Gelatin Uses, Benefits, & Recipes

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Gelatin Uses and Benefits plus recipes
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Gelatin Uses, Benefits, & Recipes

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. Denise Avatar

    So last night I tried adding a 1/2 tspn of gelatin to my shampoo. I have the dreaded thinning-on-top-hair and so any kind of volumizing I can get to my crown, I’m a fan of. The gelatin made my shampoo really thick and I needed to use it right away once I mixed it together. I let my hair dry naturally and I definitely felt the difference in the texture and volume as it air-dryed. The next morning, I wet my hair again, put on some gel and blow-dryed it. Definitely a difference! My hair had way more body than it ever has had – on a hot, humid day no less, when my hair usually looks lifeless. The feel of my hair through my fingers is great. Soft and full. My crown looks a little poofier which I’m very satisfied with. I’ll have to try that hair treatment next. Great, great tip though. Thanks Katie! As an aside, I was thinking that massaging that shampoo through your hair can’t be bad for your nails as well. Sort of a double treatment!

  2. Lindsay Avatar
    Lindsay

    Hi Katie,
    I am planning on purchasing the Great Lakes brand gelatin but I’m not sure what product will be right for me. I plan on making gummies and jello with it, but would also like the option of putting into teas and smoothies. Also I am not sure of the difference between the bovine and porcine products. What do you recommend?

  3. Denise Avatar

    Well I received my 2 lb. container of Vital Proteins Collagen Protein Powder yesterday and right away was wondering how I could put it to work. Once every couple of weeks, we indulge in a good Italian pasta dinner with fresh marinara sauce. I’m always looking for a way to cut the acidity in my sauce without compromising the flavor and haven’t really hit on an acceptable solution yet. Well, since I needed to dilute my sauce a bit anyway, I mixed two scoopfuls of the collagen in room temperature, filtered water, waited a few minutes, ladled in some finished marinara sauce and whisked together. I then poured that into the rest of the sauce and mixed well. My meatballs were already in there and I had it off the fire so as not to cook it any further. Well, it mixed great – didn’t even know it was in there. But the pleasant surprise was that, voila! It wasn’t acidic! It was very smooth, thickened just a tad and the taste hadn’t changed a bit. I asked my roommate if he concurred for fear that maybe I was going looney but he agreed. He usually has to take an antacid before bedtime when he has marinara sauce, but not last night. That was my proof! So I finally found a way to make my sauce less acidic and even more healthy to boot. Yayyyyy! Had the collagen in my coffee this morning – again, didn’t alter the flavor. It was very silky and smooth going down. I’m so thrilled knowing that adding collagen to my diet will be an easy curve for me. I’m starting slow though – just once a day – so that my body can adjust to it. I can’t wait to add it to my shampoo and to make that hair treatment – that’s next on my list. 🙂

  4. angela Avatar

    How much gelatin should be added to infant formula per day? I don’t want to give too much. And you used the red can (regular gelatin) for your babies? Mine is 6 months old.

  5. Chris Avatar

    I am an amateur body builder and often suffer joint and soft tissue injuries. I would buy off-the-shelf flavoured Gelatin powder and make it into Jelly (or Jello if you are American) and consume it each night for a week. It really does assist in injury repair.

  6. Jenifer Avatar
    Jenifer

    I agree Denise, it seems suspicious that Great Lakes doesn’t publicly advertise that their sources are grass-fed. It is quite something that they’ve got the reputation without the qualifications! All the natural health sites I’ve seen talking about gelatin, are recommending Great Lakes! I will definitely check out that other source you mention. Thanks!

  7. Denise Avatar

    Thanks Katie and good luck! And thank you for creating this great website! I’ve learned so much from you and truly appreciate your integrity and dedication. The wealth of info contained here is fantastic. I just rec’d my container of Great Lakes gelatin (the hydrosylate kind) and will not open it until I hear back from you. I have no qualms about returning it. In the meantime I did purchase the other brand I mentioned. That will arrive on Monday. I do intend to make this part of my daily diet – thanks again for all the useful info on gelatin. I had no idea! Keep up the great work!

  8. Denise Avatar

    As a follow-up to my previous post: I came across this company. Take a look at this site: https://www.vitalproteins.com/ This is what I mean about being transparent. I wish Great Lakes had something like this on their site. Now this product is much more expensive but I would expect that given the high standards of production. At least they offer free shipping on all orders. Just a thought . . . . .

  9. Denise Avatar

    Hey there! I just looked on Great Lakes Gelatin business page which provides a wealth of information on their gelatin products. And they go very much into detail. But no where, not on any of the pages, do they state that their animals are grass-fed or grass-finished or that there are no hormones or antibiotics used. The only thing they do show is a Kosher certification which expires in Dec. of 2014. If this company is on the up and up, then why not put “grass-fed”, “no hormones used” and “no antibiotics used” right on their label and/or on their website, at the very least. Something just doesn’t seem right here. Here is the url: https://greatlakesgelatin.com/pages/health-information. I’m highly skeptical of this company. If Great Lakes will only supply this information privately upon request, and won’t even put it on their company website, I have to wonder how truthful they’re being because they sure aren’t being transparent. I think I’ll be looking for another supplier as I’m quite keen on incorporating collagen/gelatin into my diet from all I’ve read.

    1. Karen Avatar

      Makes sense. If I had grassfed collagen, I would be posting that all over the front page of my website and on my jars of collagen/jello.

    2. Anita Avatar

      Why does it gave to be kosher? Is that an American thing? It’s a big no no in the uk.

  10. Jenifer Avatar
    Jenifer

    Thanks for all the great ideas! I’ve done the hair treatment and it worked great for my crowning glory! 🙂

    Read this online recently, seems gelatin would do the trick here as well. I’ve been taking it in tea before bed, a tablespoon or more in Tulsi/camomile tea, but will make sure not to snack for several hours previous.

    “Middle aged spread is caused by the loss of collagen, among other things. Collagen doesn’t just keep your face nice and tight, it also helps keep skin taught throughout the body and helps keep your internal organs from slumping. I’m not making this up, a plastic surgeon told me.”

  11. JT Smith Avatar
    JT Smith

    Hey Mama!

    I’m estrogen deficient but am so impressed by the benefits of gelatin. Can I still consume it?

    Thank you

  12. Teresa Avatar

    I followed the directions perfectly for the hair treatment but it did not turn out thick at all. There was no gel like consistency. What went wrong?

  13. Erin Avatar

    Wow, the gelatin treatment made such a difference in my daughter’s hair! It is very curly and hard to manage but we did this treatment last week and since then it has been shiny, easy to brush and just beautiful! Thanks so much!

  14. Kate Avatar

    Can you use Collagen Hydrolysate (Green Great Lakes one) for this? Thanks!

  15. Rachel Zwicker Avatar
    Rachel Zwicker

    Thank you for your blog! I have been using it everyday for two months now! I have made major changes in so many areas! I have been taking gelatin for over two weeks now. I put one Tbsp in my coffee in the morning and then one Tbsp in a cup of chamomile tea just before bed. I immediately noticed that I got a better night’s sleep. Last night I made an extra cup of chamomile tea for my husband. He rarely reports a good night’s sleep. He has a hard time turning off his brain. For once he tried one of my crazy nutrition ideas. This morning he said he slept better than he has in a very long time! I am so excited about gelatin! It has been very easy to add to my diet and I can already see major benefits! Thanks so much for this information! Life changing!

  16. Carole Avatar
    Carole

    Hi, I’m very interested in the use of gelatin and wondered whether anyone can tell me if vegetarian gelatin works in the same way..?

  17. Brooke Avatar
    Brooke

    I bought the powder form. Wondering if I can put them in capsules and take them this way instead??

  18. Laura Avatar

    Hi,
    I was wondering if anyone knows if Gelatin can help with TMJ pain? I have a bad case in my left jaw and hear all this crunching and popping. Is very painful to eat. Does anyone have experience with gelatin helping the jaw joints? Thanks!

    1. Patricia Grimes Avatar
      Patricia Grimes

      Laura,
      I am a 86 year old widow and having TMJ pain and the cracking sound in my jaw.
      Have you been to a doctor?
      Wondering what treatment they will offer.
      Will appreciate your reply.

  19. Katharina Avatar
    Katharina

    Do you know how I can get this kind of gelatin (for making jello for my family) in Canada? I`ve tried many places without success. Thank you!

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