As the summer reaches peak temperatures in July, Americans look for a way to cool off. What better way to beat the heat than enjoying the nation’s favorite frozen treat with friends and family and celebrating National Ice Cream Month!

The origin of ice cream dates back to the second century B.C., with Romans enjoying harvested ice and snow flavored with honey. Fast forward to 1744, when ice cream officially made its appearance in the United States.

Ice cream began as an occasional special treat enjoyed mainly by the wealthy until 1943, when Nancy Johnson patented the hand-crank ice cream maker.

Eight years later, Jacob Fussell built the first ice cream factory, and Americans have been savoring the frozen dessert ever since, causing President Ronald Reagan to declare July as National Ice Cream Month in 1984.

Since its debut, ice cream consumption has continued to grow. Ten percent of the nation’s milk supply goes to making ice cream.

The classic treat has different generations calling for their favorite flavors. Millennials are more likely to request cookies ‘n cream and cookie dough flavors, while Generation X and Baby Boomers enjoy the ever popular and classic chocolate ice cream.

As food trends emerge, ice cream continues to evolve, and new flavors follow suit with appearances in local ice cream shops, as well as the frozen food aisle. From chocolate chili to candied bacon, there is no limit to ice cream’s versatility as a dessert.

The ice cream case has also expanded to meet dietary concerns and needs. Low-carbohydrate, fat-free, low-calorie, gluten-free and lactose-free options are available at many grocery stores.

No matter the type you choose, dairy desserts offer a dose of the nutrients found in milk, plus great taste. Self-proclaimed ice cream lovers may find it easy to finish an entire carton in one sitting.

While ice cream contains calcium, high-quality protein and other essential vitamins and minerals, these nutrients are less concentrated in ice cream than in milk, yogurt and cheese. However, when enjoyed in moderation, ice cream can be part of a healthy eating plan.

So, no matter the type of ice cream you choose, you can relax and chill out this summer, knowing that scoop of your favorite flavor offers delicious taste and a dose of nutrition.

Monica Nyman is a senior nutrition educator for the St. Louis District Dairy Council. Get dairy-rich recipes or additional information about the council at www.stldairycouncil.org.

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