Now I want to be clear upfront: I’m NOT talking about regular ol’ jello here.
In case you’re new around these parts, artificial food coloring, chemical sweeteners, and loads of sugar just ain’t my thang (and I try my hardest to persuade you that it shouldn’t be yours, either!).
But gelatin is what gives jello its classic gel and jiggle. (Check out this homemade and healthy jello P.S.)
So what is gelatin?
Gelatin is a water-soluble protein prepared from the collagen found in animal bones and ligaments. It’s basically the cooked version of collagen. And collagen is the most abundant protein in the body and an integral component of all connective tissues.
Nutritionally, gelatin is a great source of protein, minerals, and amino acids, especially the amino acids glycine (35% of the amino acids in gelatin), alanine (11%), and proline and hydroxyproline (21%). Its nutritional profile makes it extremely beneficial for both health and beauty.
10 health and beauty benefits of gelatin:
1) Gelatin helps heal the gut lining.
Gelatin is hydrophilic (attracts water). Because of this, it coats and protects the mucosal lining of the digestive tract, helping to heal the gut lining. Since gut health is everything, this is a very important benefit.
Leaky gut is a particularly far-reaching issue: if the lining of the digestive tract is damaged, undigested food particles can leak into the bloodstream, causing the body to attack them (an immune response). In addition to uncomfortable stomach aches and other GI issues, over time this can lead to food allergies and intolerances as well as thyroid and autoimmune issues.
2) Gelatin aids digestion and the breakdown of nutrients.
Because gelatin protects the gut lining, it aids in digestion. It also enhances the secretion of stomach acids, which is key to the proper breakdown of foods — if there is a lack of stomach acid, there is a domino-effect on the other digestive processes down the line. Since it is estimated that 80% of us have low stomach acid (yep… heartburn and GERD are actually a symptom of low stomach acid) because of unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices, this is a big benefit.
3) Gelatin helps strengthen bones and joints.
Bones are made from tissues that reply upon collagen amino acids, and minerals to build healthy bone matrix. In addition to collagen, gelatin is rich in easily digestible calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulpher, and other trace minerals, which promote healthy bone tissue.
For this reason, if you have inflammatory joint or bone diseases like arthritis or osteoporosis, getting adequate gelatin can potentially help you manage inflammation and pain in your joints, and build stronger bones.
4) Gelatin aids the liver in detoxification.
As mentioned, gelatin is loaded with the amino acid glycine. And glycine helps the liver with its routine detoxification duties. While glycine can be produced by the body and so is not “essential” to get from diet, supplementing gives the liver a helping hand. And the liver is a VERY IMPORTANT organ (I hope those all caps helped me really drive that point home) that performs over 500 functions, so it’s a good idea to keep it happy and running smoothly.
5) Gelatin promotes a restful night’s sleep.
Research has shown that glycine (again, in which gelatin is very rich) reduces core body temperature, which promotes longer periods of deep sleep.
6) Gelatin is a great source of dietary protein.
I’m not a fan or advocate of most protein powders, which are typically filled with highly processed ingredients and sugar. However, gelatin is essentially a single-ingredient protein powder. If you need extra protein in your diet, it is a great source. That being said, it should not be your only source of protein since it’s not a complete protein.
7) Gelatin can aid in weight loss.
Because gelatin is packed with protein, it helps keep you feeling fuller, longer. That is, you won’t be tempted to binge on the bad stuff! Plus, gelatin helps keep your liver healthy and liver health plays an important role in metabolism and weight management.
8) Gelatin helps smooth skin from the inside out.
You have likely seen anti-aging face creams with collagen in them before. Well, while collagen is key to a youthful complexion, it doesn’t do squat in skincare products — the molecules are too large to be absorbed by the skin! But dietary collagen is a different story…
As you get older, your body makes less collagen, and individual collagen fibers become increasingly cross-linked with each other. This causes the skin to lose elasticity and allows wrinkles to form. So by supplementing with gelatin, you’re giving your body extra collagen to help maintain and restore skin elasticity, thus minimizing wrinkles. And for these same reasons, gelatin has also been said to reduce cellulite.
9) Gelatin helps prevent stretch marks.
Since gelatin provides and promotes the growth of collagen in the skin, it increases skin’s elasticity and firmness, preventing stretch marks. I wish I had known this as I was going through puberty (my poor thighs!) and definitely intend to increase my supplementation before getting preggers to prevent stretch marks on my belly.
10) Gelatin helps hair and nails grow long and strong.
The amino acids and minerals in gelatin are vital for healthy skin and nail growth.
How can you get more gelatin in your diet?
A great way to get gelatin in your diet is to make and drink bone broth frequently. Check out my super simple chicken bone broth recipe. I promise it’s not nearly as complicated or intimidating as most other recipes you’ll find out there!
High-quality powdered gelatin supplements from grass-fed cows can also give you all of the aforementioned benefits.
There are 2 types of supplemental gelatin:
1) Collagen peptides is more beneficial for skin and joint health, or to improve sleep. With collagen peptides, the gelatin protein is broken into individual amino acids, which makes them easier to absorb. Collagen peptides can be mixed into any type of liquid at any temperature. For this reason, it makes a great superfood smoothie add-in. But collagen peptides will not thicken liquid in the way whole gelatin will, so they cannot be used in recipes that call for gelatin.
2) Whole gelatin is better for improving gut health. It coats the lining of the digestive tract, acting as a soothing and protective layer and aiding digestion. This is the type of gelatin that is used to make homemade and healthy fruit snacks or homemade and healthy jello, and must be mixed into warm liquids to thicken.
*It’s important to note that gelatin may not be appropriate for those with a severe histamine intolerance.
I take gelatin daily as a real food supplement.
For skin and joint health (my mother has terrible arthritis, which I try actively to prevent with diet and lifestyle), I have a tub of Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides at home and a tub at work. I mix 1-2 scoopful with a couples ounces of water and use this to wash down any supplements I may take during my lunch (remember, drinking water during a meal dilutes stomach acid and so can impede digestion).
I also eat homemade and healthy fruit snacks and homemade and healthy jello made with whole gelatin almost everyday since they’re so yummy and make great snacks. And when my stomach is being particularly bratty, I’ll just mix a spoonful with water and drink it down — though it’s not as easy to get down as the collagen peptides (since it’s thicker) it really helps. And I’m noticing that I’m needing to do thiss less and less frequently as my gut health improves.
What about you?
Do you supplement with gelatin? Have you experienced any of the above benefits? Share with us in the comments below!