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Gelatin is having a moment right now. It’s popular with wellness influencers and healthcare providers for its health benefits, like promoting healthy joints and glowing skin, and there’s research to back it up!
Think you might gel with gelatin? Here’s what you need to know about this super popular protein source and how to add more to your diet.
Gelatin is a protein that’s full of amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. It comes from collagen-rich animal parts like skin, connective tissue, and bones.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, and it’s an important component of your skin, cartilage, tendons, and bones.
Gelatin has a ton of uses in the pharmaceutical and food industries. For example, it’s used to give gummy candies their characteristic texture, and it helps add volume to reduced-fat products like cheeses.
You can also buy gelatin supplements in powder or capsule form.
According to the Gelatin Manufacturers of Europe, gelatin is made by pretreating collagen-rich animal parts, namely the skin of pigs and cows and demineralized bones, with an acid or base and then mixing them with hot water.
The solution is then filtered, purified, concentrated, and dried to create the final product. Basically, gelatin is cooked collagen.
You can buy gelatin in powdered form, but it’s also sold in sheets that you can use to cook and bake. Gelatin is derived from animals like cows, pigs, and fish, so it’s not vegan-friendly.
Gelatin nutrition facts
Here’s the lowdown on gelatin’s nutrition info (based on a 1-tablespoon serving of 100 percent hydrolyzed beef gelatin):
- 40 calories
- 10 grams protein
- 35 milligrams sodium (1 percent of the daily value)
- 24 milligrams calcium (2 percent of the daily value)
- 2,796 milligrams glycine
- 1,644 milligrams proline
- 1,476 milligrams hydroxyproline
Unlike other animal proteins like chicken, fish, eggs, and meat, gelatin doesn’t qualify as a complete protein source because it’s missing the essential amino acid tryptophan.
Your body can’t make essential amino acids, so you have to make sure you’re getting enough of them through your diet.
Gelatin is especially rich in glycine. Glycine is considered a conditionally essential amino acid because your body can’t keep up with glycine demand under some circumstances, like pregnancy, recovering from trauma, and type 2 diabetes.
Gelatin supplements have been linked to some awesome health benefits. Remember, gelatin is denatured collagen. Gelatin and collagen contain the same amino acids in similar amounts, so their benefits overlap.
Here are a few gelatin benefits that have science on their side:
- May promote healthy joints. One study suggested that supplementing with collagen may help improve collagen production. Better collagen production is good news for your joints, which depend on a collagen-rich network to provide their structure.
- Helpful during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Gelatin is packed with amino acids that support your body during pregnancy and breastfeeding. A review of studies showed that you’ll need extra protein for specific amino acids like glycine and arginine, so adding gelatin or collagen supplements may be helpful.
- May benefit blood sugar control. One study with rats suggested that gelatin may help enhance insulin secretion and improve glycemic control.
- May help you feel full. A 2008 study in people with obesity found that supplementing with gelatin increased the appetite-reducing hormone glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1). A 2009 study showed that gelatin supplementation was more effective for reducing appetite than supplementation with casein, a protein found in milk.
- May benefit skin health. Gelatin is packed with the amino acids necessary for collagen production, which provides structure and support for your skin. Gelatin is particularly rich in glycine, proline, and lysine, which are essential for collagen synthesis.
Bonus: Gelatin may boost gut health and lower inflammation. A 2007 study suggested that gelatin also improves sleep.
A review of studies showed that glycine, which is concentrated in gelatin, may have the potential to protect against cellular damage, protect your liver, and improve your blood vessel health when used as a supplement.
Some foods are naturally rich in gelatin, like the skins, bones, and connective tissues of animals. You could start eating more of the connective tissues of cooked cuts of meat, but these tend to be tough and chewy — not two words you’d probably want to describe your dinner.
You could also invest in making high quality bone broth, but not everyone has the time to simmer bone broth for hours on end. Lucky for you, there are lots of gelatin supplements on the market that make it easy to add more gelatin to your diet.
Supplementing with gelatin is generally considered safe and you can find gelatin in powder and capsule form online. Two popular brands that offer gelatin products are Great Lakes and Vital Proteins.
Powdered gelatin is an excellent option because it can be used in various ways in the kitchen. Unlike collagen, gelatin thickens food, so you can use it to create fun recipes like gelatin gummies and fruit juice sweetened Jell-O.
You can also use gelatin to thicken sauces and soups. Try adding it to smoothies, chia pudding, and protein bar recipes. Just don’t go overboard with your gelatin, because using too much can make food rubbery and unappetizing.
Although it’s rare, some people may be allergic or sensitive to gelatin. According to a 2012 research review, there have been reports of serious reactions to pharmaceuticals and vaccines containing gelatin. If you’re allergic or have a sensitivity to gelatin, don’t use it in your diet.
Gelatin is a rich source of important amino acids and can be found in foods like bone broth and gelatinous cuts of meat. It can also be purchased in supplement form to create tasty recipes like homemade Jell-O and pudding.
Gelatin may benefit your health in various ways, including promoting the health of your skin and joints and helping you feel full faster. If you decide to try out gelatin supplements, just make sure you buy products from reputable manufacturers.