Gelatin: 9 Ways It Can Improve Your Health
Ever wonder what makes wobbly jelly and marshmallows stay together?
That would be the gelatin.
When I was vegetarian I took delight in telling people that gelatin was made from horses hooves. I liked to spring that on people right when they were about to sink their teeth on a soft lolly that I knew contained gelatin.
But as it turns out…I was wrong (and that doesn’t happen very often!). That is actually a myth.
As it turns out, gelatin has been valued for thousands of years for its health benefits for everything from digestive troubles to skin issues to heart problems – its a true healing elixir.
Read on to find out 9 ways gelatin can improve your health along with a few recipes including bone broth and fruit gels…
What is gelatin
Gelatin is a natural occurring protein – collagen (the actual protein that is word meaning “glue”) made from animal meat, bones and skin. Homemade bone broth is a means of creating gelatin by simmering bones and ligaments to release the healing compounds collagen, glycine, proline and glutamine. These compounds form a thick broth that when it cools it forms a gel. But if you don’t have time to make your own (even though it really is the easiest thing ever!) you can buy gelatin in a powder form, such as the Great Lakes Gelatin.
According to Great Lakes Gelatin (one of the brands that I buy)…
“To make gelatin, collagen rich materials (mostly bovine hide or porcine skins) are cleaned and treated with dilute alkaline, or acid and heat to denature (untangle) the collagen into hot water-soluble proteins. The extract is purified and dried to form the gelatin powder.”
Gelatin is high in levels of amino acids proline (12.4%), h hydroxyproline(11.9%) and glycine (21%). It isn’t a complete protein however as it is lacking in a few essential amino acids – tryptophan for example and therefore shouldn’t be a replacement for other complete proteins such as meat and eggs in the diet. It is however a great addition to an already balanced diet.
Its these two amino acids – glycine and proline – are the main constituents that seem to contribute to the array of amazing health effects.
Bone broth made from bones with joints and cartilage (think like your elbow joint or chicken feet) also contains compounds such as chondroitin sulfate, Keratin sulfate and Hyaluronic acid of which has been shown beneficial for people suffering rheumatoid arthritis and gastrointestinal disease.
9 Ways Gelatin Can Improve Your Health
Whilst not essential amino acids glycine and proline play such important roles in the body that even though the body can make it, we may not be able to make enough sufficiently to produce all of these healing effects. So drink your bone broth and help your healing process!
1. Hormonal Balance
Bone broth is thought to have anti-estrogenic effects so if the body has an excess of estrogen, it is thought to have an ability to oppose it whilst supporting progesterone and the thyroid. Now there are a lot of women with estrogen dominance and a lot that have low progesterone so this is a great way to assist the bodies innate healing through supporting its detox pathways via the liver which is where a lot of our hormones are regulated and eliminated.
Due to the high glycine content, gelatin can help the body reduce inflammation. One such way is by reducing serotonin and consequently oestrogen in the blood (serotonin excess can promote estrogen production), where an excess of either of these hormones can cause inflammation and a plethora of conditions. An excess of serotonin in the blood is also thought to prevent the digestive system from functioning in a normal way and is associated with gastrointestinal inflammation, IBS and even autism.
3. Digestive Function
Glycine also helps digestion by enhancing gastric acid secretion. Too little hydrochloric acid in the stomach can inhibit protein digestion and vitamin absorption which can contribute to asthma, diabetes, food allergies, intestinal infections. Gelatin also lines the mucous membrane guarding against further pathogens and injuries.
4. Heal The Gut
Glycine is soothing and healing for the gastrointestinal tract or as some call it ‘heals and seals’ the gut meaning it has an ability to close those leaky gut holes that allow pathogens and proteins through into the blood stream where they don’t belong which therefore aids immunity. Gelatin also aids in break down of fats and proteins – making it easier for your body to absorb and less work for your body and your digestive system – meaning less inflammation. Its a win win!
The liver plays a vital role in detoxification including filtering of the blood, synthesis and secretion of bile, neutralising toxins which all helps us to regulate hormones and keeps our body in a state of homeostasis. During this process of liver detox, glycine and other substances such as glutathione, help to bind toxins to aid in their removal from the body. The ability of the liver to perform this protective synthesis of glutathione is limited by the amount of glycine available. So give it some glycine…aka bone broth!
Glycine is thought to promote good sleep with an inhibitory effect on neurotransmitters, meaning it helps to calm the brain, improving sleep quality and sleep efficacy
7. Post Workout
Gelatin may also increase the use and availability of growth hormone which enhances muscle growth and repair. So a cup of gelatin post workout might be a great way to heal your body and build those muscles!
8. Skin, Joints and Hair
Gelatin is known for its ability to aid work with Vitamin C to keep the skin and joints healthy. As a critical component of cartilage, it aids in good health of our joints, tendons and ligaments especially due to the hyaluronic acid, its thought to lubricate joints and aids in wound healing by leading those phagocytes (white blood cells that engulf the bad guys) to where they are needed. Go whities! And lets not forget that broth is high in calcium so if you have been thinking ‘where do I get my calcium from?’ Here you go!
On a side note, it is also rumoured to help improve cellulite. Let’s go lather the stuff on! ; )
9. Fights Colds & Flu
Containing a natural amino acid called cysteine, it can help to thin the mucus in your lungs so you can expel it more easily and get on your way to healing. It will also give your body the nutrients it needs to beat the bad guys in your system without requiring much effort to digest and absorb them, after all we want to keep the effort on beating the cold and not digestion. Use the force Luke!
How To Use Gelatin?
I make a simple bone broth using a stack of bones (literally my slow cooker has more bones than anything else in it) from a mixture of grassfed beef, chicken and wild boar – or whatever I can get my hands on (as long as they are grassfed). Whenever I eat any meat from the bone, I store the bones in a container in my freezer until I am ready to make a broth. Then I use all of the bones I have letting them soak with vegetables and water and a bit of apple cider vinegar to release the nutrients from the bone for anywhere from 24 – 48 hours in my slow cooker. I place the broth into separate containers once all the meat is off the bones and some of the bones are brittle and have releasing the marrow and goodness and place one container in the fridge and the rest in the freezer along with any leftover bones. That way I can be sure that I have used the entire animal – respecting its every part and the life it gave for me. (awwww…thanks guys!)
I drink about 1/2 cup of broth a morning and at night when I want to help my gut to heal and seal. I also like the thought that I don’t need to digest much of the broth as its all ready for me to absorb. Nice and easy on the ole gut.
When I can’t be bothered making broth, (although come on, its so easy – just throw in some bones and leave it for 48 hours) I buy Great Lakes Gelatin which I know is from grass fed beef. Then I either use the gelatin powder to make gelatin gels or puddings or just add it to gravy, sauces or even a smoothie!
How do you use gelatin? Do you make your own broth? If so, what is your favourite way to use the broth?