J-E-L-L-Oh? Surprising Benefits of the Gelatin

Posted on by Sirena Bernal

I never really liked Jell-o much as a kid.  As a matter of fact, I despised it.  The translucent and jiggly nature of the stuff gave me the creeps.  And it was even creepier when it was served in the shape of a bundt pan, or with fresh fruit suspended in it. Extra creepy was the combination of the two (see below).  So instead, I always opted for it’s opaque, denser (and superior) cousin, pudding.

(I borrowed this photo from a Jell-o blog.  Which proves you could blog about anything.)

That was years ago, though.  I’ve grown up a bit since then, thank you very much, and I’ve changed a few of my opinions.  And, while I’m still not a big fan of Jello-o, I am an ardent believe in the stuff that gives Jell-o both it’s name and it’s signature jiggle.  You see, the irony is that one of my favorite food “supplements” (which I use for myself and my nutrition clients), is gelatin, the main ingredient in Jell-o.

Now, you may already know that gelatin is what gives Jell-o it’s distinct squishy texture; this texture is present in other kid favorites, from gummi bears to twizzlers.  Same squish, same reason: gelatin.  What you might not be aware of are the surprising health and fat loss benefits of gelatin.  Yes, fat loss I say!

Before we get into how gelatin can improve your health and your body composition, let’s first discuss what gelatin is, what it’s made from, why it’s so special, and other cool tid-bits about gelatin.

What is gelatin?

Basically, gelatin is the cooked form of collagen.  Collagen makes up about 50% of the protein found in an animal (including us) and is the stuff found in connective tissues like tendons, ligaments, and skin.  You know that thick pale yellow layer of fatty goo that forms on top of soups and stews when you refrigerate it?  Well, that my friend, is gelatin.

What is gelatin made from?

Gelatin can be made from various parts of the animal.  Depending on the manufacturer, gelatin can be made from the skin and bones of the animal.  These parts are dried and ground up into a powder, which is how you will find most store-bought gelatin.

Great Lakes Gelatin, the brand I recommend, uses grass-fed, hormone and anti-biotic-free cattle and pigs.  They use only the hides and the animals are put through rigorous testing and inspections to ensure they are safe for human consumption.  You can read a little more about Great Lakes Gelatin here: http://greatlakesgelatin.com/consumer/FAQs.php

Other ways to make gelatin is through the use of bone broths, stews and soups that use the bones of the animal. We’ll discuss bone broths and soups in a future post.

Why is gelatin so special?

One of the most important facts you should know about gelatin is that it is mainly comprised of the amino acids glycine and proline.  These amino acids have incredible health benefits and are the proteins that are responsible for giving collagen it’s fibrous texture.  Why is this important?  Well, since the media promotes eating skinless, boneless meat, we deprive ourselves of getting enough glycine and proline in our diet—which is unfortunate, because if people were a little more willing to knaw the fat and tendon off a bone, they might have a little less fat on their waists.

Here lies problem: when we neglect to eat the bones, skin, connective tissue and parts of the animal we would otherwise throw away, including the organs (gasp, organ meat!), we rely on getting most of our protein sources from muscle meat.  When we do this, we not only miss out on the benefits of glycine and proline (which I’ll talk about later) but we load up tryptophan, an amino acid found in muscle meat.

This becomes a problem because too much tryptophan in the diet can cause inflammation in the body, suppress the immune system, and increase the production of serotonin, which can impair thyroid function.  Gelatin on the other hand, contains zero tryptophan, another reason why it is so special.

A little side note about glycine…

Glycine, which makes up about 35% of the amino acid profile in gelatin, is not only an anti-inflammatory, but it can also help the body heal wounds, it can inhibit tumor growth, promote recovery from strokes and seizures as well as improve memory.  When combined with the other constituents found in gelatin, it helps create a powerful superfood to promote growth, healing and anti-aging in the body.

Other cool tid-bits about gelatin

Long before powdered gelatin was used as a weight loss or health supplement, traditional cultures were always aware of how beneficial the bones, skin, and other non-meat tissues were to health and healing.  Through the use of bone broths, fish head stew, and even head cheese (a favorite of Andrew Zimmern on Bizarre Foods), traditional cultures have treated sickness and disease, without the use of modern medicine, for centuries.  It’s no wonder why chicken soup is nicknamed “Jewish Penicillin.”

Ok, now that you have a better idea of what gelatin is and why it’s so special, let’s talk a little about what it can do for you.

What are some of the health benefits of gelatin?

1. Gelatin can help reduce inflammation in the body.  

Thanks to the high contents of glycine, gelatin can help the body reduce inflammation by reducing serotonin and estrogen in the body, 2 hormones that when in excess can cause inflammation in our tissues.  This makes gelatin an excellent addition to a protein shake after a hard workout.

2. Gelatin can help you look younger and sexier.

Since inflammation is one of the contributors to aging within the body, it’s obvious how the anti-inflammatory benefits of gelatin can help curb the aging process.  On top of that, gelatin can help your body repair quicker, and can strengthen and sexify your hair, nails, and skin.

I attribute my sexiness to gelatin powder and bacon fat. 

3. Gelatin can help you sleep.

Research has shown that ingesting glycine before bed can actually help improve sleep quality and reduce daytime sleepiness as well as improve memory.  This is partially due to the role glycine plays in the neurotransmitters within the brain.  Before bed, try drinking 1-2 tbs. of gelatin in a shake or smoothie.

4. Gelatin can help ease achy and stiff joints.

According to a Ball State University study, gelatin was shown to have a positive healing effect on the joints of athletes.  The gelatin not only reduces inflammation which can trigger pain receptors and cause stiffness in the joints, but it can also help repair small tears in the cartilage.  Anyone, whether you’re an athlete or not, can benefit from this.  Joints that can move with ease makes moving through life a heck of a lot easier.

5. Improved insulin sensitivity and lower blood triglyceride levels.

If you’ve ever worried about high cholesterol, or if it runs in your family, adding gelatin into your diet may be worth considering since it helps inhibit the breakdown of fatty acids that can end up in the blood stream.  It’s effects on improving blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity makes gelatin a noteworthy candidate for treating diabetes as well as a tool to help with weight loss.

6. Gelatin can help heal your gut.

Not only can gelatin help repair the mucousal lining of your digestive tract, it can also help you break down fats and proteins which will make it easier for your body to absorb.  When your body can effectively break down and absorb the food you’re eating, you reduce the amount of inflammation in the gut and get more out of every bite.

7. Gelatin can help minimize the effects of excess estrogen.

Too much estrogen in the body (which can be caused by all sorts of reasons including hormonal imbalances, over exposure 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.

At this point, you might be wondering, “This is great Sirena, but how the hell does this help me lose weight?”

Good question.  And I’m ready to answer that for you.

You see, when you’re less inflamed, when your gut is happy, when you’re sleeping, when you’re able to effectively manage your blood sugar levels, and when your hormones are working in harmony, what do you think you’re body does better?

That’s right.  You’re body does a better job of burning fat and thus, regulating your weight.  Bottom line.

I’m not saying that gelatin is the next magic pill and that loading up on gelatin shakes and homemade marshmallows (that’s right, you can make homemade marshmallows) is going to instantaneously give you flat abs, but its another piece in a much bigger picture.

After seeing the changes my body went through since adding gelatin in my diet, I began to recommend gelatin powder for all of my nutrition coaching clients.  And in doing so, have produced some amazing results that include weight loss, better digestion, better sleep and stronger hair and nails.

Now that you have a better understanding of gelatin and what it can do for you, you’re probably curious as to what to do with it.  Don’t worry, I got you covered.  In the next day or two I’ll post some recipes for you to show you how to use the stuff and where you can buy it.

In the meantime, leave your favorite Jell-o flavor below, and bonus points to anyone who can guess my favorite pudding flavor.


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  • Sarah

    im going with pistachio for the win.

    • Anonymous

      DAMN.

      I’m speechless.

  • Cory

    Hey Sirena, I appreciate this topic of discussion but I found your brief explanation about where gelatin comes from to be pretty incomplete… Using language that in no way speaks to how brutal and inhumane the process of creating gelatin actually is. Just saying…if you want to eat an ‘honest’ diet, at least expose yourself and your audience to the actual process… The animals used to make gelatin are often the sick, problematic animals that can’t be slaughtered for meat. Kind of a bummer I know, but fortunately glycine is also available from plant sources. I agree that gelatin seems to be really good for you but some readers might want to balance that interest with their environmental and humanitarian concerns- and it is possible!

    • Anonymous

      Hi Cory,

      Thank you for your response, and you bring up a very very good point. I do agree that most commercially manufactured gelatin is not made ethically or sustainably, which is why I always recommend that you research the companies you buy food from. I did not get to it in this post as I was saving it for a future article, however, the company that I recommend uses grass-fed cattle and only uses the hide for the production of gelatin. The animals they use are safe for human consumption and are not given hormones or anti-biotics.

      To put in this article how commercial gelatin is made would be quite the turn off for most, and not the direction I wanted in this article. Ultimately, it is up to each of us to look into what we are putting into our bodies. Although I make recommendations, it is up to each individual to make their own choice. My goal is to share my thoughts, and insights as to work has worked for me personally and my clients. And I will always suggest doing your own research, don’t take what anyone else, or even what I say, verbatim.

      If we are going to discuss environmental and humanitarian concerns, that could open up a whole can of worms, so I’ll avoid getting into that ;)

      But, I really do appreciate your feedback, and I respect your opinion. I will address more in detail the production of gelatin and the company I use in my next post. You can read a little more about it here: http://greatlakesgelatin.com/consumer/FAQs.php

      Thanks!

      Sirena

      • http://www.resonant-health.com Cory

        great reply :)

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  • ds

    Hi Sirena, thanks for this informative post!

    Regarding the gelatin content in gummi bears candies for kids – could you elaborate how it compares with the stuff in Jell-o (assuming both have animal derived gelatin)? I have been having a lot of gummi bears (since the Haribo brand is so popular here in Germany) but not Jell-o.

    Maybe the chemical structure in the powdered form (Jell-o) is more beneficial? Or maybe I am ingesting unecessary amounts of sugar for the same amount of gelatin intake I could get with Jell-o? Would be great if you can throw light on which form is ideal

    Thanks,
    Deepak (m/27)

    • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

      Hey Deepak,

      Thanks for your comment. If I am correct you are wondering if the powdered form of Jell-o is better than gummy bears? And I’d have to say, not really because both contain a ton of sugar.

      Your best bet would be to get straight up gelatin which you can mix into shakes, oatmeals, homemade ice creams etc.

      I get my gelatin from Great Lakes, and you can find their site here:

      http://greatlakesgelatin.com/

      I use this stuff all the time, and my body has responded very well.

      Hope that helps!

      Sirena

  • Anonymous

    Hi Sirena, great topic on a wonderful supplement.

    As soon as it was pointed out to me that gelatin as food has been systematically processed out of the western diet for the last 30-40 years, whereas before that it had been an integral part of the human diet for hundreds of thousands of years, all the benefits of gelatin clicked for me in a real-world way.

    Lack of natural gelatin in our diet, through clean sources such as traditional bone broths, is more than likely a direct contributor to the alarming rise in diseases in our culture during these aforementioned last 30 years. Seriously, when was the last time the average American ate homemade real chicken soup from Granny’s recipe instead of from a corprate chemically-proccessed-food can?

    Since incorporating clean gelatin into my daily diet, I have personally: slept better, lost weight, stopped losing hair, noticed my skin getting smoother and laugh lines filling in, I don’t feel depressed, my knees don’t creak as bad as they used to, my workouts seem to go smoother, and I can keep up with the kids better.

    Personally, I think everyone should make sure they get this stuff back into their diets as a regular part of their life. I’ve been using the NOW brand beef gelatin (because of how gelatin is made, it doesn’t carry madcow), and I get it cheap online from a place called iHerb. It’s tasteless and easy to cook with: I put it in my coffee, soups, teas, shakes, sprinkle it on yogurt, etc. Good stuff.

    Thanks again for the great post. Next: sexy bacon fat!

    • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

      Hi Erick,

      Thank you so much for your reply. And I agree with you on all points. I started using gelatin a few months ago, and I just feel better overall – better skin, digestion, and sleep.

      I think its funny how most of my clients cringe when I mention cooking a whole chicken or eating chicken thighs with bones when those are parts I loooooooove! Especially porkchops on the bone, yum!

      I didn’t know that NOW had a gelatin, I’ll have to check it out, thanks for the recommendation!

      Thanks for reading, and look forward to having you around :)

      Sirena

  • Jude

    Hi Sirena, Ive been taking gelatin as a supplement for the past 3 years, to aid in my recovery from a motorcycle accident, my injuries were extensive, and I credit the gelatin to an incredible improvement in so many ways, its simple to take, I drink several hot teas during the day and just add a teaspoon to each one, its easily dissolved and tasteless.
    apart from the injury improvements, I have noticed my over used hairdressing fingers are painless and flexible again, also my skin is lovely and not dry, many people think I’m much younger than my actual age.

    • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

      Hi Jude,

      Thank you for the comment, and I’m happy to hear that you had a successful recovery! Gelatin is da’ bomb, and glad to see that other peeps have experienced it’s benefits.

      Have you ever tried gelatin powder to put in smoothies?

      S

  • Maremacd

    I’m so confused about whether to incorporate gelatin into my diet. I’m deficient in serotonin and take an SSRI to manage anxiety. I have hypothyroidism and am menopausal, which has caused my hair to become thinner. Doesn’t estrogen promote hair growth? I know testosterone makes it fall out. I want desperately to restore my hair, but doctors don’t seem to think it’s important and dismiss my questions about nutrition. I’ve been to a nutritionist with a heavy WAPF leaning, but she never even discussed the benefits of bone broth. Do you have any suggestions for me? I’m really freaked.

    • cheemiss8-7

      I recently stumbled across the combo of L-Arginine & L-Lysine on the curezone.com site and the poster had amazing results using this combo. I bought it last week and yes, it does help with my anxiety.

      But again, these things are just band-aides. By following what Sirena has posted about Animal Bone Broth and Gelatine, it will heal the mucosal lining, restore the flora and then all in the body will heal, including anxiety.

      google search and read what this man has to say: Dr. Aristo Vojdani, PhD, you can start with the article below.

      http://www.publichealthalert.org/Articles/scottforsgren/neuroimmunology.htm

    • gibson

      I am 63 years old and overweight, with PCOS, hypothyroidism, diabetes, thinning hair and weak fingernails. Taking one TBS a day of Great Lakes (orange) in my morning coffee or mixed in with Fage full fat greek yogurt for four months has improved everything. I felt a little puffy at first, but it went away. I’m now taking two TBSP a day and seeing more improvement, like reduced appetite. My skin, hair and nails are wonderful and I can eat less because I’m not as hungry. So far, so good! :)

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  • cheemiss8-7

    Hi Sirena,

    Which of the Great Lakes products do you recommend? They have quite a few to select from.
    I need to heal my mucosal lining.

    p.s. Your blog is so dead on accurate, that I had to send it to all my friends. I hope they too will start to revert back to animal products for their health & weight loss.

    Thank you so very much for sharing! :)

    • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

      The green canister :) Hydrolyzed which makes it easier to dissolve in liquids. Use the orange canister for making marshmallows, jello, etc etc.

  • Heather

    Just found this post and realize it is old but was hoping you could let me know how much you take in a day and how you incorporate it in your diet besides protein shakes, I looked to see if you posted the recipes but couldn’t find them. Thanks Heather

    • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

      Hi Heather – I recommend 2-4 tbs a day and to use in shakes. There are a few recipes that I have floating around on the site and they are mostly shakes :)

  • Little Gramma

    Googled GELATIN AND HAIR BODY and your link was one of the results.Since Early November 2012 I’ve been consistently eating 2 to 6 tablespoons of gelatin daily in a meal type of coffee…water, gelatin, instant coffee, coconut oil, butter and cream. And with a large raw carrot (or hand full or two of small peeled ones) once a day preferably as breakfast. After just over 2.5 months I’ve noticed my hair has body like never before. I have stick straight hair and it was always flat against my scalp. And I think the thin spots are filling in…I started experiencing thinning hair in my late 30s. I will know for sure in a few more weeks.
    Plus skin is super soft and bumps or blemishes are 99% gone….and I grew up with bumps on my upper arms and legs since I can remember. Now age 57. Those bumps had progressed to lower legs and forearms in my late 30s. My skin is actually looking younger…I especially notice my forearms looking thicker skinned…more durable like a younger person….turned back the clock that seemed to be moving fast forward.
    My digestive issues have lessened or disappeared most days…both the carrots and gelatin have been the best combination for regular elimination.
    I purchased my gelatin in bulk (25 pounds) from bulk foods dot com In October 2012 it was $30+ less than current price, but it’s still worth every penny which I will pay when my supply (stored in quart jars) runs low.
    RECIPE or how I get my gelatin:
    I dissolve two tablespoons gelatin in cold water (in a Campbell’s soups mug). Microwave 90 to 120 seconds. Sprinkle in a teeny bit of Stevia extract powder (no fillers), 1 Tablespoon instant coffee, 1 Tablespoon coconut oil, 1 Tablespoon butter and fill the remainder with heavy cream to taste.
    If you happen to set this aside, it will set up. You can then eat it with a spoon if you desire, although the fats will separate some.
    My intent is to brew regular ground coffee and refrigerate it and dissolve the gelatin in it before microwaving, rather than depend on instant coffee. Although, I like the flavor of Folger’s Instant.
    Get plenty of gelatin and be consistent and you will see results gradually and then almost overnight transformation.

    • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

      Hi Little Gramma – thank you so much for your feedback. Congrats on all your changes in your body, it sounds like you are on a great plan to heal your body and I’m excited that the gelatin is working for you. I’ve found it helps my clients so it’s nice to hear this from you!

      Much love :)

    • Shi

      Little Gramma, how did you come up with this combo? I understand the gelatin, coconut oil and butter. But does the coffee serve a purpose or is it just a vessel. And if so, is the cream just to enjoy it better? Also.. Carrots? I’ve read a lot about hairloss as I’ve been suffering from it myself at the tender age of 24, but never any info about carrots. Would love to hear more. And great article! Sirena I recently purchased geltain because I had been reading so many benefits mostly for healing the gut and strengthening the joints. But when I heard it can aid in skin elasticity and hair growth I was eager to find out more. I have the orange Great Lakes because it is kosher. Will try the green as per your suggestion. Is it also only beef or does it use pork gelatin? Thank you!!

  • Tracey

    Where do u buy it

    • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

      Hi Tracey – check out GreatLakesGelatin.com. You can also find it on Amazon but you’ll pay a little more :)

      • Richa

        Do u still reply to comments on here?

        • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

          Yes I do! What can I help you with?

  • richapowers@yahoo.com

    I have ordered the great lakes gelatin from amazon, but havent received it yet…I purchased for nothing else but my cellulite because I heard it helps with it. My cellulite is horrible and has been since my later teenage years; all the way down to my knees on inner, outer thighs, legs, and rear! Its destroyed my confidence. But anyway, I was wondering it you think it would help my cellulite?

    • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

      Hey – the gelatin will help your skin feel more youthful, and tighter. It will also help with building muscle, which can help with the appearance of cellulite. Your best bet to get rid of cellulite is to work on building lean muscle mass and losing body fat.

  • gudinogirl

    Hi Sirena, Great post :-) I was wondering about the gelatin’s ability to tighten skin (better its elasticity) and reduce flab/extra skin in people that have lost a drastic amount of weight.

    • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

      Gelatin is great in restoring your skin’s collagen, so yes!

      • Mitch

        and plenty of water to go along with it

  • Jodi

    Soooo, a cup of sugar free flavored jello doesn’t work as well as the powder? I’m a little confused.

    • http://www.sirenabernal.com/ Sirena Bernal

      Hi Jodi, I don’t recommend because of the added colors, dyes and sweeteners Yes, it’s made with basically the same stuff, but you’re getting a bunch of other crap with it as well.

    • Elizaveta Borukhova

      Jodi.. You can make your own jello, using Great Lakes gelatin and lemon juice, honey, or fresh squeezed orange juice. Easy !

    • Marian

      I would NOT do sugar free mainstream jello. Full of yucky chemicals. Make it yourself with grass fed beef gelatin. All you need is 2 cups of juice (100%) and I use 1 tbsp + 1 tsp gelatin. Warm up in a small pot until the gelatin powder is dissolved then put in a glass 8×8 dis hand put in the fridge for 2 hours.

  • misty

    I’m going to try this

  • rustee

    rustee what about the flavored jello i know it has sugar but is it as good as gelitan

  • Ana

    Hello Sirena, I’m curios whether I’d get the same benefits from drinking regular unflavored jello. like the one we use in desert recipes? or is great lakes jello a special jello?

  • Greg Birchard

    What if i ate nothing but jello for a while like that actor john?

  • Angel

    So will the basic Jell-o in the little premade cups help improve the tightness of your skin as well? Or do you need the particular powder gelatin to get the benefits mentioned in your article? If the sugar free Jell-o in the cups is acceptable, how much should I be consuming on a daily basis to reap the rewards?

  • GIGI

    Hi Sierna,
    I just started using gelatin tablets when I found out it helps with hair loss and nail growth. But, I take it in pill form and wanted to know if it is efficient enough or is the powder better. I wanted to know how long it will take before I see results in my hair? I usually take 2-4 tablets a day. THank you and loved reading about all the great facts you have mentioned above. THank you
    GIGI

  • Dee Wickstrom Wright

    Bring on the Jello! Thanks Sirena!

  • Alexander

    For informations sake, can you provide a reference that shows that glycine does in fact lower serotonin levels? I can’t seem to find this info anywhere.