Gelatin is used for more than just homemade hair gel in my house. This colorless, flavorless wonder has a laundry list of benefits when added to your diet.
I am not talking about the sugary, preservative-filled, artificially-colored gelatin you buy in the dessert aisle at the grocery store. On the contrary. (In fact, that version is a great example of how a simple, beneficial ingredient has been turned into a red dye-filled and refined sugar nightmare.) This article is about unflavored, unadulterated gelatin.
I have known about some of the benefits of gelatin for a while, but when my naturopath suggested I add it to my diet to increase metabolism and treat non-seasonal allergies, I started to wonder what else it could do for me.
(Apologies to our vegetarian/vegan readers! Close your eyes, plug your ears, do what you have to do – this article is probably not for you.)
What is Gelatin
Gelatin is nothing more than a processed version of the structural protein collagen found in many animals, and in humans. Collagen makes up almost one-third of all the protein in the human body. Collagen is a fibrous protein that strengthens the body’s connective tissues, allowing them to be elastic so they can stretch without breaking. As you get older, your body makes less collagen, and individual collagen fibers become increasingly cross-linked with each other. You might experience this as stiff joints from less flexible tendons, or wrinkles due to loss of skin elasticity. Gelatin can come from the collagen in cow or pig bones, hides and connective tissues. (source)
Gelatin also contains 18 amino acids. Many of these amino acids are essential, meaning they can’t be produced by our bodies, and must be taken in as part of our diet.
Benefits of Gelatin
Gelatin is a multi-use remedy, with a diverse list of benefits. This is by no means an exhaustive list of things you may notice with more gelatin in your diet, but it’s a good start.
- It can help aid digestion and even heal digestive disorders.
- Taking gelatin is a good way to get more protein in your diet. (Think picky eaters, pregnant women who need to boost protein intake, or those eating a mostly plant-based diet.) Adding gelatin to food is an excellent way to supplement protein without having to fill up on extra food. It should not, however, be your only source of protein since gelatin is not a complete protein. When taken with food, it helps your body better utilize other proteins and nutrients.
- The use of gelatin improves hair quality, growth, and texture. Long term use can make hair shiny and strong.
- Since our bodies make less collagen as we age, gelatin can improve skin health by providing more elasticity.
- Daily consumption of gelatin has been shown to improve nail strength and rate of growth.
- Supplementing with gelatin can be beneficial for overall joint and bone health, and has been shown to reduce joint pain related to arthritis.
- Gelatin is a much better alternative to protein powders, which often contain artificial sweeteners and/or preservatives.
- Gelatin has a protein sparing effect, helping to take the edge off hunger.
- It can also promote a more restful night of sleep.
Can I get a “J-E-L-L-WHOA?” Because really, that’s an amazing list of benefits.
Ways to Get Gelatin in Your Diet
- Take unflavored gelatin powder as a daily supplement. Mix 1 Tbsp with room temperature liquids twice per day.
- Incorporate more homemade bone broth into your daily diet. Drink it warm, use it to flavor rice or pasta dishes, or use as a base for soups.
- These scrumptious homemade marshmallows are a tasty treat that includes gelatin.
- Make your own gelatin squares using unflavored gelatin and real fruit juice or honey to sweeten.
- Add powdered gelatin to homemade soups for thickening.
- Throw it into a smoothy, you won’t even notice it’s there.
- Dissolve gelatin in your hot cereals.
- Add it to hot drinks, like tea or coffee.
- Gelatin can be used to thicken homemade yogurt, kefir, or sauces that turn out too thin.
- It can even be used in making homemade baby formula! (Find all the ingredients for homemade baby formula here.)
Ideally, I should be consuming a homemade gelatin-rich bone broth a few times every day. However, this doesn’t always happen, so I take a powdered gelatin supplement. I eat 1 tablespoon of gelatin in a drink or meal twice every day.
Where to get gelatin
Although you can purchase unflavored powdered gelatin at any grocery store (in the dessert aisle), we have done some research and found one we really like. Great Lakes Gelatin is a very high quality brand, and is the one we use. If you purchase the kosher beef gelatin, it is from grass fed cows, and the company states that beef hides (not a mystery blend of parts) are the only product used in producing their kosher beef gelatin. Their product is free from any preservatives or added sugars, and is minimally processed. (Find another high-quality gelatin supplement here.)
If you have a favorite way of incorporating gelatin into your diet, share with the community!
References & Recommended Reading
- Stocks, by Sally Fallon and Mary G. Enig, PhD on WestonAPrice.org
- Why Broth is Beautiful: Essential Roles for Proline, Glycine and Gelatin, by Kaayla T. Daniel, PhD, CCN on WestonAPrice.org
- Gelatin from the Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology, 2nd Edition
- Review of Nutritional Supplements for the Treatment of Cartilage Degeneration, by Susan Paulsen on Pharmacy Times CE