What Is Gelatin Made Of?
Gelatin is a protein that is derived from collagen, which is found in the skin, bones and ligaments of animals. It is nearly tasteless and odorless, but gives a nice gel-like texture to foods. Gelatin can be made from beef or pork. Beef gelatin is often kosher (check the label if this matters to you), while pork gelatin is not.
Gelatin consists of 18 different amino acids. Amino acids are building blocks that help form tissues in our body including skin and muscle. Gelatin has high levels of glycine (an amino acid) and proline (another amino acid). These two amino acids support muscular growth and recovery, aid digestion and improve sleep quality. Most people prefer collagen supplements over gelatin but both provide the same amount of protein per serving.
What Are the Benefits of Gelatin?
- Gelatin can help heal your gut. Gelatin helps to restore the mucosal lining of your digestive tract and to stimulate acid production in the stomach. Taking gelatin is an excellent way to support a healthy gut and get rid of digestive issues such as food allergies, leaky gut syndrome, IBS or heartburn.
- Gelatin supports skin, hair and nail health. This is thanks to the amino acids glycine and proline found in gelatin. Glycine in gelatin helps with wound healing and reduction of inflammation for acne sufferers. Proline is necessary for maintaining elasticity of skin by producing collagen. Gelatin also contains other nutrients (vitamin C) that are necessary for collagen production, which may help reduce wrinkles, cellulite or stretch marks. Collagen also provides structure to our hair follicles so consuming gelatin may improve the quality of your hair.
- Gelatin helps with joint health and pain management due to its ability to form cross-linked collagen fibers that strengthen cartilage tissue. When taken regularly it can help improve mobility in those who suffer from mobility issues such as arthritis or bone degeneration.
- Gelatin supports weight loss by reducing hunger cravings between meals because it’s loaded with protein. In fact, many natural bodybuilders take it daily because they want more lean muscle mass but don’t want excess calories.
- Improves sleep quality because glycine protects against oxidative stress, inhibits inflammatory responses and improves blood flow all while protecting brain cells from damage that occurs during sleep deprivation. A study done on healthy people showed that a dose of 3g was associated with improved sleep efficiency after experiencing sleep deprivation over several nights.
- May help prevent bone loss due to osteoporosis by increasing bone density. Studies have shown this effect when taken long term at doses of 15-20g/day combined with exercise. This amount is usually added into other foods like soups or beverages rather than taken alone.
Uses of Gelatin
For centuries, gelatin has been used in a variety of foods and drinks, as well as for medicinal purposes. It’s made by boiling the skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones of pigs and cattle.
Gelatin is commonly found in cooking mousses and jello. It’s also often used to thicken foods such as puddings, yogurt and ice cream.
In medicine, gelatin is used to make capsule coatings to protect medications from being destroyed before they reach the intestines where their active ingredients can be dispersed into the bloodstream correctly. Gelatin has also been used to treat osteoarthritis because it helps restore strength in affected joints.
Side Effects of Gelatin
Gelatin is a great source of protein for nearly everyone and can be consumed by both children and adults.
Anyone taking medications or with any health issues should consult with their doctor before consuming gelatin supplements.
Gelatin is safe for both pregnant and breastfeeding women, as well as infants. Make sure you check with your child’s doctor if they have any allergies to pork or beef before giving them gelatin supplements.
Special Precautions and Warnings
- If you are allergic to gelatin, shellfish, or fish, do not use gelatin without first talking to your healthcare provider.
- Do not use gelatin if you have a kidney disorder.
- Use caution when taking gelatin with drugs that cause dizziness as the combination may increase the risk of dizziness. Examples include certain calcium channel blockers (such as nifedipine, verapamil), other drugs that lower blood pressure (including beta blockers such as atenolol and propranolol), or antidepressants (such as amitriptyline).
Tips for Using Gelatin
As for the gelatin you can find in stores, it’s mostly made from collagen and is far from complete. It’s much better to make your own by cooking bones (especially chicken and beef bones) with some water and a little bit of salt until they become jelly-like. You can find out what that looks like at the end of this post.
I’ll admit, I was skeptical about using gelatin as a protein source when I first set out to learn more about it. The idea of eating my fill of collagen seemed like kind of gross (though delicious) rubber cement/gelatin-coloured goo. But as I continued researching, I discovered that it’s actually amazing stuff. A little goes a long way (place it in yogurt or mix with Greek yogurt), and there are lots of benefits to be found:
- 1 teaspoon contains 25 grams of protein—more than most high-protein foods such as tuna or eggs
- 1 cup provides 12 grams of fiber—more fiber than fruit or vegetables
- It regulates blood sugar levels by speeding up muscle protein synthesis (meaning muscles repair themselves faster, which keeps you feeling slim)
- It regulates blood pressure by helping proteins absorb calcium from the body (so your bones stay strong)
Can You Eat Gelatin if You Are a Vegetarian?
Gelatin is an animal protein, so it will not be suitable for vegetarians. However, there are vegetarian alternatives you can use in place of gelatin—such as agar agar.
Agar agar is a sea vegetable and comes from red algae. It’s a type of carbohydrate that has many health benefits and gelling properties similar to gelatin. It’s high in calcium, iron and phosphorus among others, which makes it an excellent source of nutrients for those who avoid animal products.
To replace gelatin with agar agar, use 1 teaspoon of agar powder (or 2 teaspoons of flakes) per 1 cup liquid plus 1 tablespoon sweetener if you want a sweeter dessert or sauce/soup thickener (use less sweetener when making savory dishes). Since it sets almost instantly after mixing in hot water or cooking on the stovetop (it’s still usable in cold liquids), you’ll need to quickly pour your mixture into a mold before it starts solidifying. Think “mix, mold and move” … quickly!