The health benefits of popular foods

    May 30, 2018
    Though the field of medicine continues to advance and branch out in many ways, nutritionists and health experts continue to praise the benefits of certain foods. In fact, eating healthfully has been shown to reduce the risk of obesity, cardiovascular illnesses, and even certain types of cancer.

    However, understanding which foods to eat for specific benefits can sometimes be difficult, which is why Medical News Today previously supplied a list of the top 10 healthy foods.

    Now, MNT specifies the health benefits of a much wider range of foods.

    We provide a cornucopia of delicious and nutritious options for individuals who wish to boost their health by eating healthfully.

    Below is a list of foods along with information regarding their potential health benefits.

    Note that this article contains summaries and you should click through to read individual articles containing the full list of possible health benefits.



    Almonds are a rich source of vitamin E, coppermagnesium, good quality protein, and healthy unsaturated fatty acids.

    Studies have revealed that almonds can potentially help prevent cardiovascular diseases, cut the risk of cancer, and help prolong life.

    Read more about almonds.


    Apple and apple slices

    Apples are sometimes called “nutritional powerhouses” because of their impressive nutritional profile.

    Apples contain about 14 percent of our daily needs of Vitamin C (a powerful natural antioxidant), B-complex vitamins, dietary fiber, phytonutrients (which help protect the body from the detrimental effects of free radicals), and minerals such as calcium and potassium.

    Studies have revealed that eating apples can potentially help prevent dementia and reduce the risk of stroke and diabetes.

    Read more about apples.



    Along with other leafy greens, arugula contains very high nitrate levels (more than 250 milligrams per 100 grams). High intakes of dietary nitrate have been shown to lower blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen needed during exercise, and enhance athletic performance.

    The potential health benefits of arugula include lowering the risk of cancer, preventing osteoporosis, and improving muscle oxygenation during exercise.

    Read more about arugula.



    Asparagus is very rich in dietary fiber and contains high levels of vitamin B6, calcium, zinc, and magnesium.

    The potential health benefits of asparagus include: reducing the risk of diabetes, preventing kidney stones, and lowering the risk of neural tube defects in babies.

    Asparagus is also a natural diuretic, which can help with fluid balance in the body and influence blood pressure and edema.

    Read more about asparagus.



    Bananas are naturally free of fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and very rich in potassium.

    The potential health benefits of bananas include: lowering blood pressure, reducing the risk of developing childhood leukemia, and supporting heart health.

    Read more about bananas.


    Basil leaves

    Basil is rich in vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, magnesium, iron, potassium, and calcium.

    Studies have revealed that basil can potentially reduce inflammation and swelling, prevent the harmful effects of aging, and may be useful in treating arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases.

    Read more about basil.



    Beetroot, also known simply as the beet, has been gaining in popularity as a new super food due to recent studies claiming that beets and beetroot juice can improve athletic performance, lower blood pressure and increase blood flow.

    This is partly due to its high content of nitrates, which increase nitric oxide in the body and play a substantial role in heart and vascular health.

    Beetroot is a rich source of folate and manganese, and also contains thiamine, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, pantothenic acid, choline, betaine, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, and selenium.

    Read more about beetroot.

    Bok choy

    bok choy

    Bok choy belongs to the cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, rutabaga, and turnips.

    These nutrition powerhouses supply loads of nutrients for little calories. If you are trying to eat healthier, cruciferous vegetables like bok choy should be at the very top of your grocery list.

    Read more about bok choy.


    Ripe broccoli

    Broccoli contains high levels of fiber (both soluble and insoluble) and is a rich source of vitamin C.

    In addition, broccoli is rich in vitamin A, iron, vitamin K, B-complex vitamins, zinc, phosphorus, and phytonutrients.

    Studies have found that broccoli can potentially help prevent osteoarthritis, protect skin against the effects of UV light, reverse diabetes heart damage, and reduce bladder cancer risk.

    Read more about broccoli.



    Cantaloupes are also commonly known as muskmelons, mush melons, rock melons, and Persian melons. They are a member of the botanical family Cucurbitaceae, along with honeydew and watermelons.

    Cantaloupe contains an abundance of antioxidants, including choline, zeaxanthin, and beta-carotene, all of which protect against a range of diseases and conditions from the common cold to cancer.

    Potential health benefits of cantaloupe include lowering risk of developing asthma, managing blood pressure, aiding digestion, keeping hydrated, and reducing inflammation.

    Read more about cantaloupe.



    Carrots are a great source of vitamin A. They provide 210 percent of an average adult’s needs for the day.

    The potential health benefits of carrots include: preventing lung cancer, destroying leukemia cells and inhibiting their progression, and helping to restore vision.

    Read more about carrots.



    Cauliflowers are a member of the brassica family, more commonly known as cruciferous vegetables.

    They contain antioxidants and phytonutrients that can protect against cancer.

    They also contain fiber that helps with satiety, weight loss, and a healthy digestive tract, choline that is essential for learning and memory, as well as many other important nutrients.

    The potential health benefits of cauliflower include preventing mutations and reducing stress from free radicals, preventing constipation, and helping memory.

    Read more about cauliflower.



    Celery is a very rich source of antioxidants, electrolytes, and vitamin K. Also, thanks to its high water content, it can help rehydrate.

    The potential health benefits of celery include: lowering blood pressure, preventing cancer, and soothing joint pain.

    Read more about celery.



    Originally cultivated in the Mediterranean and the Middle East, chickpeas, also known as garbanzo beans, have spread their culinary influence throughout the world.

    The potential health benefits of chickpeas include improved glucose levels, lipids, and insulin levels for diabetes, maintaining bone strength and heart health.

    Read more about chickpeas.


    Bunch of chives

    Chives are a nutrient-dense food, meaning that while they are low in calories, they are high in beneficial nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

    The potential health benefits of chives include potential beneficial and preventative effects against cancer, prostate cancer, esophageal and stomach cancer, and positive effects on sleep and mood.

    Read more about chives.



    Chocolate is rich in antioxidants. Despite its bad reputation for causing weight gain, there are a number of health benefits associated with its consumption (particularly dark chocolate).

    The potential benefits of eating chocolate include: lowering cholesterol levels, preventing cognitive decline, and reducing the risk of cardiovascular problems.

    Read more about chocolate.



    Known as coriander in the United Kingdom, cilantro comes from the plant Coriandrum sativum. In the United States, the leaves of the plant are referred to as cilantro (the Spanish translation), and the seeds are referred to as coriander.

    Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like cilantro decreases the risk of obesity, overall mortality, diabetes, and heart disease while promoting a healthy skin and hair, increased energy, and overall lower weight.

    Read more about cilantro.


    Cinnamon sticks

    Studies have found that cinnamon can potentially be effective against HIV, improve glucose and lipid levels in patients with type 2 diabetes, help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, and stop the destructive process of multiple sclerosis (MS).

    In addition, researchers at Penn State found that consuming cinnamon can help reduce the body’s negative responses to eating high-fat meals.

    Read more about cinnamon.



    Coffee is one of the main sources of antioxidants in the U.S. population.

    The potential health benefits of drinking coffee in moderation include: protecting against type 2 diabetespreventing Parkinson’s disease, lowering the risk of liver cancer, preventing liver disease, and promoting good heart health.

    Read more about coffee.

    Collard greens

    Collard greens

    Collard greens are part of the cruciferous vegetable family, which also includes kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, rutabaga, and turnips.

    Collard greens are an extremely rich source of vitamin K and also contain folate, thiamin, niacin, pantothenic acid, choline, phosphorus, and potassium.

    Health benefits of collard greens may include assisting with bone health, reducing cancer risk, helping lower glucose levels in those with diabetes, and improving sleep and mood.

    Read more about collard greens.



    Cranberries are a good source of vitamin C, fiber, and vitamin E.

    Studies have found that cranberries can potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), slow tumor progression, prevent urinary tract infections, and benefit oral health by preventing bacteria from binding to teeth.

    Read more about cranberries.


    Edamame beans and pods.

    Edamame is a young soybean that has been harvested before the beans have had a chance to harden. They can be bought shelled or in the pod, fresh or frozen.

    The potential health benefits of edamame include maintaining a healthy blood pressure, helping with depression, promoting fertility, and decreasing bone loss.

    Read more about edamame.



    The eggplant, also known as aubergine, garden egg, guinea squash, melongene, and brinjal, is usually distinguishable by its signature egg-like shape and vibrant purple color.

    The potential health benefits of eggplant include supporting heart health, maintaining weight and blood cholesterol levels, and anti-cancer effects.

    Read more about eggplant.



    Flaxseed is not only “an excellent source of two fatty acids that are essential for human health – linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid,” but also “an excellent source of fiber and a good source of minerals and vitamins,” according to the American Nutrition Association.

    The potential health benefits associated with flaxseed include: lowering cholesterol, protecting against cancer, preventing hot flashes, and improving blood sugar levels.

    Read more about flaxseed.



    Garlic is widely used for several conditions linked to the blood system and heart.

    Studies have found that garlic can potentially be a very powerful antibiotic, help protect the heart during cardiac surgery and after a heart attack, lower the risk of developing lung cancer, and reduce high cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

    Read more about garlic.



    Ginger contains a chemical that is used as an ingredient in antacid, laxative, and anti-gas medications.

    Studies have found that ginger can potentially prevent inflammation of the colon, reduce exercise-induced muscle pain, help alleviate nausea caused by chemotherapy, and reduce the severity of period pains.

    Read more about ginger.



    The portability, texture, flavor, and variety of grapes have made them a popular finger food in countries all over the world.

    Studies have associated grapes with the prevention of cancer, heart disease, high blood pressure, and constipation as well as decreasing the risk of obesity and overall mortality.

    Read more about grapes.



    Grapefruits are low in calories but full of nutrients. They support clear, healthy skin, help to lower the risk of many diseases and conditions and may even help with weight loss as part of an overall healthy and varied diet.

    The potential health benefits of grapefruit include boosting weight loss, maintaining healthy blood pressure and heart health, and combating free radicals.

    Read more about grapefruit.

    Green Tea

    Green tea

    Green tea may well be one of the world’s healthiest drinks and contains the highest amount of antioxidants of any tea.

    Studies have found that drinking green tea is associated with a reduced risk of stroke, and may help fight prostate cancer.

    Read more about green tea.



    Honey possesses antiseptic and antibacterial properties.

    Studies have found that honey can potentially help prevent GERD (gastroesophageal reflux), shorten the duration of bacterial diarrheahelp heal burns, minimize seasonal allergies, and fight off infections.

    Read more about honey.



    Kale is a great source of vitamin K, vitamin A, beta-carotene, calcium, and vitamin C.

    The potential health benefits of kale include: reducing the risk of certain cancers, lowering the risk of coronary artery disease, and lowering levels of bad cholesterol.

    Read more about kale.



    Kiwis are a nutrient dense food, meaning they are high in nutrients and low in calories. The kiwifruit is higher in vitamin C per ounce than most other fruits.

    The potential health benefits of eating kiwis include: maintaining healthy skin tone and texture, reducing blood pressure, and preventing heart disease and stroke.

    Read more about kiwifruit.



    The mango is a member of the drupe family, a type of plant food in which an outer fleshy part surrounds a shell (what we sometimes call a pit) with a seed inside. Olives, dates, and coconuts are also types of drupes.

    Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like mangoes decreases the risk of obesity and overall mortality, diabetes, heart disease, and promotes a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy, overall lower weight.

    Read more about mango.



    Dairy products, like milk, are a great dietary source of calcium. Calcium has many functions in the body, but its primary job is the development and maintenance of healthy bones and teeth.

    Calcium is also important for blood-clotting and wound-healing, maintaining normal blood pressure, and muscle contractions, including heartbeat.

    Milk also provides magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin A, riboflavin, vitamins B-6 and B-12.

    The potential health benefits of milk include: maintaining bone, blood pressure, and heart health, and providing an increase in vitamin D. Deficiency in vitamin D has been associated with depression, chronic fatigue, and PMS.

    Read more about milk.

    Milk alternatives

    Coconut milk

    There are many reasons you might search for an alternative for dairy, the most common being allergies and lactose intolerance.

    Some people choose to not consume dairy to follow a vegan diet, which avoids any foods that come from an animal, including milk, cheese, eggs, and honey.

    Others may cut dairy out of their diet to avoid hormones and antibiotics in conventional milk, as an acne treatment, or when following the popular “Paleo” diet.

    Soy isoflavones have been shown to be beneficial in preventing heart disease, and at least 10 milligrams per day can decrease breast cancer recurrence by 25 percent. Increased soy consumption may be beneficial for menopausal women.

    Read more about alternatives to milk.



    Mint, also known as mentha, is actually a genus of around 15-20 types of plants including peppermint and spearmint. Mint oil is often used in toothpaste, gum, candy, and beauty products while the leaves are used either fresh or dried for teas and food.

    Mint has one of the highest antioxidant capacities of any food. Mint has possible positive effects on allergies, common cold, indigestionirritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and skin.

    Read more about mint.



    Mushrooms, though classified as vegetables in the food world, are not technically plants. They belong to the fungi kingdom and provide several important nutrients.

    The potential health benefits of mushrooms include helping to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, regulating blood pressure, and improving immune responses to infection.

    Read more about mushrooms.



    Oats contain high levels of a type of fiber known as beta-glucan. Beta-glucan is known to help lower levels of bad cholesterol.

    The potential health benefits of oats include: reducing the risk of coronary artery disease, lowering the risk of colorectal cancer, and lowering blood pressure.

    Read more about oats.

    Oily fish

    Mackerel fishes

    Oily fish, such as salmon or mackerel, is an excellent source of omega-3 oils and lean protein.

    Potential health benefits of eating oily fish include: preventing cardiovascular diseasereducing the risk of rheumatoid arthritis, boosting infant sensory, cognitive, and motor developmentimproving memoryprotecting vision, and preventing oral and skin cancers.

    Read more about oily fish.

    Olive oil


    People who regularly consume olive oil are at a lower risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension(high blood pressure), stroke, and hyperlipidemia (high blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels).

    In addition, olive oil intake may help treat inflammation, endothelial dysfunction (problems with the inner linings of blood vessels), thrombosis and carbohydrate metabolism.

    Read more about olive oil.



    Onions can vary in size, shape, color, and flavor. The most common types are red, yellow, and white onion.

    Flavors can vary from sweet and juicy with a mild flavor to sharp, spicy, and pungent, often depending on the season in which they are grown and consumed. An estimated 105 billion pounds of onions are harvested each year worldwide.

    The possible health benefits of consuming onions include lowering the risk of several types of cancer, improving mood, and maintaining the health of skin and hair

    Read more about onions.



    An orange has over 170 different phytochemicals and more than 60 flavonoids, many of which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties and strong antioxidant effects.

    Oranges also contain thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, selenium, and copper. Because of their high vitamin C content (over twice the daily need), oranges are associated with boosting the immune system.

    Read more about oranges.



    Oregano is a rich source of vitamin K and dietary antioxidants.

    Studies have found that oregano has antimicrobial activityanti-inflammatory properties, and components in oregano may help slow down or prevent the progression of disease in patients with breast cancer.

    Read more about oregano.


    Papaya fruit cut in half with seeds showing.

    Papayas grow in tropical climates and are also known as papaws or pawpaws.

    The possible health benefits of consuming papaya include a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, aiding in digestion, improving blood glucose control in people with diabetes, lowering blood pressure, and improving wound healing.

    Read more about papaya.


    Two peaches

    Peaches are a characteristically fuzzy fruit native to northwest China. They are a member of the stone fruit family, meaning that they have one large middle seed, along with cherries, apricots, plums, and nectarines.

    One medium peach contains 2 percent or more daily value of vitamins E and K, niacin, folate, iron, choline, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, and copper. They have been shown to ward off obesity-related diseases, such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and cardiovascular disease.

    Read more about peaches.



    Peppermint is used as a traditional or folk remedy for several conditions and illnesses because of its calming effects.

    The potential health benefits of peppermint include: treating the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), calming skin irritation and itchiness, and preventing the onset of headachesand associated symptoms.

    Read more about peppermint.



    Pineapple is a source of important vitamins and minerals such as thiamin, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, manganese, and potassium. It also contains antioxidants and polyphenols, such as beta-carotene.

    Fresh pineapple is the only known source of an enzyme called bromelain, which may help reduce joint pain and the symptoms of arthritis, reduce inflammation, inhibit tumor growth, and shorten recovery time following plastic surgery.

    Read more about pineapple.



    Along with the tomato and eggplant, the potato plant belongs to the nightshade family, of which some species are truly poisonous. Today, potatoes are one of the cheapest universal crops to produce and are available year-round.

    The health benefits of consuming potatoes include maintaining bone structure, supporting heart health, reducing chronic inflammation, and preventing constipation.

    Read more about potatoes.



    Pumpkin is an extremely nutrient dense food, meaning it is chock-full of vitamins and minerals but low in calories. There are many creative ways pumpkin can be incorporated into your diet, including desserts, soups, salads, preserves, and even as a substitute for butter.

    The potential health benefits of pumpkin including supporting heart health, eye health, promoting fertility, and giving immunity a boost.

    Read more about pumpkin.


    White and red quinoa

    Nutritionally, quinoa is considered a whole grain. Whole grains include the entire intact grain seed without removing any of its parts.

    In contrast, when grains are milled or refined like white breads, white rice, and white pasta, they have been processed to create a finer, lighter texture, and are not as nutrient dense. Quinoa is also a great source of protein.

    Consuming 2-3 servings of whole grain foods per day can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, colon cancer, and obesity.
 Many studies have shown that as whole grain intake increases, the risk for all five of these lifestyle-related conditions decreases.

    Read more about quinoa.



    Rosemary is a rich source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

    Studies have found that rosemary may potentially help treat indigestion, enhance memory and concentration, provide neurological protection, and provide protection against macular degeneration.

    Read more about rosemary.



    Sage is rich in antioxidants (apigenin, diosmetin, and luteolin) and important nutrients, such as vitamin K.

    Studies have found that sage may potentially improve memory and information processing among people who have mild Alzheimer’s disease and help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in patients with type 2 diabetes.

    Read more about sage.



    Spearmint contains high amounts of vitamins, antioxidants, and other vital nutrients.

    Studies have found that spearmint may potentially have antioxidant and antifungal properties, reduce symptoms of nausea and other digestive problems, and treat hirsutism(abnormal hair growth).

    Read more about spearmint.



    Spinach is one of the best sources of dietary magnesium and calcium.

    The potential health benefits of spinach include: helping manage diabetes, helping preventing cancer, reducing the risk of asthma, lowering the risk of blood pressure, and improving bone health.

    Read more about spinach.



    Strawberries are one of the most popular, refreshing, and healthy treats on the planet; they contain many vitamins and antioxidants that can be beneficial for your health.

    The potential health benefits of strawberries include: reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, blood pressure, constipation, allergies, diabetes, and depression.

    Read more about strawberries.

    Sweet potatoes

    sweet potatoes

    Sweet potatoes pack a powerful nutritional punch. They have over 400 percent of your daily needs for vitamin A in one medium potato, plus high levels of fiber and potassium.

    The potential health benefits of sweet potatoes include a protective role against prostate cancer, promoting fertility, boosting immunity, and supporting vision.

    Read more about sweet potatoes.


    sprigs of thyme

    Thyme preparations may be more effective than acne prescription creams, according to scientists at Leeds Metropolitan University in England.

    Studies have found that thyme may potentially protect against hypertension, help fight off foodborne bacterial infections, and induce cell death in breast cancer cells.

    Read more about thyme.



    Tofu, made from soybean curds, is naturally gluten-free and low calorie, contains no cholesterol, and is an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium.

    The isoflavones (a type of compound called phytoestrogens) in soy foods have been linked to a decreased risk for osteoporosis, while the calcium and magnesium in soy may help to lessen PMS symptoms, regulate blood sugar, and prevent migraine headaches.

    Read more about tofu.



    The tomato has been referred to as a “functional food,” a food that goes beyond providing just basic nutrition, additionally preventing chronic disease and delivering other health benefits, due to beneficial phytochemicals such as lycopene.

    Tomatoes are a rich source of vitamins A and C and folic acid. Tomatoes contain a wide array of beneficial nutrients and antioxidants, including alpha-lipoic acid, lycopene, choline, folic acid, beta-carotene, and lutein.

    The benefits of consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds, including tomatoes, are infinite. As plant food consumption goes up, the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer goes down.

    Read more about tomatoes.


    slices of watermelon

    Watermelon contains thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-6, folate, pantothenic acid, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, choline, lycopene, and betaine. Watermelon is a good source of lycopene.

    The possible health benefits of watermelon include asthma prevention, reduction of high blood pressure, regulation of digestion, inflammation reduction, and promotes healthy hair and skin. Watermelon is also one of the best sources lycopene.

    Read more about watermelon.

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    Next Stop, Summer: A Day Aboard a Mister Softee Truck

    May 24, 2018

    In a dimly lit depot in Hunts Point, the Bronx, Heli Vasquez prepared his Mister Softee truck for the drive to Manhattan. He had a fully charged AirPod in his ear, a giant bag of SunChips within reach and DVDs of his favorite old music videos to play.

    But all that would come later. “The first thing I do every morning is I taste the ice cream,” said Mr. Vasquez, filling up the hoppers of his soft-serve machine with chocolate and vanilla mix. “I make sure the ice cream is good.”

    Good: A light, airy, melt-away texture that can maintain its form as it’s rolled sideways in chocolate sprinkles, or dropped upside down into a vat of warm, waxy blue dip. A smooth, dense-but-not-too-dense consistency in the mouth, and a long, clean flavor.

    Mr. Vasquez is one of about 200 Mister Softee drivers who roam the city, dispensing the sweet, industrially engineered flavors of summer to a jangling soundtrack. They lap parks and residential blocks, pull up strategically near the exits of schools and public swimming pools and punctuate sunny days with milkshakes, ice pops and cones.

    All the truck drivers start with the same prepackaged cartons of liquid mix, but the quality of their ice cream isn’t uniform. Machines malfunction in countless ways, and some vendors worry more over the details than others. Dirty tubes can lend the ice cream unpleasant off-notes and aftertastes. And a faulty temperature control setting often produces ice cream that’s too stiff or too soft.

    Mr. Vasquez, who at 50 has wiry, muscular arms and a graying, impeccably groomed goatee, said most machines tended to be 2 to 4 degrees off. Over time, he has come to rely on his senses, and not a dial, to find the ideal setting (about 18 degrees).

    If Mr. Vasquez has a feel for the work, it’s because he’s been driving a Mister Softee truck for 31 years. His father, Lautaro Vasquez, drove one for 40 years before retiring in 2011.

    Like most drivers, including those for Mister Softee’s local rival, New York Ice Cream (formerly Master Softee), Mr. Vasquez is a self-employed franchisee. He drives seven days a week in ice cream season, from late March to mid-October. Out of season, he finds work in construction, or making deliveries, and spends more time with his family; he and his wife Patricia Vasquez have two children and a miniature poodle they call Loco Lucas. They vacation, often visiting El Guabo in southwestern Ecuador, where Mr. Vasquez was born.

    A satisfied customer. Mr. Vasquez owns three trucks that park around Upper Manhattan, catering to families and tourists on the Upper East Side with a variety of dipped cones, sundaes and packaged treats. CreditBrian Finke for The New York Times

    But this year’s unrelenting cold weather threw off the calendar, said Peter Bouziotis, who has been distributing ice cream from the Bronx depot for 22 years. So most drivers started selling about six weeks late.

    “That’s six weeks you’re never going to get back,” Mr. Bouziotis said.

    Mr. Vasquez said long hours don’t bother him, and neither does being alone in the truck. What’s tough is how everything — everything — in the ice cream business depends on the weather. How one day, one week, one year can be so vastly different from the next.

    Mr. Vasquez arrived at the depot around 10 a.m., order in hand, and Mr. Bouziotis slid box after box across the counter — waffle cones, slush bases, sprinkles and syrups. (For the last three summers, the biggest prepackaged seller has been a SpongeBob SquarePants pop, followed by a Minions pop.)

    All 75 trucks that park in the depot run routes across Manhattan and the Bronx, and Mr. Vasquez and his father own three. Patricia Vasquez, his wife, and Daniela Vasquez, his sister, take turns driving one; his colleague Sherzon Medina drives the other.

    Close to the water on the Upper East Side, at the edge of Carl Schurz Park, Mr. Vasquez pulled up on the corner of 84th Street and East End Avenue, where he would stay put for most of the day. It was a beautiful Saturday morning and the sun was out, but a chilled breeze came off the East River — the kind that was bad for business.

    Mr. Vasquez cut all the fruit for the sundaes, and organized his garnishes. He rearranged the freezer so the most popular items were easy to reach. On the truck’s TV screen, just above the dashboard, he played videos and concert clips of Celine Dion, Lionel Richie, Phil Collins and the Eagles.

    Mr. Vasquez plays his music quietly inside the truck, and almost never blasts the widely known, widely loathed Mister Softee jingle from his loudspeaker. When he does, it’s for five seconds, 10 max.


    Mr. Vasquez aims for soft-serve ice cream with a light, airy, melt-away texture that can still hold its form as it’s rolled in sprinkles or dropped into a vat of waxy dip.CreditBrian Finke for The New York Times

    It’s not just that he’s avoiding a ticket for a noise violation. Mr. Vasquez said people tend to know he’s around, because he is always around — he has been around for three decades — standing behind these gleaming machines with a baseball cap on, ready to go.

    “Give me a vanilla two-face,” said a twentysomething man working on the building across the street, still wearing his hard hat. Mr. Vasquez made him a cone half-covered in rainbow sprinkles and half in chocolate sprinkles, moving quickly and elegantly in the narrow space.

    Over the next six hours, Mr. Vasquez composed swirled cones and chocolate dips. He made fruit-topped cups and sundaes drowned in syrup, strawberry milkshakes and root beer floats.

    When kids charged the truck from the playground, shouting over one another, Mr. Vasquez easily deciphered their orders. Teenagers sharing one large frozen yogurt got extra spoons before they could ask.

    Mr. Vasquez fills his truck with everything he needs at the depot, from cones and packed pops to sprinkles and syrups.CreditBrian Finke for The New York Times

    “No, no, no,” a woman in a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses said, handing him back the change. “We owe you a dollar from last weekend, remember?”

    Mr. Vasquez said he once had an offer for steadier, full-time work as a doorman on the Upper East Side, but he didn’t take it. “I love to deal with all this,” he said, gesturing toward the line — negotiating parents, screaming children, chaos. “I love to make ice cream.”

    As the temperature dropped, the line dispersed, and Mr. Vasquez’s father, climbed up into the truck. At 77, Lautaro Vasquez visits his family a few times a week to chat, run errands or deliver them lunch as they work (say, a quart container of caldo de salchicha). As a bonus, he can run the truck for a while if anyone needs a break.

    Before he moved to the United States and became a citizen, Lautaro put on a suit every day and taught primary school in Ecuador. He worked in restaurants in New Jersey as a busboy, and in Midtown Manhattan office buildings, pushing a coffee cart.


    The season for ice cream trucks in New York usually runs from late March to mid-October, but this year, because of the long winter, Mr. Vasquez started selling six weeks later than usual.CreditBrian Finke for The New York Times

    When he bought his first Mister Softee ice cream truck in the 1970s, it cost $8,000, and though it didn’t come with power steering, it did come with a route around Union Square. (A new truck now goes for about $140,000.) The soft-serve machines were more demanding back then, and Lautaro remembers how he had to stop and refill the hopper after every fourth cone, or the ice cream wouldn’t flow at all.

    In 1987, when Heli moved to New York and started working on the truck, he picked up on everything so fast, Lautaro said: His son didn’t just learn how to serve the ice cream, he learned about the mechanics, about the refrigeration, about how to sell. Heli paid such close attention that he understood the ice cream at another level.

    “Prueba,” Lautaro said. He had brought a cup of vanilla soft serve from the truck that his daughter was driving, and he wanted his son’s opinion on it. “Prueba, prueba!”

    Mr. Vasquez tasted and nodded with approval. Sure, the weather could have been better, but today the ice cream was good.

    Read more at: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/22/dining/mister-softee-truck.html

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