I’ve seen several articles lately about the health benefits of gelatin (though I can’t remember where, or I’d link to them). I’ve been taking pure gelatin for quite some time and it is a part of my daily health regimen.
- Supports skin, hair and nail growth
- Good for joints and can help joint recovery
- Can help tighten loose skin (like the kind you get after having four babies in five years…)
- Can improve digestion since it naturally binds to water and helps food move more easily though the digestive track
- Rumored to help improve cellulite
- Great source of dietary collagen (side note: collagen is too large to be absorbed by the skin, so those skin creams are pretty useless… get it internally and use coconut oil for lotion!)
- Source of protein (though not a spectacular one) but its specific amino acids can help build muscle.
Gelatin is a good source of protein (6 grams per Tablespoon), collagen and amino acids (it has 18, 9 of which are essential). Of these amino acids, Glycine is reported to help liver function and Lysine is utilized in muscle building and calcium absorption. Because of this, gelatin is often included in recipes for homemade baby formula, as it also helps digest milk proteins.
You know how, over the past century or so, we’ve skewed our fatty acid intake by eating less animal fat and more vegetable oils, so that we’re getting way too many omega-6 fatty acids and not enough omega-3s, too many unsaturates and not enough saturates? In exactly the same way, we have been skewing our balance of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Gelatin-rich foods, from bone broths to head cheese to foods like pig’s feet and ox tails, were a large part of a traditional diet. Our ancestors relished every part of the animal, and just as they ate organ meats that most modern Americans now spurn, they also ate all the gelatin-rich bony and cartilaginous bits of the animal. In this modern era of muscle meat and little but muscle meat — think boneless skinless chicken breast — much of this gelatin has vanished from the diet, but our bodies’ need for it has not.
Gelatin has been added to formulas to support joint health, and many people do notice almost immediate joint relief from it, though the reason may not be so straightforward. As this great article from a PhD in Biology/Endocrinology (read it!) explains:
For a long time, gelatin’s therapeutic effect in arthritis was assumed to result from its use in repairing the cartilage or other connective tissues around joints, simply because those tissues contain so much collagen. (Marketers suggest that eating cartilage or gelatin will build cartilage or other collagenous tissue.) Some of the consumed gelatin does get incorporated into the joint cartilage, but that is a slow process, and the relief of pain and inflammation is likely to be almost immediate, resembling the anti-inflammatory effect of cortisol or aspirin.
Because of its ability to coat and heal the stomach, some experts suggest adding Gelatin to the diet to help alleviate food and other allergies.
If you’ve ever wondered why chicken soup is so good at curing colds, Enig and Fallon point to gelatin for the cause. Gelatin may also alleviate asthma, fatigue, diabetes, Crohn’s disease, and colitis
Why I Take Gelatin
In addition to the health benefits above about balancing out amino acids and being a good source of protein, I take gelatin for its skin, hair and nail promoting effects. I have noticed a substantial difference in my skin tone and smoothness. I’ve actually upped my Gelatin lately as I am weight training for strength and it is supposed to be protective of joints and it helps build muscle.
As an added benefit, it is giving me extra protein and collagen and helps absorption of other minerals. If you are trying to improve skin or joint health or do strength training, I’d recommend gelatin over whey proteins (which are often inflammatory and have added ingredients). I’ve also added it to food and drinks I make for my kids to help them better absorb nutrients.
Gelatin seems to be especially effective when taken with meats (balances out the amino acids) or on an empty stomach (to promote Human Growth Hormone production).
Optimally, we’d be able to consume high-quality homemade bone broth a few times a day and would be well balanced and have no need for extra gelatin. Since I’m not there yet, I’ve actually been supplementing with high quality powdered gelatin. Not the stuff from the store, though you can make some healthy Jello variations with it (recipes soon!).
How I Take Gelatin
The brand I’ve been using is Great Lakes Kosher Gelatin. According to their website and emails I’ve exchanged with them, it is sourced from grass-fed and humanely raised cows. It is the only fully grass fed Gelatin that I know of, and I’m impressed with the quality.
I dissolve one tablespoon in warm water on an empty stomach when I wake up, and mix some in my daily veggie smoothie (vegetable flavored Jello, anyone?). I’ve also lately started taking a tablespoon at night right before bed, which seems to be improving my sleep and I certainly don’t wake up hungry.
My kids most enjoy taking it in the form of a coconut smoothie…
- 8 ounces homemade coconut milk
- 1-2 tablespoons of almond butter or 1/2 cup strawberries
- 1-2 tablespoons of chia seeds
- 1 tablespoon Gelatin Powder
- natural vanilla extract
- 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil
- Ice and additional coconut milk as needed to thin
[Important Note: This type of supplemental gelatin is NOT the same as Jello or similar brand products at the store. While these products do contain Gelatin, they are also packed with sugar, artificial sweeteners and artificial colors! Do not eat these foods as part of a health regimen. There are, however some great recipes for homemade healthy "Jello-like" treats]
Ever taken Gelatin? If not, what is the strangest supplement you’ve ever taken? Tell me below!