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. Jaime Avatar

    My almost 2 year old has some severe food intolerances and I would like to start giving him gelatin daily as bone broth seems too difficult. I understand that 1 tbsp is the appropriate dose for an adult but I can’t find any info online for a child- wellness mama, do you have any ideas

  2. esra Avatar

    Hi Katie, I am a vegeterian. If I consume plant based gellatin, could I still receive the same health benefits?
    Thanks

  3. Patsy Avatar

    Hi Katie, I do not have children at home anymore, I am still a mama, and I am interested in how I can start putting more healthy things into this 57 year old body of mine. Today I went and bought gelatin at my local health food store. It just says “beef gelatin” on it, so I don’t know if there is anything else in it. But I figure it’s got to be better than the Knox gelatin you get at the grocery store, right? I made the marshmallow recipe, and they are really fun and yummy. My question is, how many marshmallow per day is enough in order to reap the benefits of gelatin? How many of them is too much? Thank you so much for your great site!

  4. Katie Avatar

    Hi I just started following you and love all I have read so far! I have 4 children and tons of stretch marks on my tummy! I was wondering…you said your stretch marks are getting better from taking gelatin…so I was wondering how long you had been taking gelatin before you started noticing this. 🙂

  5. Joan Edelmann Avatar
    Joan Edelmann

    This is my second post here and have gotten some good feed back from you all. About the constipation I have been experiencing with taking the gelatin. I have started on 3/4 stewed prunes morning and night and I seem to be getting back on track with more comfortable bowel movements. So i guess my body was just not used to it and needed to take a little less (started with 1 tbl. am and pm.) now backed up to 1/2 am 1/2 pm and will do that for a while and then go up again..and see how that works. Thanks all again for your input., Joan

  6. Joan Edelmann Avatar
    Joan Edelmann

    Hi!

    This is my second post here and have gotten some good feed back from you all. About the constipation I have been experiencing with taking the gelatin. I have started on 3/4 stewed prunes morning and night and I seem to be getting back on track with more comfortable bowel movements. So i guess my body was just not used to it and needed to take a little less (started with 1 tbl. am and pm.) now backed up to 1/2 am 1/2 pm and will do that for a while and then go up again..and see how that works. Thanks all again for your input., Joan

  7. Kevin Avatar

    I also tried gelatin and was excited for the benefits but it gav me MAJOR diarrhea!

  8. Melanie Avatar

    Is gelatin powder the same as the Gelatin pills I just paid $15 for?

  9. Joan Avatar

    HI!

    First I think your site is wonderful and people who are commenting are knowledgeable in many ways however we can’t all get all the answers all the time. You still have to do your own homework and not expect to always have it all handed to you on a plate. I do a lot of reading and research when I embark on taking some new as I did with gelatin. I am taking the Great Lakes brand the green can (easy mix-no taste at all). There is one thing while I have been experiencing the positive effects something has happened to my bowel movements which have become much harder and can’t seem to get on schedule as I was before. I juice and smoothy adding flax oil and seed and continue to have difficult movements. I am not sure it is the gelatin. Was just cking in to see if anyone else has had any issues in this area. Thanks so much for your great website….keep it coming. Joan

    1. Melanie Avatar

      Joan, I have definitely noticed the same thing since I started taking gelatin capsules. My excrements are now dry and crumbly and are precipitated by a sudden unbearable pressure signaling the need to hit the bathroom. However the positive change is that it has seemed to help with stomach bloating.

      Does anyone know if the gelatin powder sold in grocery stores for making desserts is the same gelatin that is sold as supplements?

    2. Karen Avatar

      I have had a CHRONIC problem with slow digestion/constipation (I think I have some genetic weaknesses) and I just started making my own natto and am eating it daily. My stools are dramatically changing to normal, soft, brown stools. This is a huge answer for me for a lifelong problem.

  10. Sonia Avatar

    Hi there
    I will start off by saying “Please excuse the ignorance”
    Your point on Gelatin being a good weigh loss component. You mentioned that it “can boost Human Growth Hormone production”. Would this not be bad for cancer patients. My mother had breast cancer a few years ago. There was a supplement that i wanted her to take (cant recall what it was) I first did a bit of research on the supplement. It mentioned the it would increase Human Growth Hormone. Therefore, should not be taken by someone who is fighting cancer or has already fought the battle of cancer?

    Do you know anything about this?
    Can i recommend my mom take the gelatine?

  11. diane Avatar

    Was excited to take the Great Lakes collagen hydrolysate gelatin for all the health benefits and within a week broke out in cold sores. It made no sense why. I wondered if it might be the gelatin, since that was the only new food I’d added into to my diet, because usually its just stress that brings them on, but I’d had no stress. After some googling, I found gelatin can cause cold sores. Once they’re healed, I may reintroduce gelatin into my diet, but will make sure I’m taking Lysine to offset the argnine, and I won’t do the 1 TBSP in a.m. and p.m., as I was doing. Hopefully that will work and I can continue taking it. We shall see.

  12. Sarah Avatar

    Do you think it would be okay to put some of the Great Lakes Gelatin powder into capsule and take this way on the days I don’t cook with it?

  13. Shannon Avatar
    Shannon

    Hi everyone! I’ve been having a really hard time mixing powdered gelatin in tea. I do exactly what this says, mix with cool water, wait, then mix with hot tea, but there is always slime at the bottom of my cup. Not only am not getting much gelatin, but it’s very hard to remove. Any ideas what I am doing wrong?

  14. Elisa Avatar

    Hi, I’m loving your website… with a 3 year old girl that has a chronic skin rash I’m see some light when I read your articles and recipes… Thanks for taking the time to do this project.

    I wanted to ask you about the home made gummies recipe with beef gelatin… I just can’t find that one…

    Thanks a million!

    Elisa

  15. Kate Avatar

    Hi, Thank you for such a wonderful site! This was my question too. I was going to ask OBY if I should stop taking while pregnant but have a feeling I will get a simple answer like, don’t take anything other than prenatal vitamins and necessary prescriptions. They don’t really know if it is safe as they are Doctors not nutritionists. I just discovered gelatin as a supplement when I bought my daughter a gummy making kit and in the reviews someone suggested using the Great Lakes brand over store bought and using juice and honey instead of jello packets. We did this and the result was yucky, strong gelatin flavored slightly sweet gummy things. We still haven’t had a good batch so I will try your recipe. I started researching the benefits of adding this to the diet and have been adding 1-2 teaspoon to a strong flavored tea at night (Bengal Spice). I still have a hard time with the flavor/smell..do you have any advise on covering it up?

  16. Jen Avatar

    Any kosher product is not derived from a humanely raised animal. Kosher cows are not stunned before slaughter!!

  17. Brandy Avatar

    I live in Canada, and can’t seem to order this brand through Amagon or order it at all from their website. Do you know of any other brands? I really would like to try it as I suffer from IBS and I also work out a lot, it would be very beneficial. – Thanks

  18. Jill Avatar

    Hi, I’d like to try this method this summer for myself and my children–can you tell me what doses you use for kids? Mine are 9 and 11. Thanks!

      1. Jill Avatar

        Okay, so I’m a dork and somehow commented on this article instead of the one about eating your sunscreen. That’s what I was wondering how much of each you give kids. I can ask the question on that post if needed. Thanks!

  19. David Avatar

    Hi Katie,
    I recently got the gelatin that you suggested, but I am having difficulties getting it to disolve without clumping up. The can says that it can be added to hot or cold liquids, but all it does is make a glue ball (for loss of a better description). How do you manage to get past this. I’ve tried sprinkling it on top of a warm liquid and letting it “bloom” and that takes care of some of this problem…still clumps up for the most part. Any help you can offer would be most appreciated.
    Cheers!

  20. Linda Avatar

    I am wanting to incorporate gelatin into our health regime. My son has a dairy/beef allergy – can you tell me your thoughts on the porcine gelatine ? Are the benefits the same?
    Also if anyone knows of a reputable gelatin in uk that doesn’t cost the earth I would very much appreciate it!

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