banana stem, rachis The rachis, or stem, the bananas grow on contain cellulose nanofibers that can be added to ice cream. (Photo: Vencentchuls/Shutterstock)

Ice cream melts at a slower rate when it contains less fat and more water, which is why lower-fat milk is often used to make it. Unfortunately, that can also mean the treat will be less creamy.

But researchers may have found a natural way to make ice cream melt at a slower rate even if it's made with low-fat milk. The solution? Bananas, or more specifically, the cellulose nanofibers (CNFs) extracted from banana waste, according to Phys.org.

The process starts with banana rachis, or stems. When bananas are harvested, their stems often go to waste. Researchers extracted CNFs from ground-up banana rachis that would otherwise go to waste. These fibers are "thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair."

They added the CNFs to 100 grams of ice cream in different concentrations that ranged from zero to three-tenths of a gram. Using analytical tools, they looked at the affect of added CNFs in ice cream.

Slower melting ice cream and more

kids ice cream cones A natural way to keep ice cream from dripping on kids' clothes would be welcome. (Photo: Blend Images/Shutterstock)

Researchers found that the ice cream with the CNFs tended to melt much more slowly than traditional ice creams. Another positive finding was that the CNFs made the texture of low-fat ice creams seem creamier, meaning those lower in fat and calories had a more satisfying texture.

They also found that ice cream in its container had a decreased sensitivity to temperature changes when it was moved in and out of the freezer. When ice cream — particularly low-fat ice cream — melts a little and then is refrozen, it can form ice crystals, which aren't particularly appetizing. The CNFs may help prevent those ice crystals.

As with most studies, researchers say more research is needed, and they want to explore how CNF's could affect other fats found in frozen treats. In the meantime, we can contemplate the possibility of a world with fewer chocolate ice cream stains in it, not to mention more satisfying ice cream for those watching their calorie intake.

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

Bananas may be the key to less melty ice cream
Cellulose nanofibers in banana stems or rachis could make ice cream even better, say researchers.