Gelatin is a protein derived from collagen, a material found in the bones, cartilage, and skin of animals that's essential for healthy joints. Most often known for its use in desserts, gelatin is also a common ingredient in broths, soups, sauces, candies, and some medications.
Gelatin is produced by processing animal parts to extract the collagen and turn it into gelatin. This flavorless, translucent substance has a jelly-like texture. Both collagen and gelatin have similar proteins, and they may provide similar benefits.
While early humans often ate the connective tissues, tendons, and other parts of animals that contain collagen, most modern diets are lacking in collagen and gelatin. Due to its high protein content and amino acids, gelatin is often taken as a supplement.
Gelatin is a protein that may promote skin, joint, hair, nail, and gut health. It also provides essential amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, which can provide potent health benefits.
Potential health benefits of gelatin include:
The protein and amino acids in gelatin can help the body build more collagen, a vital element in healthy skin. As people age, their natural collagen levels drop. This can lead to skin losing elasticity and the development of wrinkles. One study found that consuming collagen improved the skin’s hydration and reduced wrinkles.
The proteins in gelatin can help support the intestinal wall, including building the protective mucus lining in your intestines. In early studies on rats, gelatin helped protect the lining of the intestines from damage, although further research is needed to fully confirm this effect in humans.
Gelatin also contains glutamic acid, another amino acid that can help protect the intestinal wall from damage and prevent leaky gut.
Lower Blood Sugar
The amino acid glycine that's found in gelatin may help manage blood sugar levels in those with Type 2 diabetes. In addition to a drop in blood sugar levels, study participants who took glycine as a treatment experienced reduced inflammation.
Stronger Joints and Bone
In addition to improving the elasticity of the skin, gelatin can also strengthen connective tissues. Studies have shown that collagen supplements like gelatin can reduce joint pain. They have also found that it can strengthen joints by increasing the density of the cartilage.
Gelatin also contains lysine, which helps strengthen the bones. It can also improve the body’s ability to absorb calcium, which can help prevent bone loss. Due to these effects, gelatin may be used as a supplement to reduce the risk of osteoporosis, or a thinning of the bones.
While a study found an increase in bone density in rats taking doses of gelatin, further research on humans is needed to understand the link between gelatin and bone health.
Gelatin contains proteins and antioxidants, which help protect the cells in the body, that can support the health of the digestive system, bones, skin, joints, and more.
It’s also an excellent source of:
Nutrients per Serving
A half-cup serving of gelatin contains:
- Calories: 35
- Protein: 1 gram
- Fat: 0 grams
- Carbohydrates: 8 grams
- Fiber: 0 grams
- Sugar: 8 grams
If consuming gelatin as a supplement, the National Institutes of Health suggests that taking up to 10 grams a day for up to six months is safe.
Gelatin can also be found in other foods, including soups, broths, candies, and desserts. Some of these can contain high levels of sugar or fat, so they should be eaten in moderation. Those taking gelatin for Type 2 diabetes should avoid sugar-heavy foods.
How to Prepare Gelatin
Gelatin is already present in many food items, but it can also be added to foods at home through gelatin supplements or powders. Gelatin powder can be added to soups, smoothies, drinks, or other meals.
To use gelatin powder to thicken the consistency of sauces, mousses, and gelatin desserts, the powder should first be placed in cold water and stirred until it thickens and becomes lumpy. Then, it can be heated until nearly boiling.
For soups, you can make your own gelatin-rich broth at home with parts of meats like chicken or beef. Boiling bones, cartilage, and skin in water for several hours can create a broth with high levels of gelatin.