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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.

Benefits of 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!

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.

If you have a favorite way of incorporating gelatin into your diet, share with the community!

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References & Recommended Reading

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Comments

  1. Pat says

    Thanks for the great tips on gelatin! I’ve been taking gelatin supplements for over a year now, so I’m going to purchase some powdered to try in drinks and soups. I’m 51 and started having very brittle nails and thinning hair, and that’s improved since I’ve been taking the gelatin supplements.

    • cindy says

      I plan on starting to use gelatin in my diet too. A word about the ‘thinning hair’, if I may: I had this for years, and finally learned it was likely the sodium laurel/eth sulfates in shampoo. So I found a knock-off of Wen : Hair One, at Sally Beauty Sply for 1/4 the cost! It works.. using a few weeks, hair loss improved. I also started taking Biotin tablets. I’m figuring gelatin might also aid in hair re-growth as well.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Hana is right…collagen (where gelatin comes from) is too large to pass through the skin. All those beauty products containing collagen that claim to eliminate cellulite or wrinkles…they don’t work because our skin can’t absorb the truly beneficial ingredients.

  2. Deanna says

    One year ago this month I wasn’t able to walk very well and very far due to bad knees. I knew I would eventually have to have one or both replaced. A Canadian relative related that his doctor told him to try Knox unflavored gelatin 2xday. At this point I was trying everything I could NOT to have surgery. I have been very religious about taking this. After less than 2 weeks I was walking well. I could not believe it. Also I started Osteo Bi-flex supplements. Here I am today one year later walking as if my knees were normal, but who is to say they are not now? I get a box of 32 envelopes for just a little more than $7 here in Florida and Michigan.

    • tori says

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for the anecdote. You can read stuff, but without people saying how it worked for them, it all seems a moote point.

    • Jo says

      Thank you, Deanna, posting this!!! I have arthritis in my knees…so much pain. You mentioned you take it 2Xday. How much at each time? I WILL BE TRYING THIS!!!

  3. tori says

    I’ve been boiling the daylights out of bones for years, just KNOWING in my heart that the minerals and calcium had to be in the broth left behind, and closing my eyes and taking a deep breath when my sister insisted on taking the soup OFF the burner after an hour or so…(good news, we don’t generally cook together.) Now you say that gelatin is a really good thing, like my mama always said. Wow, old school IS the real deal, just like we always ate either beans and corn or beans and rice together, and I’m no spring chicken!

    Thanks for the science to back up what I’ve always believed.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yes! People ate great sources of gelatin for years (like bone broths), but since we’re a society in love with conveniences, you won’t hear about a lot of people taking the time to use these beneficial parts of the animal to get all the good nutrients out of them. Time to learn about what all our grandmothers knew…lol! :)

  4. says

    I just placed an order from the link you gave us in the article. I was hoping for a link because I have made my own bone broth but it hasn’t been easy to take it each day and I want the benefits of it for my body.

    Will this replace the need for taking bone broth? My problem is that I am not very good at remembering. It would be easy, like you suggest, to just throw everything together in a smoothie and drink a smoothie daily. I like bone broth, surely, but it is just too hard to fit into my schedule to make it, and then heat it up on the stove each time I want to drink some.

    Thanks
    Rebecca

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Great question Rebecca. I wouldn’t suggest skipping out on bone broth altogether. It’s a more natural, less processed way of getting your gelatin, even though gelatin is still a good alternative. However, if you’re going with the powdered gelatin alternative, I recommend you leave your container out on the kitchen counter as a visual reminder. I keep mine out in plain sight and I never forget to take it since I have to look at it all the time. :)

  5. Cheryl Eustice says

    wow! Thanks for the reminder ! My mother and I used to drink this back in the sixties to get longer and stronger fingernails.I also used Knox to make my kid’s jello.I made a pretty blue jello before jello did.Now that I am in my late fifties I spend most of my time in pain from arthritis.Your information couldn’t come at a better time for me.The pills my doctor gave me puts me in la-la land and causes vomiting.I know this worked for my nails.Come to think of it we don’t cook with bones like we use to.I am going to keep this as a reminder with all the pills I have to take.Thank you for being there.Knox has great recipes too.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Knox gelatin was probably forgotten about when Jell-O started taking over the gelatin world. There is tons of research from the 20′s and 30′s on the benefits of gelatin, but most of it has been lost in antiquity. Now you can hardly find the itty-bitty boxes of Knox gelatin next to the hoards of Jell-O boxes on store shelves!

      You are so right about society not cooking with bones like we used to. Modern society likes their boneless/skinless, so these are the most popular products at the stores these days.

      • tori says

        And my question is, what is the osteoporosis rate/age of symptomatic onset, since we quit making soup with bones? Oh, and we forget to eat the greens to go with it.?

        • cindy says

          I’ve been hearing for years, that since the “low fat myth” set in during the 70s, and people ate less or no meat, arthritis is on the rise even in under-middle aged people. Our connective tissues need the lubrication from meat, which is why God told Noah to “eat meat”. With the exception of the few that cannot digest meat, we all need some daily. Those with allergies that live on antihistimines are drying out their systems, and the long-term effects aren’t known yet; but I wonder it’s also contributing to younger people having joint problems.

    • Christy says

      Very often, arthritis and other forms of inflammation are caused by food intolerances. I’m 40 and, for the past few years, I have been waking up to stiff, swollen fingers and hands every day and have had a sore spot in my hip. I eliminated dairy almost 8 weeks ago and the arthritis pain is completely gone. Other people may have problems with wheat/gluten, nightshades (tomatoes, white potatoes, eggplant, peppers), or other food intolerances. A simple elimination diet can help you figure out the cause, instead of just treating the symptoms and/or living with it.

      But keep on consuming homemade broth and kosher gelatin! :) Amazing stuff!

  6. says

    I soak the bones at least an hour before cooking/simmering in water with a bit of apple cider vinegar. Then I bring it slowly to a boil, scoop the foam off then simmer for 6 – 8 hours on VERY low.
    Vinegar helps to leach the nutrients out of the bones.

  7. Marybeth says

    There are two kinds of gelatin that I saw from Great Lakes…is there any difference in the kosher collagen hydrolysate from the regular gelatin protein powder? I am wanting the kosher one, but did not know what the “hydrolysate” meant.

    • says

      The Hydrolysate is more processed so it will dissolve easier. We purchase and use the Beef Gelatin (it’s from grass-fed beef). Hope this helps, blessings.

    • Jill says

      Great Lakes Gelatin was recommended to my by an excellent homeopath. I contacted GL and asked about the hydrolysate. It does not clump up like the regular protein so it is easier to use. Was told it has all the same benefits. The regular gelatin is good if you want to cook with it, as it thickens.

  8. Sue says

    Thank you. I had just bought this Great Lakes Beef Gelatin, but I had not used it yet, so your timing on this posting was perfect.
    This morning I sprinkled one Tablespoon of the gelatin over cold water to soften & then dissolved it in my hot morning Gypsy Cold Care Tea and a little elderberry syrup. Very good.
    I also used the gelatin as a thickener for making homemade coconut milk yogurt. Came out more loose gelatin-like instead of creamy, but the finished yogurt was very tasty with some pineapple, coconut flakes, chopped banana, chopped walnuts, and a sprinkle of crunchy granola. A Yogurt Parfait Pina Colada of sorts.
    Next I am going to try and use the gelatin to set up pureed (thawed)frozen fruit berry combination, blended with water, a little sweetener, and kefir to create creamy probiotic Jello-like cubes for snacking.
    Love your blog and I learn so much.

  9. says

    I tried to follow the link you had for homemade baby formula, but it wouldn’t work. Is that web site gone or can you print the recipe for homemade baby formula. I hate to see the junk they have out there that my grand children are drinking. I would love to see a natural alternative. Thanks

  10. says

    I am trying to incorporate more gelatin into my diet because of the numerous health benefits – I need to order some good quality gelatin and get to making some gelatin fruit snacks. :)

    Thanks for sharing this great information!
    Katie

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Our pleasure Katie! The great thing about a naturally sweetened/no-preservatives-added fruit snack is that you don’t have to worry about eating them sparingly! Yay! :)

  11. Jen S. says

    Thanks for this article. I’ve done bone broth chicken soup but my picky family does not like soup much except the junk from a can…yuck! Great ideas on how to use gelatin. Hoping to help our 4 yo ASD son with low tone by increasing certain proteins and supplements. Smoothies seem to be working well so far. Have a box in the cabinet ready for tonight!

  12. Ava says

    Love this simple and inexpensive tip, esp. the part about it being useful for healing the gut. Does it actually repair leaky gut?

    • says

      The main amino acid in gelatin – glycine – has a lot of helpful properties: it’s anti-inflammatory, hydrating, pro-thyroid, and has been known to heal leaky gut and improve weak stomach acid.

  13. Basma says

    Thank you for such an informative article! Is making a broth from deboned meat and using it for cooking just as effective to get the gelatin? In middle eastern cooking the base of most dishes is preparing the meat by boiling it with onions and spices, then using both for the dish. Even if it’s a roast!
    Should I start using bones in the broth as well?
    A tip for the frantically frazzled no time cook. Over the weekend get all the ingredients and do a huge pot of broth then freeze in portion sizes, for the rest of the week.
    Thank you

    • Betsy Jabs says

      You’ll definitely get more nutrients if using the bones as well. Simmering with the bones will extract minerals not present in the meat alone. Great tip for the frantically frazzled cook too! :)

  14. Nancy Young says

    Thanks so much for this article. As your older readers have said, it’s a great reminder of what we knew before and forgot in the age of modern medicine. I try to stay away from that when possible. Have the kosher ordered & am using Knox until it arrives. Didn’t know it had so many other benefits! Thanks again!

  15. Barbara Werner says

    Thank you so much for this wonderful information. What if at the moment all I can afford is the Knox Gelatin from the supermarket? Will that be ok for the short-term? Will I still feel the benefits do you think?

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yes! You’ll still see benefits from the Knox gelatin. The company we recommended makes a more natural product, but it’s definitely pricier.

  16. Amy says

    We make a few different flavors of jello from Knox Gelatin that everyone in the family (all three kids, including one picky eater) absolutely loves. Instead of fruit juice, we use herbal blueberry rooibos tea sweetened with just a bit of honey. Sometimes for a dessert treat, we use coconut milk sweetened with honey and Knox gelatin. It tastes like cheesecake! Even better with some blueberries on top or even in it! We love our gelatin!

  17. Linda says

    Do you know anything about the Bernard Jensen gelatin? That’s what I have… It is 100% made from beef, but that’s all I know. Just curious if it is from grass-fed cows also.

  18. Heather says

    Would you give less to a child? My 4 year old daughter isn’t liking meat very much right now, and this would be great for her!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Great question Heather. You can give her the amount recommended in the article. In the case of gelatin, the body will flush out what it does not need.

  19. Becky says

    I also learned that you can use gelatin as a substitute for an egg several years ago if you don’t have an egg or would like to have an egg substitute in your food storage.

  20. Kelli says

    Thanks for the great info but i think The link is to pork gelatin. The beef gelatin comes in a pack of two on amazon I believe.

  21. Jessica says

    I’ve seen the benefits of gelatin popping up here lately but I’m wondering if there’s anybody that gelatin would not be good for? I don’t eat a whole lot of meat so this sounds perfect for me!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Great question Jessica. I have never read anything about negative side effects from gelatin or gelatin not being good for a particular group of people. The only thing I must mention is that for your body to fully utilize the amino acids in gelatin, you must also have fat-soluble activators in your diet (like Vitamins A and D), which are only found in animal products, like butter, egg yolks, etc.