Gelatin Uses, Benefits, & Recipes

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Gelatin Uses and Benefits plus recipes
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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.

12 Uses for Gelatin and gelatins great health benefits

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.)

Gelatin Uses

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 Benefits

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 PowderCollagen 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 CollagenMarine 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

Healthy Homemade Marshmallow Recipe- Can even add probiotics- these are healthy and kids love them

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…

Here’s the recipe.

2. Hair Treatment

natural homemade healthy coconut shampoo kid approved

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

Homeade Gummy Vitamins- Kids love these and they are gut friendly, inexpensive and customizeable to your child- for grown ups too

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

healthy homemade jello no sugar

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

Gut and Psychology Syndrome Review

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

Kettlebells- great gift idea for men- fitness in under 10 mins a day

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

9 Tips to Help Balance Hormones

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

Delicious 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!

Notes:
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!

There are many gelatin uses and benefits. It is great for hair, skin, nails, digestion, immune function, joints and more.
Sources
Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.

Comments

454 responses to “Gelatin Uses, Benefits, & Recipes”

  1. April Avatar

    I put 1 tbsp of gelatin powder into 1 half cup of almond milk then I add 1 tbsp of skinny girl sweetner any flavor. stir and put in the fridge until firm. sprinkle some cinnamon on top and to me it taste like rice pudding! Without all the carbs and gluten

  2. MALINI RAJENDAN Avatar
    MALINI RAJENDAN

    I have been taking Gelatin now for around a month daily. It is quite a challenge finding animal source food grade gelatin in India.
    Before that I must share my Fresh Turmeric paste tea story. I started taking turmeric paste tea first thing in the morning since November 2016 and have not missed a day since then. It has completely eliminated all joint pains, reduced my varicose veins to some extent , made me loose inches and made me look much younger ( I’m 63). To support further joint health and skin health now that I was looking yonger thanks to the weight loss, I started taking Gelatin. But I hated the raw gelatin taste. So here is what I do, I dissolve around 20 gms and set it into a mould. Then I put a teaspoon of my turmeric tea paste in a tall glass, add a large scoop or two of the gelatin and pour boiling hot water on to it. And thats my morning wake up tea. Then some time during the day , I have a second drink of gelatin in hot water with honey or some fruit juice or just fresh lime queezed into it, or boil one clove and a pinch of cinnamon powder in water and pour that into the gelatin in the glass and have it as evening tea. I certainly find my skin becoming softer and my joints much much better and am able to walk and do stairs without discomfort.
    As for the Fresh turmeric tea paste I would love to share it. And for those who dont want to make their own- I am now making it for sale too.

  3. Mohit Avatar

    I have an ACL ligament injury of 2nd grade during playing basketball in landing jump.
    Can I use this Gelatin. I suffered for 4 months of this injury.

  4. Namita Tiwari Avatar
    Namita Tiwari

    hello Katie…this is NT …i just registered today as a member.
    i am desperately looking for some advice. We are a vegetarian family. my mom is losing muscle mass…her pelvic muscles are giving way. she has protein loss. so has to be put on a high protein diet.
    now, what i want to know from you is… that do u have vegetarian collagen options…like there’s something called china grass. is that a gelatin or a collagen substitute.
    i also read online that while gelatin is protein rich, collagen isn’t. and, can gelatin be taken in blank pills by vegetarians – if one can’t mix it with food or drinks.
    lastly will collagen have the same effect on hair as gelatin. i really need some clarity on the above.
    thank you…:)

    1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

      I don’t know of any vegetarian options that work the same way in the body or that have anywhere near the same amount of protein. Agar is used as a substitute for gelatin in cooking because it can thicken but it contains less than 1/5 of the protein in gelatin and has much more carbs. By their very nature, gelatin and collagen are animal products that contain amino acids found in animals, so I don’t know of any substitute that will have the same effects.

  5. Namita Tiwari Avatar
    Namita Tiwari

    Hi there…
    Wanted to know if natural vegetarian gelatin options exist….and if so…do they work equally well…for hair n skin health
    i came across agar but that is not rich in protein…it’s rich in calcium, iron, folate and vitamins…butnot protein.
    pls advise.
    am a vegetarian

  6. Deb Avatar

    Great post. Have used the collagen but not the gelatin. Will give it a try. Thanks for the info!

  7. Deja Avatar

    I love gelatin! My husband has Rheumatoid Arthritis and he’s noticed a difference in his joints since we started using it. I also made my prenatal vitamins with gelatin- worked out perfectly. Great article!

  8. Goldberry McClure Avatar
    Goldberry McClure

    I appreciate that you were honest about where gelatin comes from. The sad thing is that innocent animal lives are lost in order to make it. I used to eat it as well, before I became aware of how many lives were lost. Also, there’s no such thing as ‘humanely raised’. As soon as an animals life is taken against it’s will, it’s no longer humane. Every being on this earth deserves equal treatment. Cows, and pigs are just as important as dogs and cats. To eat them is speciesism.

    1. Katie - Wellness Mama Avatar

      Gelatin is often made from leftover parts from animals that were already butchered for another reason, so in a sense, it is making sure nothing goes to waste. I agree that we should respect animals and raise them with care, but I disagree that we should never consume them. From a biological and environmental perspective, they have an important role that can’t be filled by plants alone. Certainly, I respect anyone’s decision not to consume animals, but disagree that no one should consume them.

  9. Susette M Weiss Avatar
    Susette M Weiss

    Bio cell collagen is the type 2 collagen which survives the stomach acids & actually provide the benefits of taking collagen. Joint, skin,digestion, & other benefits have clinical trials & proof that type 2 collagen works. The type 1 & others you recommend provide little help as most are destroyed in the stomach.

  10. Yen Avatar

    How do you know if your source of gelatin is not hidden MSG? There is so much more research coming out about the harmful effects of free glutimate and “Gelatin” is one way to hide this in the ingredients list. I’d love to know more. Thanks.

  11. Toni Harms Avatar
    Toni Harms

    What are your thoughts on placing the gelatin powder in a capsule? Seems easier to me than cooking with it every day lol. I’m assuming stomach acids would dissolve it.

  12. monika Avatar

    I just don’t see the need to get grass-fed, organic, etc. gelatin. Gelatin is devoid of nutrients; it only has amino acids (it’s not even a complete protein) I use gelatin DAILY; I use a lot; however, due to what it really is – crushed animal bone – you don’t need to fork out the cash for the ultra-quality as you DO need to do with the actual MEAT (and eggs, fish, etc.)

  13. Adriana Avatar

    Hi Katie
    What do you think about Collagen Hydrolysate ?
    That’s the one I heard is the top brand ?
    Thank you for your input

  14. Pat Avatar

    Hi, I just wanted to know if you could get too much, when supplementing with gelatin?

  15. Cindy Avatar

    I’ve been taking a tablespoon daily in my hot tea. The taste is rather faint and disappears when I add honey and milk to the tea. My hair now has to be cut monthly instead of every 7-8 weeks; my nails grow like crazy, too. I forgot about gelatin helping cellulite–HOLY MOLY, I just checked and it’s working! The boosted immunity is a plus, but even if you just take it for vanity’s sake, it’s so worth it.

  16. Teneko Avatar

    I make a “rocket fuel latte” (recipe found on another site) in the morning for breakfast that includes hemp hearts, coconut oil, gelatin or collagen, and of course coffee. Sometimes I mix things up and add flavourings like vanilla or pumpkin spice. Because I drink my coffee fairly quickly and blend it all with a blender, I’ve found that the gelatin doesn’t really “gel up” and cause a problem. It does just thicken the drink a bit to be about “shake” consistency. As long as you don’t let it sit and nurse the cup all day, it shouldn’t be a problem to use whichever you have on hand.
    I also love making my own “jello” with unflavoured gelatin powder. I pretty much only use stevia and erythritol for sweeteners, so I have to make my own if I want a jellied snack. I use tea, coffee, cream, almond milk, sparkling probiotic drinks (not all at once, though!). I think I used to use a recipe for Knox blox, but just used my beverage of choice instead of the fruit juice. No sugar, either – just liquid stevia drops. The chai jelly with cream on top was really pretty!

    -T.

  17. Matta Avatar

    In an attempt to heal some GI issues, I’ve been eating a lot of jello recently actually. One thing I have noticed is the tips of my fingernails have become very white, thick and strong looking. Must be related.

    1. monika Avatar

      VERY much related; gelatin/collagen is great for nails, hair…etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

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