products are no better than traditional milk (unless they’re organic). And more than likely, you’re trading one set of chemicals and additives for another.

If you sincerely DO have an allergy to dairy or other ingredients in traditional ice cream that forces you to look for alternatives (or actually prefer the taste), here’s what you need to know about non-dairy frozen desserts. There’s a hidden truth behind a lot of these products that some food companies conveniently avoid. Here are three sneaky threats lurking within non-dairy frozen desserts.

And even better — I’ll throw in a super clean, all-natural, homemade ice cream recipe that just about anyone can enjoy.


Three Nasty Ingredients To Look For in ‘Healthy’ Ice Creams

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Soybean Oil  Many soy-based ice cream companies use soybean oil as one of the ingredients in their desserts. Even if it’s listed as organic, it’s best to avoid this oil. Why? Because it’s refined! Refined oils are produced in incredibly high-tech laboratories where massive amounts of the ingredient (in this case soy) are compressed at super high temperatures to produce an unnatural, but cheap oil.

Furthermore, high heat processes oxidize the oil. Oxidization creates free radicals — the same free radicals that damage DNA and cause premature aging. Soybean oil, and even organic soybean oil, is basically liquid free radicals. Is this really an appropriate ingredient in a ‘healthy’ frozen dessert?


Carrageenan  This tricky ingredient is in far more ice creams, desserts, and dairy-alternatives than you would think, and even traditional dairy ice creams. Extracted ‘naturally’ from a red seaweed plant, carrageenan is an additive included to thicken frozen desserts, giving them that creamy texture. But studies indicate that carrageenan may have detrimental side effects. Ranging from abdominal discomfort to cancer (yes, cancer), more and more studies are exploring the potential health hazards of this additive. A recent study stated that:

“The common food additive carrageenan is a known activator of inflammation in mammalian tissues and stimulates both the canonical and noncanonical pathways of NF-κB activation. Exposure to low concentrations of carrageenan (10μg/mL in the water supply) has produced glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, and impaired insulin signaling in C57BL/6 mice. B-cell leukemia/lymphoma 10 (Bcl10) is a mediator of inflammatory signals from Toll-like receptor (TLR) 4 in myeloid and epithelial cells.”1

This basically indicates that carrageenan plays mind games when it comes to your brain and sugar, causing you to consume more than you normally would. Again, is this really an ingredient that should be included in healthy frozen desserts?


Soy Lecithin — This ingredient is commonly found in frozen desserts made with rice milk. Soy lecithin is used to thicken and keep the ingredients of a food item intact. In terms of ice cream, soy lecithin keeps the milk combined with the sugar and other ingredients. But why exactly is it bad? It’s derived from soybean oil, the same kind of refined soybean oil mentioned above. Soy is one of the cheapest crops out there, and as a result dozens if not hundreds of food additives are soy based.

Even worse, there’s a very high chance that soy lecithin has GMOs. Unless the food specifically says it’s GMO-Free, almost all soybeans have GMOs in them. What kills me the most is that soy lecithin is allowed in organic items. Check out this ‘organic’ vanilla rice milk frozen dessert. Sure, it might be organic, but it’s also full of organic refined oils and obscure additives; the same things we just discussed avoiding. Just because it’s organic doesn’t always mean healthy.


Make Your Own Guilt Free, Lean, Raw Vegan Banana ‘Ice Cream’

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I’d be a real cynic to bash and hate on all of your favorite dairy-free desserts and not provide an alternative that’s easy and delicious. It’s no new news that vegetarians, vegans, raw foodists, and paleo dieters alike have been using frozen bananas to make ice cream for quite a while.

I love this dessert because you know exactly what’s in it. There are no gimmicks, guesswork, or intense scrutinization over a nutritional label. For the best dairy-free ice cream money can buy, try this super simple recipe.

Ingredients (serves 2):

  • 4 bananas, peeled, chopped into chunks, and frozen
  • A splash (1-2 tbsp) of water (optional)
  • Optional — 70% cacao dark chocolate chips, raw coconut flakes, almond butter, peanut butter



  • (1) Remove the bananas from the freezer and allow them to thaw for 10 minutes.
  • (2) Blend them in a high speed blender (like a Vitamix or Ninja) until thick and creamy.
  • (3) If you’re noticing that the bananas keep getting stuck, or are still a little too frozen, add a splash of water to facilitate the blending process.


And there you have it! The basic ice cream recipe is simple and easy — it’s literally just straight bananas. If you’re feeling adventurous, feel free to jazz up this dessert with other goodies. Here are two guilt-free recipes to get you started:

  • Samoa Girl Scout Cookie — mix in 1 tbsp. of raw almond butter to the banana ice cream. Top with 2 tbsps. of raw coconut flakes and 1 tsp. of 70% cacao dark chocolate chips.
  • Peanut Butter Cup — mix in 2 tbsps. of raw/natural peanut butter to the banana ice cream. Melt 2 tbsps. of 70% cacao dark chocolate chips and drizzle on top.


Taji Mortazavi

Taji Mortazavi

Contributing Author at LeanItUP
Taji Mortazavi is the founder of We're Talking About Food. Devoted to democratizing health, Taji believes that anyone CAN live a healthy lifestyle regardless of medical condition, career, budget or other secondary factors.

Besides contributing to Lean it UP, Taji has been published for her health and fitness advice in journals like Thought Catalog. Taji has been supported by numerous health and fitness companies such as Navitas Naturals, Glutino, and Holystic Hut. Support Taji by visiting her site and finding her on Facebook and Twitter.
Taji Mortazavi
Follow Lean It UP on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest for real-time fitness/nutrition tips, advice, info and updates.


References, Notes, Links

  1. Sumit Bhattacharyya, Liquan Xue, […], and Joanne K. Tobacman. Carrageenan-Induced Colonic Inflammation Is Reduced in Bcl10 Null Mice and Increased in IL-10-Deficient Mice. Mediators Inflamm, 2013;397642 []


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