Gelatin, the cooked form of collagen, is full of amino acids that can help strengthen teeth and hair, smooth out wrinkles, and give your skin a healthy glow. But aesthetics aside, gelatin is an all-in-one superfood that can heal your gut, rebalance your hormones, and boost your immune system.
What Is Gelatin?
Gelatin is an all-in-one superfood for boosting immunity, repairing your digestive tract, improving your skin’s appearance and texture, and eliminating sugar cravings.
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Gelatin is the cooked form of collagen, which is found in animal bones and connective tissue. Gelatin contains lots of amino acids, which is why it has so many health benefits.
Bone broth is an excellent source of gelatin, but you can also find powdered gelatin sourced from grass-fed cows at your local health food store. Gelatin powder can be added to almost any recipe, including soups, stews, smoothies, coffee, and even DIY skin care recipes.
From healthy recipes to your beauty routine, here are ways to use gelatin in your everyday routine to improve your health and lifestyle!
Top 14 Benefits of Gelatin
1. Gelatin Boosts Skin Health
As mentioned above, gelatin is cooked collagen. And collagen is the structural protein that helps maintain skin elasticity and keep your skin looking smooth, plump, and supple (1).
Our bodies naturally produce collagen, but as we age, we begin to produce less. In fact, research shows our natural collagen production begins to decline by 1% beginning at the age of 20 (2).
Many anti-aging skin cream formulas contain collagen, but most collagen molecules are too large to penetrate the skin’s surface. Even when collagen molecules are hydrolyzed or broken down into smaller fragments, they’re still unable to interact with the skin’s natural collagen supply. This means most topical anti-aging collagen creams may be ineffective.
Eating foods that increase collagen production naturally, such as gelatin, has been shown to effectively improve the skin’s elasticity and appearance from the inside out (3).
2. Gelatin Helps Hair + Nails Grow Faster
If your hairdresser took off far too much during your last trim (or you just can’t seem to get your hair to grow), the protein in gelatin may help your hair grow in faster and thicker.
Since hair and nails are made from protein, increasing the amount of quality protein in your diet can help provide the amino acids needed to stimulate hair and nail growth (4).
3. Gelatin Repairs Gut + Digestion
Gelatin is rich in the amino acid glycine (in fact, gelatin is approximately 30% glycine), which helps repair the gut lining by strengthening and protecting the mucous membrane layer of the stomach (5)(6).
This is essential for improving general digestive health as well as healing a chronic digestive condition called leaky gut syndrome.
Leaky gut plays a major role in the development of allergies and autoimmune conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel disease (IBD) and inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis (7)(8)(9).
Gelatin also takes a longer time to digest, which helps coat the small intestine. This is why gelatin is commonly recommended on dietary protocols for healing digestive conditions, including the GAPS diet.
4. Gelatin Supports the Immune System
Approximately 80% of immune system cells are located in the gut, which means your immune system is a reflection of your digestive health (10).
By strengthening the mucous membrane layer of the stomach and “healing and sealing” the gut lining, gelatin can also help support and strengthen immunity based on its positive impact on gut health (11).
5. Gelatin Protects Joints
The ends of our bones are covered (or “protected”) with cartilage, which is formed from collagen. Cartilage prevents our bones from rubbing together, which otherwise causes pain and inflammation.
As we age, our cartilage can begin to degrade, which not only causes pain, but loss of joint motility and chronic inflammatory joint conditions, such as osteoarthritis (12).
Here’s where gelatin comes in. Since collagen is needed to form cartilage, taking a hydrolyzed gelatin supplement (which means it’s easily absorbed in the intestinal tract) has been shown to help the body rebuild cartilage, which “cushions” the joints and reduces pain and inflammation (13)(14). Proline, an amino acid found in gelatin, is also needed to help the body make hydroxyproline, which forms collagen (15).
This suggests adding gelatin to your diet may be preventative for joint degradation as well as managing symptoms of inflammatory joint conditions.
6. Gelatin Repairs Damaged Hair
A gelatin hair mask can help restore the natural shine in dull, dry or damaged hair.
If you’ve ever heard of whisking eggs and applying them to your hair for natural moisture, gelatin has the same benefits: it helps deliver protein and moisture to the hair shaft, which is needed to strengthen and improve your hair’s texture.
To make a gelatin hair mask, use a ratio of 1 tablespoon of gelatin powder to ⅓ cup of water (you may need to adjust the amount you use depending on the length or thickness of your hair). You can add other ingredients to your hair mask that promote shine, such as apple cider vinegar or coconut oil.
7. Gelatin Helps Reduce Inflammation
As mentioned above, gelatin is rich in the amino acid glycine. Glycine has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, and has been shown to reduce inflammation in the gut and cardiovascular system (16)(17).
Glycine has been shown to suppress the activation of cytokines (proteins that play a role in cell communication), and move cells towards the sites of inflammation, trauma, and infection (18)(19). The systemic inflammation of cytokines has been linked to cardiovascular disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression (20)(21)(22).
In other words, the anti-inflammatory action of glycine can help reduce the inflammatory response of elevated cytokines in the body.
8. Gelatin Balances Hormones
Hormones are the chemical messengers that regulate every function of your body, from your metabolism to your sleep cycle. When your hormones are functioning optimally, you feel energized, maintain a healthy weight, and in general, have a happier mood.
Since hormones are made up of amino acids (some amino acids become hormones, while others are required for hormone synthesis), getting a wide variety of amino acids in your diet is essential for general hormonal health and for rebalancing hormones (23).
Grass-fed gelatin is made up of approximately 98% protein, which means it’s almost pure amino acids.
Gelatin also contains several amino acids that stimulate the production of the human growth hormone, including glycine, lysine and arginine (24)(25)(26). The human growth hormone (HGH) is responsible for stimulating cellular repair and regeneration, and plays a role in energy production, strength, and endurance (27).
9. Gelatin Reduces Signs of Aging
One study showed that regularly ingesting collagen supplements was just as effective for reducing wrinkles and signs of aging as cosmetic procedures. The study stated that when ingested, collagen can directly reach the dermis in the skin, which is needed for the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles to fade (28).
10. Gelatin Prevents Cellulite
Cellulite is the bane of many women’s existence: it’s almost inevitable, and it’s difficult to get rid of (no matter how many squats you do).
The reason why we get cellulite as we age is due to a decrease in collagen production and skin elasticity. Regular exercise and avoiding foods that deplete collagen (such as refined sugar and trans fats) are important for cellulite prevention, but adding gelatin to your diet may help boost your efforts because it stimulates collagen production (29).
11. Gelatin Strengthens Teeth
We often relate collagen to healthy skin and anti-aging, but do you know that collagen is also the building block of teeth and bones?
Since collagen is found in tooth enamel, adding gelatin to your diet may help strengthen your teeth and prevent gum disease, tooth decay, and tooth loss (30).
12. Gelatin Helps Detox Liver
Animal products, such as chicken, fish, beef and eggs, are high in methionine. Methionine is an essential amino acid, which means we cannot survive without it—but when consumed in excess, it can build up in the blood, which causes systemic inflammation (31).
When methionine is metabolized, it produces a byproduct called homocysteine, which depletes vitamins B6 and B12 (32). This is why elevated homocysteine levels are an indicator of B vitamin deficiencies. Methionine has also been shown to deplete your natural glycine stores—which is where gelatin comes in.
Now, glycine and methionine have an interesting relationship: methionine depletes glycine, but glycine is needed to help clear extra methionine from the body. It’s like a Catch-22 situation. Adding gelatin to your diet can help increase your glycine levels and support your body’s natural detoxification processes. This is especially helpful if you eat a variety of animal products daily.
Glycine is also a precursor to glutathione, which plays a role in phase II liver detoxification—the phase in which your body prepares to eliminate toxins (35).
13. Gelatin Promotes Restful Sleep
Gelatin has been recommended as a sleep aid for those who have difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep, especially due to stress. This is because glycine acts as a neurotransmitter and helps reduce anxiety and improve sleep quality (36).
14. Gelatin Curbs Cravings
As a protein, gelatin is a slower nutrient to digest, which helps keep you full for longer periods of time. This helps balance blood sugar levels, which reduces cravings for excess carbs and processed sugar (37).
Gelatin has also been shown to reduce blood sugar spikes and reduce the body’s response to glucose when ingested with sugar (38).
6 Easy Ways to Eat and Use Gelatin
1. Homemade Gummies
You can make homemade gelatin gummies by combining grass-fed gelatin powder with your favorite puréed fruits and Paleo sweeteners, such as raw honey.
We recommend trying this simple and delicious homemade Paleo gummy vitamin recipe: Strawberry Lemon Ginger Bread Men Gummies.
Gelatin powder is tasteless, and you can add it to your green smoothies or smoothie bowls. However, gelatin is a thickener due to its gelatinous texture, so be prepared to eat your smoothie with a spoon if you add gelatin powder to it.
3. Soup or Stew Thickener
Gelatin powder is flavorless, which means it won’t change the taste of your recipes, but it will create a more gel-like texture. You can use gelatin powder to thicken and to add an extra protein boost to your favorite soup and stew recipes.
A good starting ratio for adding gelatin powder to your recipes is ½ tablespoon of gelatin per 1 cup of liquid—however, the ratio of gelatin to liquid you use will depend on how “thickened” or “gelled” you want your recipe to be. To be on the safe side, you may want to start with only ¼ tablespoon of gelatin powder and work your way up and adjust as needed once the gelatin powder begins to set.
4. Egg Substitute
If you’re sensitive to eggs, gelatin makes an excellent Paleo egg replacer in baking recipes that require a binder, such as pizza crust, pancakes and muffins.
To replace 1 egg, use a ratio of 1 tablespoon of gelatin powder and ¼ cup of water. Let it sit for 15 minutes to thicken before adding it to your recipes.
How to Find High Quality Gelatin Powder
Most health food stores or online natural health retailers carry gelatin sourced from grass-fed cows.
It’s important to make sure the gelatin powder you choose is from grass-fed animals, otherwise it won’t be as high in anti-inflammatory amino acids, such as glycine, which allow it to be such an amazing health food (this means, unfortunately, the packaged gelatin you find in grocery stores doesn’t qualify).