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If Mother Nature had a beauty routine, gelatin would definitely play a big role.
Gelatin, the cooked form of collagen, is full of amino acids that can help strengthen teeth and hair, smooth out wrinkles, and give your skin a healthy glow. But aesthetics aside, gelatin is an all-in-one superfood that can heal your gut, rebalance your hormones, and boost your immune system.
What Is Gelatin?
Gelatin is an all-in-one superfood for boosting immunity, repairing your digestive tract, improving your skin’s appearance and texture, and eliminating sugar cravings.
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Gelatin is the cooked form of collagen, which is found in animal bones and connective tissue. Gelatin contains lots of amino acids, which is why it has so many health benefits.
Bone broth is an excellent source of gelatin, but you can also find powdered gelatin sourced from grass-fed cows at your local health food store. Gelatin powder can be added to almost any recipe, including soups, stews, smoothies, coffee, and even DIY skin care recipes.
From healthy recipes to your beauty routine, here are ways to use gelatin in your everyday routine to improve your health and lifestyle!
Top 14 Benefits of Gelatin
1. Gelatin Boosts Skin Health
As mentioned above, gelatin is cooked collagen. And collagen is the structural protein that helps maintain skin elasticity and keep your skin looking smooth, plump, and supple. (1)
Our bodies naturally produce collagen, but as we age, we begin to produce less. In fact, research shows our natural collagen production begins to decline by 1% beginning at the age of 20. (2) [tweet_quote]Natural collagen production declines by 1% once you hit age 20.[/tweet_quote]
Many anti-aging skin cream formulas contain collagen, but most collagen molecules are too large to penetrate the skin’s surface. Even when collagen molecules are hydrolyzed or broken down into smaller fragments, they’re still unable to interact with the skin’s natural collagen supply. This means most topical anti-aging collagen creams may be ineffective.
Eating foods that increase collagen production naturally, such as gelatin, has been shown to effectively improve the skin’s elasticity and appearance from the inside out. (3)
2. Gelatin Helps Hair + Nails Grow Faster
If your hairdresser took off far too much during your last trim (or you just can’t seem to get your hair to grow), the protein in gelatin may help your hair grow in faster and thicker.
Since hair and nails are made from protein, increasing the amount of quality protein in your diet can help provide the amino acids needed to stimulate hair and nail growth. (4)
3. Gelatin Repairs Gut + Digestion
Gelatin is rich in the amino acid glycine (in fact, gelatin is approximately 30% glycine), which helps repair the gut lining by strengthening and protecting the mucous membrane layer of the stomach. (5, 6)
This is essential for improving general digestive health as well as healing a chronic digestive condition called leaky gut syndrome. [tweet_quote]Gelatin is rich in glycine, which helps repair a leaky gut.[/tweet_quote]
Leaky gut plays a major role in the development of allergies and autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel disease (IBD) and inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. (7, 8, 9)
Gelatin also takes a longer time to digest, which helps coat the small intestine. This is why gelatin is commonly recommended on dietary protocols for healing digestive conditions, including the GAPS diet.
4. Gelatin Supports the Immune System
Approximately 80% of immune system cells are located in the gut, which means your immune system is a reflection of your digestive health. (10)
By strengthening the mucous membrane layer of the stomach and “healing and sealing” the gut lining, gelatin can also help support and strengthen immunity based on its positive impact on gut health. (11)
5. Gelatin Protects Joints
The ends of our bones are covered (or “protected”) with cartilage, which is formed from collagen. Cartilage prevents our bones from rubbing together, which otherwise causes pain and inflammation.
As we age, our cartilage can begin to degrade, which not only causes pain, but loss of joint motility and chronic inflammatory joint conditions, such as osteoarthritis. (12)
Here’s where gelatin comes in. Since collagen is needed to form cartilage, taking a hydrolyzed gelatin supplement (which means it’s easily absorbed in the intestinal tract) has been shown to help the body rebuild cartilage, which “cushions” the joints and reduces pain and inflammation. (13, 14) Proline, an amino acid found in gelatin, is also needed to help the body make hydroxyproline, which forms collagen. (15)
This suggests adding gelatin to your diet may be preventative for joint degradation as well as managing symptoms of inflammatory joint conditions.
6. Gelatin Repairs Damaged Hair
A gelatin hair mask can help restore the natural shine in dull, dry or damaged hair.
If you’ve ever heard of whisking eggs and applying them to your hair for natural moisture, gelatin has the same benefits: it helps deliver protein and moisture to the hair shaft, which is needed to strengthen and improve your hair’s texture. [tweet_quote]Is your hair lacking luster? Try a gelatin hair mask with apple cider vinegar.[/tweet_quote]
To make a gelatin hair mask, use a ratio of 1 tablespoon of gelatin powder to ⅓ cup of water (you may need to adjust the amount you use depending on the length or thickness of your hair). You can add other ingredients to your hair mask that promote shine, such as apple cider vinegar or coconut oil.
Read more Milk salt scrub will solve your skin problems!
7. Gelatin Helps Reduce Inflammation
As mentioned above, gelatin is rich in the amino acid glycine. Glycine has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and has been shown to reduce inflammation in the gut and cardiovascular system. (16, 17)
Glycine has been shown to suppress the activation of cytokines (proteins that play a role in cell communication), and move cells towards the sites of inflammation, trauma, and infection. (18, 19) The systemic inflammation of cytokines has been linked to cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression. (20, 21, 22)
In other words, the anti-inflammatory action of glycine can help reduce the inflammatory response of elevated cytokines in the body.
8. Gelatin Balances Hormones
Hormones are the chemical messengers that regulate every function of your body, from your metabolism to your sleep cycle. When your hormones are functioning optimally, you feel energized, maintain a healthy weight, and in general, have a happier mood.
Since hormones are made up of amino acids (some amino acids become hormones, while others are required for hormone synthesis), getting a wide variety of amino acids in your diet is essential for general hormonal health and for rebalancing hormones. (23) [tweet_quote]Grass-fed gelatin is almost pure amino acids, which help rebalance hormones.[/tweet_quote]
Grass-fed gelatin is made up of approximately 98% protein, which means it’s almost pure amino acids.
Gelatin also contains several amino acids that stimulate the production of the human growth hormone, including glycine, lysine and arginine. (24, 25, 26) The human growth hormone (HGH) is responsible for stimulating cellular repair and regeneration, and plays a role in energy production, strength, and endurance. (27)
9. Gelatin Reduces Signs of Aging
One study showed that regularly ingesting collagen supplements was just as effective for reducing wrinkles and signs of aging as cosmetic procedures. The study stated that when ingested, collagen can directly reach the dermis in the skin, which is needed for the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles to fade. (28)
10. Gelatin Prevents Cellulite
Cellulite is the bane of many women’s existence: it’s almost inevitable, and it’s difficult to get rid of (no matter how many squats you do).
The reason why we get cellulite as we age is due to a decrease in collagen production and skin elasticity. Regular exercise and avoiding foods that deplete collagen (such as refined sugar and trans fats) are important for cellulite prevention, but adding gelatin to your diet may help boost your efforts because it stimulates collagen production. (29)
11. Gelatin Strengthens Teeth
We often relate collagen to healthy skin and anti-aging, but do you know that collagen is also the building block of teeth and bones?
Since collagen is found in tooth enamel, adding gelatin to your diet may help strengthen your teeth and prevent gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss. (30)
12. Gelatin Helps Detox Liver
Animal products, such as chicken, fish, beef and eggs, are high in methionine. Methionine is an essential amino acid, which means we cannot survive without it – but when consumed in excess, it can build up in the blood, which causes systemic inflammation. (31)
When methionine is metabolized, it produces a byproduct called homocysteine, which depletes vitamins B6 and B12. (32) This is why elevated homocysteine levels are an indicator of B vitamin deficiencies. Methionine has also been shown to deplete your natural glycine stores – which is where gelatin comes in.
As we’ve covered, gelatin is a rich source of glycine, and studies have shown glycine helps the body eliminate excess methionine. (33, 34) [tweet_quote]Gelatin helps your body eliminate methionine, which plays a role in liver detoxification.[/tweet_quote]
Now, glycine and methionine have an interesting relationship: methionine depletes glycine, but glycine is needed to help clear extra methionine from the body. It’s like a Catch-22 situation. Adding gelatin to your diet can help increase your glycine levels and support your body’s natural detoxification processes. This is especially helpful if you eat a variety of animal products daily.
Glycine is also a precursor to glutathione, which plays a role in phase II liver detoxification – the phase in which your body prepares to eliminate toxins. (35)
13. Gelatin Promotes Restful Sleep
Gelatin has been recommended as a sleep aid for those who have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, especially due to stress. This is because glycine acts as a neurotransmitter and helps reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality. (36)
14. Gelatin Curbs Cravings
As a protein, gelatin is a slower nutrient to digest, which helps keep you full for longer periods of time. This helps balance blood sugar levels, which reduces cravings for excess carbs and processed sugar. (37)
Gelatin has also been shown to reduce blood sugar spikes and reduce the body’s response to glucose when ingested with sugar. (38)
6 Easy Ways to Eat and Use Gelatin
1. Homemade Gummies
You can make homemade gelatin gummies by combining grass-fed gelatin powder with your favorite puréed fruits and Paleo sweeteners, such as raw honey.
We recommend trying this simple and delicious homemade Paleo gummy vitamin recipe: Strawberry Lemon Ginger Bread Men Gummies.
Gelatin powder is tasteless, and you can add it to your green smoothies or smoothie bowls. However, gelatin is a thickener due to its gelatinous texture, so be prepared to eat your smoothie with a spoon if you add gelatin powder to it.
3. Soup or Stew Thickener
Gelatin powder is flavorless, which means it won’t change the taste of your recipes, but it will create a more gel-like texture. You can use gelatin powder to thicken and to add an extra protein boost to your favorite soup and stew recipes.
A good starting ratio for adding gelatin powder to your recipes is ½ tablespoon of gelatin per 1 cup of liquid – however, the ratio of gelatin to liquid you use will depend on how “thickened” or “gelled” you want your recipe to be. To be on the safe side, you may want to start with only ¼ tablespoon of gelatin powder and work your way up and adjust as needed once the gelatin powder begins to set.
4. Egg Substitute
If you’re sensitive to eggs, gelatin makes an excellent Paleo egg replacer in baking recipes that require a binder, such as pizza crust, pancakes and muffins.
To replace 1 egg, use a ratio of 1 tablespoon of gelatin powder and ¼ cup of water. Let it sit for 15 minutes to thicken before adding it to your recipes.
How to Find High Quality Gelatin Powder
Most health food stores or online natural health retailers carry gelatin sourced from grass-fed cows.
It’s important to make sure the gelatin powder you choose is from grass-fed animals, otherwise it won’t be as high in anti-inflammatory amino acids, such as glycine, which allow it to be such an amazing health food (this means, unfortunately, the packaged gelatin you find in grocery stores doesn’t qualify).
(Read This Next: Collagen: Benefits & How to Cook, Bake and Drink It) Brandi Black is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and the creator of Feel Best Naked, a health blog for women who want to clear up their skin, lose the muffin top and make the bloat disappear. After years of experiencing (and then healing) her own unbalanced hormones, she’s now obsessed with helping other women feel spectacular in their own skin with natural remedies for hormone balance. Read more How to Calculate Your Social Security Disability Payments Download her FREE 5 Day Meal Plan: From Bloated to Blissful- The 5 Day Anti Bloating Solution. For more posts by Brandi, click here.
About Brandi Black
Brandi Black is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist and the creator of Feel Best Naked, a health blog for women who want to clear up their skin, lose the muffin top and make the bloat disappear. After years of experiencing (and then healing) her own unbalanced hormones, she’s now obsessed with helping other women feel spectacular in their own skin with natural remedies for hormone balance.
Read more How to Calculate Your Social Security Disability Payments
Download her FREE 5 Day Meal Plan: From Bloated to Blissful- The 5 Day Anti Bloating Solution.
For more posts by Brandi, click here.
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— Update: 10-02-2023 — cohaitungchi.com found an additional article You Need to Eat Gelatin. Here Are the Reasons Why. from the website chriskresser.com for the keyword benefits of beef gelatin.
I want you to think of a healthful food, just the first nutritious food that comes to mind. Did you think of gelatin? I’m guessing not. And I bet it wouldn’t even make your top-10 list if I asked you to keep going. Yet gelatin is quite good for you, in its natural form, that is—not artificially colored and sugar-laden like Jell-O.
Gelatin may keep osteoporosis at bay, heal your gut, and help you sleep, among many other valuable health benefits. Keep reading for all the reasons why you should eat gelatin, plus how to incorporate it into your diet in delicious ways.
The What: A Powerful Protein You’re Not Getting Enough Of
Gelatin is the key ingredient in Jell-O (and similar products)—right after sugar and before the artificial flavors—and it’s what makes this brightly colored dessert jiggly yet firm, served up on cafeteria trays in hospitals and schools for generations. It’s easy to see why most of us would overlook gelatin as a dietary must. Here’s what you should really know about this unexpected health food.
It Comes from Collagen—and You Need Collagen
Gelatin is derived from collagen, the most plentiful protein in humans and animals. Once simmered, the decomposition of collagen into gelatin is irreversible; its long protein fibrils, or tiny fibers, are broken down into small amino acid compounds. However, gelatin’s chemical composition is very similar to its parent molecule.
Eating gelatin boosts our collagen levels. Collagen is found almost everywhere in the body, but it is most abundant in the skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments. It holds our tissues together, providing the skeleton with a sturdy yet flexible structure (just as it does wiggly desserts); some types of collagen fibrils are, gram for gram, stronger than steel. (1)
It’s Made Almost Entirely of Protein (98 to 99 Percent)
One half-cup of gelatin provides nearly two grams of protein. As I often discuss here on my site, protein is a macronutrient, which means your body needs a large amount. (Yes, fruity-flavored Jell-O and its imitators have protein as well, but the same serving size may be loaded with sugar—about 19 grams, or nearly five teaspoons!—as well as artificial ingredients that cancel out any protein benefits.)
Gelatin Is Rich in Vital Amino Acids
It doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids, making it an incomplete protein. But the amino acids it does include are particularly important for health, especially glycine. Other notables include: (2)
- Glutamic acid
It Was Part of the Typical Ancestral Diet
Our hunter–gatherer ancestors ate much more gelatin than we do today. That’s because they widely practiced nose-to-tail eating, meaning they cooked with and consumed the entire animal, including its skin, tendons, and other gelatinous features. We’ve lost the practice of whole-animal eating, and gelatin-rich cuts are typically discarded, or at least undervalued, now. (Some, such as beef shank or chuck roast, are also considered “tough” and therefore not as appealing as more tender—and more expensive—cuts.) What’s more, vegetarians don’t eat many (or any) animal products.
This means we’re getting a lot less gelatin than our ancestors did, if any at all.
The Why: Six Reasons to Eat Gelatin … Now!
Because we usually don’t use the whole animal, or in some cases avoid meat altogether, we miss out on this unique health food’s many benefits.
1. Gelatin May Lower Your Risk for Cardiovascular and Other Diseases
Eggs and muscle meats—as opposed to organ meats and meaty bones—are high in methionine, an amino acid. In some people, eating too much methionine can lead to a buildup of a toxic compound called homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine are an independent risk factor for a variety of serious concerns, from dementia and Alzheimer’s to heart disease (and it has also been found to increase the risk of fracture). (3, 4, 5) This might explain why researchers sometimes find a correlation between high meat intake and chronic disease.
What helps keep methionine and homocysteine levels in a healthy balance? Glycine, which gelatin contains lots of. In fact, it accounts for roughly 27 percent of gelatin’s composition, making gelatin the richest food source of this amino acid. Although your body can make glycine, you usually don’t produce enough to cover your needs, meaning you need to obtain ample amounts from your diet. (6, 7)
2. It Protects Your Bones and Joints
Bone is living, growing tissue, comprising mostly collagen. And as I discussed here already, collagen is the glue that holds our tissues together. So, it’s easy to see why getting more collagen in the form of gelatin is good for bone and joint health.
Research shows that gelatin may have a beneficial effect on cartilage metabolism and inhibit the breakdown of collagen in bone. It may be effective in treating both osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. (8, 9, 10) Its amino acids glycine and proline are anti-inflammatory and are likely responsible for research results finding gelatin effective in reducing arthritis-associated joint pain. Lysine, also in gelatin, strengthens bones by helping the body absorb calcium and form collagen. The body can’t make this amino acid, so it must come from diet. Lysine has also been shown, in animal studies, to hasten fracture healing. (11)
3. It Preserves Your Muscle Mass
Glycine is the hero again here: research has found that increasing glycine intake, either through supplementation or high-glycine foods such as gelatin, can help slow or reduce the age-related loss of muscle. (For some people, this weakness can cause them to become less physically active as they age or even to fall due to reduced strength and stability or injure themselves when they exercise.) Supplemental glycine can protect muscle in a variety of wasting conditions brought on by serious illness such as cancer or due to very reduced calorie intake. (12, 13)
4. Gelatin Is Good for Your Gut
Thanks to the amino acids glycine, proline, and glutamine, gelatin can improve gut integrity and digestive strength by enhancing gastric acid secretion and restoring a healthy lining in the stomach. (14, 15) Gelatin also absorbs water and helps keep fluid in the digestive tract, promoting good intestinal transit and healthy bowel movements. (16) Gelatin-rich soups and broths are one of the key components of the GAPS diet, which has been designed to heal the gut and promote healthy digestion.
5. It Makes Your Skin Shine and Your Locks Long and Lustrous
Collagen is one of the primary structural elements of skin. As we age, we naturally lose collagen, causing our skin to sag and wrinkle. Gelatin provides glycine and proline, building blocks for collagen, and can help your body create enough of this important protein to improve your skin’s health and appearance. In particular, several studies have shown improved skin elasticity and hydration, as well as a reduction of deep wrinkles, with collagen hydrolysate supplementation. (17, 18) A diet rich in gelatin may also protect against the aging effects of sunlight, preventing wrinkles in the future. (19) And gelatin appears to induce hair growth and even lead to thicker, fuller locks. (20, 21)
Read more 22 Best Biotin and Collagen Supplements in 2022
6. It Can Help You Sleep
Gelatin has been found to help with sleep due to its abundance of glycine. Just a few tablespoons can provide roughly three grams of glycine, which is enough to cause measurable improvements in sleep quality. (22, 23) Glycine is also an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it can decrease anxiety and promote mental calmness to let you sleep through the night. (24)
And the list of benefits goes on: Research suggests that gelatin may also aid in weight loss, help control blood sugar, improve cognitive and mental health, slow the growth of certain cancers, and much more. (25, 26, 27, 28, 29)
Are You Vegetarian? A Warning
While gelatin isn’t acceptable to vegans, who shun all animal products, it may be to vegetarians who are open to eating some animal-derived foods, such as eggs and dairy. If this describes your dietary approach, here’s why you should go out of your way to eat gelatin.
Vegetarians Often Have Low Glycine Levels
As I’ve written before in an article on the pitfalls of meat-free diets, vegetarians and vegans don’t consume as much glycine as meat eaters, and we’ve seen here just how important this building block of collagen is for health.
You Might Be at Risk for Cardiovascular Problems
Studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans have significantly higher homocysteine levels, on average, than omnivores, putting them at significant risk for cardiovascular trouble. (30) This is possibly due to nutrient deficiencies in vitamin B12 and choline, which help keep homocysteine in check.
The Best Ways to Get More Gelatin: Bone Broth and Beyond
One obvious way to incorporate gelatin in your diet is to eat more skin and gelatinous cuts of meat, especially those that are on the bone like shank pieces or ribs. However, I recognize that these aren’t necessarily the most palatable parts of the animal to everyone. There are other options out there.
Make Your Own Bone Broth
In traditional cooking, meat bones serve as a base for delicious stocks and sauces, and bone broth is a first course that enhances digestion of the food to come. Today, I’m glad to see nose-to-tail eating making a bit of a comeback in this regard, as many people are using their ancestors’ “secret” for great recipes and as a powerful health drink.
Best of all, bone broth is easy to make at home. Just follow these tips.
Cook It Low and Slow
To transfer the active chemical ingredients from the bones into the broth, you need heat, time, and acid (typically vinegar, tomato, and/or wine). Don’t rush it: Cook your broth slowly over low heat to extract as much nutrient content as possible. A slow cooker is immensely helpful.
Go with Grass Fed
Grass-fed beef and farm-raised, free-range chicken bones give the best results. You can also use bones from duck, lamb, turkey, or pork, as well as fish. Seek out chicken feet, heads, and necks or calves’ feet (and heads and necks, if you can find them) from a local farm or butcher. When selecting from beef, look for cuts with a lot of bone in them, including some knuckle bones, if possible. Marrow bones are excellent.
The Longer You Cook It, the Better
Simply put the bones, browned or not, based on your preference, into a stock pot or slow cooker. Cover with enough filtered, cold water to cover the bones by an inch. Then add your acid, bring everything to a low boil, then simmer on very low, removing any scum that has risen to the top. After skimming, add vegetables and herbs and spices if you wish and simmer six to 48 hours for chicken and 12 to 72 hours for beef, making sure to check in on it regularly. The longer you can let it cook, the better.
Strain It, Store It, and Sip It
Once finished and cooled, strain your broth using a fine strainer. For a clearer stock, line your colander or sieve with cheesecloth.
Store covered in the refrigerator for about five days or in the freezer for several months. Try the “ice cube” method: Put stock in ice cube trays, freeze until solid, then store in freezer bags and take out one or two at a time for recipes.
Pour warmed broth into a mug and sip like tea, or use as a base for gravies, sauces, and soups—or anytime a recipe calls for cooking liquid.
Buy High-Quality Bone Broth
If you don’t have the time (or desire) to make your own bone broth, there are great packaged options out there. Just remember:
- Choose broth that’s organic and made from pasture-raised animals or wild-caught fish. This minimizes toxins and maximizes nutrients.
- Avoid buying broth in containers, especially cans, that contain bisphenol A (BPA), which is a toxic, hormone-like molecule.
Many grocery stores don’t sell bone broth; it is not the same as the chicken or beef stock that’s widely available in the soup aisles of most supermarkets, which doesn’t have the same high level of nutrients as homemade or organic broth. You can, however, find organic, pasture-raised bone broths online. Kettle & Fire is a good option for organic, high-quality bone broth.
Buy Gelatin Powder
If you eat a Paleo or ancestral diet, you can easily incorporate gelatinous cuts of meat and bone broths into your meals. But if you’re vegetarian, it’s difficult to get gelatin from a meat-free diet.
My favorite brand of powdered gelatin is Great Lakes, which comes from grass-fed animals. It’s available in both hydrolyzed and whole form; each type has its own health perks.
Hydrolyzed means the protein is broken into individual amino acids, making them easier to absorb. Use this type to improve skin and joint health or get better sleep. Hydrolyzed gelatin can be mixed into any type of liquid, including cold liquids, so it can be added to smoothies or juices. It is also great as a real-food protein powder.
Whole-protein gelatin is better for improving gut health. It helps carry fluid through the intestines and can even coat the lining of the digestive tract as a soothing and protective layer. This is the type used to make gummy snacks and desserts and must be mixed into warm liquids.
Fish gelatin is available if you prefer not to consume land animals.
I sometimes supplement with Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides myself, which is another option. It’s similar to collagen hydrolysate, the gelatin supplement often used in scientific studies. I’ll typically add it to a smoothie three to four times a week.
An important note: Some people report a histamine reaction after consuming gelatin or gelatin powders and supplements, so gelatin may not be appropriate for those with severe histamine intolerances.