Gelatin is one of my daily supplements in some form or another, and I’m continually amazed at the gelatin uses and benefits I keep finding in emerging research.
Gelatin Uses and Benefits
- 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 tract
- 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.
What is Gelatin?
Gelatin is largely composed of the amino acids glycine and proline, which many people don’t consume in adequate amounts as they are found in the bones, fibrous tissues and organs of animals and as a population, we don’t consume these parts as much anymore. These amino acids are needed not only for proper skin, hair and nail growth, but for optimal immune function and weight regulation!
Glycine, which makes up about 1/3 of the amino acids in gelatin powder is anti-inflammatory and evidence is finding that it can help speed wound healing. Glycine in gelatin can also help improve sleep ease and quality.
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.
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.
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 (or a high-quality storebought one) 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!).
So Gelatin is a wonderful supplement for health, but I’ve also found a plethora of culinary and other uses lately! Here are a few of my favorites:
1. Homemade Marshmallows
This is definitely my kids’ favorite use of Gelatin, and we even add probiotics to make them more healthy. The only ingredients are honey, gelatin, vanilla and water, so they are a great alternative to store bought treats.
These are also easy to make and you can add cocoa powder or mint extract for flavor variations…
2. Hair Treatment
I got this tip from Pinterest and have been amazed at what an intensive conditioning and strengthening treatment it is! To make, stir 1 tablespoon of Gelatin powder (green lid) in to 1/2 cup of cool water until mixed. Add 1/2 cup warm/hot water, 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 teaspoon of honey to create a thick gel/liquid. Pour into hair and massage through hair and scalp. Leave on for at least 5 minutes and rinse with hot water. Shampoo as normal.
It is suggested to do this up to a few times a week to get desired hair thickness/strength and then once a week for maintenance.
3. DIY Children’s Vitamins
Most store bought chewable vitamins have a lot of sugar, dyes and additives in them. These homemade chewable vitamins are a great alternative, plus your kids will get the benefits of Gelatin too!
There are endless flavor combinations, and They are simple to make at home! Here’s the recipe.
4. Thickening Shampoo
If you want thicker/stronger hair, adding a teaspoon of gelatin powder to your shampoo can give your hair that boost. It will also add texture and volume to hair immediately. If you use homemade shampoo like mine, you will only need to add about 1/2 tsp to a small batch. If you use a regular bottle shampoo, you can add a teaspoon or more for desired effect!
5. Homemade Jello
Homemade jello packets have some nasty fake ingredients, but it is simple to make a healthy version at home. With homemade Jello, you can customize the flavors, add vitamins, or even use water kefir or kombucha as the base for a vitamin and probiotic boost! Plus, kids love it!
6. Wrinkle Reducer
You know those $50+ wrinkle reducer miracle creams that don’t work? Save a lot of money by just taking gelatin internally each day and using coconut oil for skin care! Gelatin is essentially cooked, powdered collagen (that ingredient they charge you an arm and a leg for that doesn’t even work well externally…).
Taking Gelatin internally provides the body the building blocks to build great skin, hair and nails from the inside out and helps reduce wrinkles (and stretch marks, as I’ve found since mine are vanishing this time while I’m still pregnant!).
7. Digestive Aid
Constipation? Digestive issues? Gelatin might help!
Nourishing Traditions and much of the information I’ve read from the Weston A. Price foundation recommend Gelatin (usually in the form of bone broth) as a digestive aid, as it can sooth and help heal the digestive tract. I’ve noticed tremendous benefits in our son who we put on the GAPS protocol, and I’ve also seen daily gelatin help keep bowels regular and smooth.
8. Joint Help
Gelatin also provides the building blocks for healthy joints and people with arthritis, joint injuries or joint pain might notice a substantial difference from incorporating Gelatin rich foods and supplements. Even WebMD talks about the joint uses of Gelatin:
“Gelatin is used for weight loss and for treating osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and brittle bones (osteoporosis). Some people also use it for strengthening bones, joints, and fingernails. Gelatin is also used for improving hair quality and to shorten recovery after exercise and sports-related injury.”
9. Skin Mask
Gelatin is most effective when used internally, but even externally, it can smooth and strengthen skin. Another tip: Mix 1 tablespoon Gelatin Powder with 2 tablespoons warm water and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice and apply to face. Leave on for 15 minutes and rinse with warm water.
10. Weight Loss
I haven’t tried it specifically for this purpose, but I’ve found forums of athletes and body builders who use plain gelatin powder for weight loss and maintenance, as they claim that it can boost Human Growth Hormone production and boost metabolism. In my opinion, Gelatin has enough other health benefits that it would be worth trying for this purpose too, even if the only result is better skin, hair, nails, joints, digestion, etc.
The protocol for weight loss is to stop eating at least 3 hours prior to bedtime, and then consume at least 1 tablespoon of gelatin powder right before bed. These guys chewed it straight, but I’d highly recommend mixing in to a cup of chamomile tea by dissolving in about 1/3 cup cool water and then adding 2/3 cup of warm tea. Much better texture and taste!
11. Hormone Help
“Too much estrogen in the body (which can be caused by all sorts of reasons including hormonal imbalances, over exposure to phytoestrogens like those found in soy, and xenoestrogens found in plastics) can cause inflammation, infertility and promote accelerated aging. The wonderful, and seemingly endless benefits of gelatin have anti-estrogenic effects which can help offset the effects of excess estrogen in the body.”
12. In/From Homemade Bone Broth
The most cost effective and nutrient dense way to consume Gelatin is in the form of homemade bone broth or stock. Of course, bone broth isn’t as good for making marshmallows, gummy vitamins, jello or hair masks, but it is an inexpensive way to consume Gelatin. I also add Gelatin powder to soups and stews for an extra gelatin boost, but if you don’t want to attempt all the other uses, at least consider incorporating homemade bone broth into your daily diet. Your gut will thank you!
I am not a doctor and don’t play one on the internet. If you decide to use Gelatin as a supplement, check with your doctor or medical professional, especially if you have a medical condition.
To mix gelatin powder (green lid) into liquid without clumps: First mix into a small amount of cool water and stir well. Let sit for 2 minutes and then add the needed amount of warm water. This tempers the gelatin and makes it smooth. This is also how I take it daily by adding it to herbal teas this way. You can also get blue lid collagen powder which does not gel but easily dissolves in hot or cold water.
Do not add gelatin powder to things with fresh pineapple, kiwi or papaya, as they will inactivate the thickening properties. Also, don’t boil gelatin, as it will lose its thickening ability.
Where to Get Gelatin:
I order Gelatin online and use this brand since I’ve been able to verify that it comes from grass-fed, humanely raised animals. The Collagen Protein (green lid) will gel and is good for things like Jello while the Collagen Peptides (blue lid) is great for mixing in to hot or cold drinks.
Have you ever used Gelatin? If not… what are you waiting for? Share below!