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Gelatin is an age-old food that, like collagen, has gained modern popularity for its potential to improve skin and slow aging. It is commonly known as just the main ingredient in foods like Jello but this simple food has so much more potential!
What is Gelatin?
Gelatin is a substance composed of amino acids that are derived from collagen. Collagen is well known for its skin and hair benefits and is similar to gelatin in many ways.
Gelatin is largely made up of the amino acids glycine and proline. It is derived from the bones, fibrous tissues, and organs of animals. These amino acids are needed not only for proper skin, hair, and nail growth but for optimal immune function and weight regulation.
As a population, we don’t consume these animal parts as much as we used to. Some health experts claim that our modern habit of eating large amounts of muscle meat (like steak) without eating the organs and connective tissue or making broth with the bones may be contributing to modern disease.
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.
How is Gelatin Made?
Gelatin is (and always has been) a highly nourishing food, as well as a very eco-friendly one. When all the more desirable parts of an animal have been removed, the skin, bones, and tendons are left. These are used to make gelatin and collagen.
Our grandmothers did this in their kitchen by using the whole animal for multiple purposes, such as making broth. Making bone broth is still a great way to get the benefits of gelatin, but now gelatin and collagen powders make it even easier to add these amino acids to foods and recipes. (See some of my favorite recipes below.)
According to Nourishing Traditions and much of the information I’ve read from the Weston A. Price Foundation, there are various health benefits to Gelatin, including:
- 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 six babies in nine years…)
- Can improve digestion since it naturally binds to water and helps food move more easily through 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.
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 Love 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 gives me extra protein and collagen and helps the 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 store bought 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 a high quality powdered version. Not the stuff from the store, though you can make some healthy Jello variations with it.
Types of Gelatin and Collagen
Gelatin and collagen are often confused but they are slightly different. From a culinary perspective, gelatin produces the “gel” effect in foods, while collagen does not. Collagen can be more easily mixed into foods and drinks because it doesn’t gel. In general, these are the different types of gelatin and collagen:
- Gelatin Powder– Best for use in recipes like marshmallows, Jello, or other things that gel. This is the brand I use.
- Collagen Powder– Collagen powder is best for mixing into hot or cold liquids or even into foods. Collagen is often used more like a supplement since it is so easy to mix.
- Marine Collagen– Marine collagen works just like the collagen powder above. It is a great option for those who avoid beef and pork.
Gelatin Recipes & Uses
So Gelatin is a wonderful supplement for health, but I’ve also found a plethora of culinary and beauty uses for it as well! 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 into 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 on to head 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 or 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 healthy 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 the 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 delicious 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 skincare! 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 with the building blocks it needs to build great skin, hair, and nails from the inside out. And it helps reduce wrinkles and stretch marks, as I’ve found since mine are diminishing the more I take it.
7. Digestive Aid
Do you have constipation or digestive issues? Gelatin might help!
Nourishing Traditions and much of the information I’ve read from the Weston A. Price Foundation recommends Gelatin (usually in the form of bone broth) as a digestive aid, as it can soothe 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 intake helps keep bowels smooth and regular.
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 bodybuilders who use plain gelatin powder for weight loss and maintenance, as they claim that it can boost Human Growth Hormone (HGH) 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, and digestion.
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 it into a cup of chamomile tea by dissolving it in about 1/3 cup of cool water and then adding 2/3 cup of warm tea. Much better texture and taste!
11. Hormone Help
I’ve written about natural ways to balance hormones, and it turns out that Gelatin may help here too:
Too much estrogen in the body (which can be caused by all sorts of reasons including hormonal imbalances, and overexposure 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. 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 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 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 it, 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 gelatin powder will gel and is good for things like Jello while the collagen power is great for mixing into hot or cold drinks.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Ann Shippy, who is Board Certified in Internal Medicine and a certified Functional Medicine physician with a thriving practice in Austin, Texas. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Have you ever used Gelatin? If not… what are you waiting for? Tell me how you use it below!
Discussion (447 Comments)
I made my first batch of homemade marshmallows and my grandkids think they are wonderful. I like them too, but they are so sweet so I don’t eat them much. I’m going to try using gelatin more in our daily diets. Thanks for the excellent ideas and info.
Hi, how do you make your marshmallow? I’d love to try but can’t find out how?
Katie - Wellness Mama
Here’s the recipe: https://wellnessmama.com/6423/marshmallow-recipe/
Thank you so much for doing my homework for me (and finding a reputable source); I look forward to incorporating more gelatin into my life and seeing what happens! 🙂
Just noting that Vital Proteins sources its gelatin from Brazil, FWIW
Wow, what a wealth of information. I will get right to it. Thank you!
What about the Collagen Hydrolysate (also offered by Great Lakes)? They say it’s the same only won’t gel. Do you think the gelling is necessary if using it only as a supplement?
It is great too if you aren’t using it in culinary uses for gelling…
Apparently you can also use it to make a version of a popular ‘pore strip’. I just Googled gelatin pore strip to get recipes for that. Ratio is a little different than your skin mask above. Haven’t tried it yet, but planning to.
I’ve done the pore mask strip, I loved it! I highly recommend NOT doing it all over your face. For one, you most likely don’t have blackheads all over your face like on your cheekbones and closer to your eye area, and two, it feels like a band aid when you take it off!
Hi, Are you familiar with Bernard Jensen Gelatin? I can’t tell which gelatin would be better to take. Thanks!
They would probably be my second choice and they also seem like a good brand…
I contacted Bernard Jensen and they are now just a conglomerate who bought the original company. They told me that the Cows are grain and grass fed so from that I gathered that they are not properly grass fed and free to roam
Bethany McGrath Sponseller
Can you site any studies that support your claims?
Several of the links in the article above are to either medical sites or published studies, and the book Nourishing Traditions explains the science behind the health benefits of Gelatin in depth…
Have you seen this article on Gelatin?
It tells of other possible benefits pertaining to the protein parts and some other things like sleep and thyroid. It’s pretty awesome.
I just bought the kind you suggested today so thanks for all of the great ideas for uses! Can’t wait till it’s delivered.
Yes, Dr. Peat has some amazing articles on that site. Gelatin is pretty amazing stuff. Everyone should read that article as well as his other stuff.
Have you ever used the Knox brand? The only ingredient I see it has is gelatin.
I have and it is better than nothing, but it isn’t from grass-fed cows, so it can have traces of antibiotics or hormones…
Grass fed cows can still be given hormones and antibiotics.
True, but only when they are sick, not as a growth supplement.
I was going to ask this question. I grew up in Johnstown, NY – home of Knox Geletin. Seems wrong to use anything else!
Is there any significant difference between that brand’s Kosher gelatin and regular gelatin?
The Great Lakes Kosher gelatin brand is from grass-fed animals. That’s the biggest difference I know of, but there may be other differences.
Remember when choosing which gelatin to buy that you take into account where the cows were raised. For example: Great Lakes brand uses animals raised in Brazil or Argentina these areas are not good places to buy bovine products from because they are probably raised on deforested rainforest land.
I would tend to disagree with the statement that cows in Brazil or Argentina are likely to be raised on deforested land. I can’t imagine ANYONE deforesting land so as to raise cows. The farmers certainly couldn’t afford to do that. They would be raised on grass lands like all cows.
If land is deforested, it’s to harvest the money crop….trees.
You really need to do some better research. Land deforestation to raise cattle ia at an all time high and is contributing to global air pollution in many ways.
I agree… you really need to do some research before spouting off. Major corporations from the US are going into South American countries and decimating their rain forests in the name of McDonalds burgers (i.e. ranching) and farming. This is well documented, and is a major factor in global warming, the extinction of many species of plants and animals, and the loss of potential life saving medications that can be derived from the many unique plants and animals of the rainforest.
Here are some quotes:
For about three years now, we’ve been working on curbing the impacts of the soya industry on the Amazon rainforest in Brazil which, before the current moratorium was put into place, was replacing the forest with plantations on a massive scale.
Cattle ranching is now the biggest cause of deforestation in the Amazon, and nearly 80 per cent of deforested areas in Brazil are now used for pasture. The cattle industry has ballooned since the 1970s, giving Brazil the largest commercial cattle herd in the world. Since 2003, the country has also topped the world’s beef export charts and the government plans to double its share of the market by 2018.
The impact this is having on the forest is huge – between 1996 and 2006, an area the size of Portugal was carved out for cattle ranching. As with the soya industry, a host of social ills have followed the wave of expansion. Cattle ranching has the highest rates of slave labour in Brazil – just over 3,000 people held as slaves were freed from ranches last year.
There are many many articles to this effect that include both Argentina and Brazil. Just do a google search to become current with what is really going on, rather than posting assumptions based on opinion.
Agreed – at least in Argentina… most cows are raised on the pamaps – no forests there ! and if you are into eating beef – they are the best in the world.
Then how about we stop eating so many hamburgers. I would rather support the use of the whole animal, regardless of how many trees died to support that cow. The trees are gone already and people keep eating burgers. I think this sermon is being directed at the wrong group. Clearly anyone who is reading any Wellness bog is trying to make the best informed decisions they can. If you want to preach the word, maybe go set yourself up on a pillar at good old Micky D’s.
Watch “Cowspiracy” on Netflix… you may change your view
Watch Cowspiracy.. It’s on Netflix now! Thousands of firsts are being cut down for animal agriculture.
You should do some research. Absolutely land has been cleared for livestock.
I believe you have done your due diligence in gathering your information and sharing your findings, in truth if people are that worried they owe it to themselves to do their own research instead of criticizing someone for their good deeds.
Do some research…deforestation isn’t generally used for tree harvesting…in fact most of the time isn’t even used…it’s burned.
Argentine cattle are raised in the fertle grasslands of central argentina (looks like Kansas), no rainforests in argentina. similar climate to the Midwest. So don’t just generalize and demonize an entire region.
I thought Great Lakes Gelatin came from grass-fed cows?? That’s why I buy it. Am I wrong?
Katie - Wellness Mama
They do, but I haven’t been able to get full verification of that from the company… both are great brands though
Katie-have you been able to verify if the geletin from great Lakes is from grass fed cows? Is it only available online? TIA!
I switched over to Vital Proteins last year because I WAS able to verify that they are. Great Lakes was a little unclear on theirs…
No. I live in Argentina for 40 years and I can say is the best food in the world. There is not rainforest in Buenos Aires, if you study a little bit geography. Anyway, caws there, are raised grass fed and not hormones. Basically all meat there is like organic.
Hi – I’m a littlew behind the times with this post. I just stumbled across the gelatin benefits. Do they “green” lid and “blue” lid formulas do ALL the same things? Is the only difference that one is more easily mixed?
Thanks for getting back to gelatin, I thought I switched sites for a second.
AMEN!! OH NO, I may have just started a rant about religion! Lol
Anyway, great article!
Chemically, no, I just like that the Kosher one comes from grassfed cows as opposed to the regular one which also contains humanely raised pork sources…
How in the world were you able to determine (Verify in your words) that this gelatin comes exclusively from grass fed beef? Great Lakes gelatin does not manufacture their own gelatin, they do not own a plant. They are a private label reseller of gelatin.
I emailed them and received a response stating that their sources are grassfed.
HA….I’d love to know how they can make that claim with a straight face.
I’ve had other sources verify this as well… if you have any credible evidence that it isn’t true, please email me…
How do you compare the Vitals gelatin vs. the Zint gelatins? This is what an review had said about Vitals gelatin:
My issue with this product is that it is sourced from Brazil. I am Brazilian (but have been living in the USA for the past 10 years, visiting Brazil 2-4x/year) and am very aware of how cattle is raised in Brazil. The usage of pesticides is HEAVY in the country. This is “pasture raised”, but not organic and not “100% grass fed”, so it can be very much grain finished as it is done with pastured cattle in Brazil. Also, Brazil uses ractopamine. I did not see anything about testing for ractopamine anywhere on Vital Proteins website. Brazil had a bunch of meat returned from Russia not too long ago because it was tested and found ractopmine.
This had lead me to choose Zint gelatin instead, but there were some reviews on how it wasn’t very good to make gummies from. Have you used this brand before? And how does the nutirtional impact compare to that of other brands(Great Lakes, Vitals…)?
How about the GNC gelatin supplements?
Great information on the use and benefits of gelatin!
How often do you recommend consuming? Daily? Weekly? Monthly?
I just need to know how much Gelatin Powder to take per day? Thanks
How often do you recommond consuming ? daily? weekly? monthly?
My mother is 88 years old and she has been eating jello daily for the last 40 years. Her hair is thick her nails are strong and beautiful she has all of her own teeth she moves like a teenager and doesn’t have any wrinkles. I am 52 and always wondered why she stayed so young. I just figured it out so now I eat kosher grass fed bovine gelatin everyday and will do so forever. It’s been 2 weeks and I already am noticing the difference. I want to be just like my mother amazing. I wish I had known sooner
THIS IS SO WONDERFUL, thanks for sharing it, I just haven’t been sure of taking it every day. I did 3 months straight twice a day, and all my pains went away….but since just dabble with it, and also have broth nearly everyday. I am 58. I love hearing this 40 year testament! THANKS
Can I please ask what kind of jello she eats daily, how it is prepared & how much? Thank you for your time!
I don’t eat beef is there another kind of Gelatin that I can use?
Sorry, gelatin only comes from animals…. either beef or pork or chicken. So much for veganism.
You can get fish gelatin on line. I’ve tried it and it works great and no fishy taste..
Can you please email me your recipe for the homemade marshmallows with the exact measurements you use? Thank you so much!
Here you go! https://wellnessmama.com/6423/marshmallow-recipe/
Hi, how much should I consume per day for skin care purposes? Also, you said to use some in shampoo, what is the ratio? Thank you!
Kosher just means that it has been approved to meet the Biblical standards of the Jews. It has nothing to do with nutritional value or real science at all. It’s very safe to eat non-Kosher foods, though I wouldn’t recommend anything that comes from pigs or has been exposed to their meet/bones/excraments, which are natural sources of carcinogens and tape-worm larvae that boiling/baking/BBQ-ing won’t easily kill. (Sorry for the ruined appetites out there, but knowledge is power!)
Kosher has nothing to do with “biblical” standards. “Kosher” (Kashrus in Hebrew) means the food is fit to consume in accordance with Jewish laws concerning preparation and eating of food. There are many regulations, based on good science, involved in Kosher.
Pork is no more carcinogenic than beef, poultry or other meats.
“Pigs become infected by eating tapeworm eggs in the feces of a human infected with a tapeworm.” If you bother to look under “Prevention” you’ll see suggestions concerning personal hygene as well as washing fruits and vegetables, but not one syllable about avoiding pork. Based on the evidence, it is humans who infect pigs.
Pigs are not a good source anything edible, not biblically or non-biblically…
I have to agree with you on that..
Except that bacon just tastes so darn good!
did you know that pigs are scavengers by nature? They will eat almost anything. Also, their digestive systems work in a way that they digest what they eat very quickly. This is bad news if you eat pork. Too risky.
And pigs are the closest analog biologically speaking to humans. So we too are omniverous, does that make us bad? Thinking out loud.
I bought the Great Lake green Kosher because it dissolves in cold water, and does not gel. I drink it in my morning coffee. If you want to use the gelatin in recipes like marshmallows, or hair conditioner, you will need the red, it will gel.
If you don’t want the gelatine to gel, then use Wellness Mama Katie’s advice in reverse:
“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.”
If you simply want to drink it, do not want to gel anything, do not like the texture of it in plain water, then bloom 1 Tbls. in cold water, then add FRESH pineapple juice, kiwi or papaya smoothie. Yummm 🙂