If I asked you to make a list of the top 10 healthy foods, I bet gelatin would not be one of them.
Gelatin is a great health food in its natural form, not the artificially, sugar packed like jelly.
Gelatin may keep osteoporosis at bay, heal your gut if you suffer from IBS (Irritable bowel syndrome), leaky gut or acid reflux, may help you sleep better among many other valuable health benefits.
Gelatin is the key ingredient in Jelly and other similar products. It is the ingredient that makes it wobbly.
Gelatin is derived from collagen, the most plentiful protein in humans and animals. Once simmered, the decomposition of collagen into gelatin is irreversible; its long protein fibrils, or tiny fibers, are broken down into small amino acid compounds.
Eating gelatin boosts our collagen levels. Collagen is found almost everywhere in the body, but it is most abundant in the skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments. It holds our tissues together, providing the skeleton with a sturdy yet flexible structure (just as it does wobbly desserts); some types of collagen fibrils are gram for gram, stronger than steel. (1)
Although the gelatin we consume comes from collagen in animal skin, bones, ligaments, and tendons, it increases human collagen stores, which leads to the impressive health benefits below.
It’s Made Almost Entirely of Protein (98 to 99 Percent)
One half-cup of gelatin provides nearly two grams of protein a macronutrient, your body needs to function.
Gelatin Is Rich in Vital Amino Acids
It doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids, making it an incomplete protein. But the amino acids it does include are particularly important for health, especially glycine. Other notables include: (2)
Our ancestors ate much more gelatin than we do today. That’s because they widely practiced nose-to-tail eating, meaning they cooked with and consumed the entire animal, including its skin, tendons, and other gelatinous features.
In the Cypriot diet we still have a dish called “Gelatina” which is mostly made of pig’s ears, hooves and is jam packed with gelatin.
It is still available in most supermarkets. I for one am not a fan of this and have invented a fruity, yogurt, chia pudding where I add gelatin in powder form to give it a firm texture rather than a runny one.
Six Reasons to Eat Gelatin.
1. Gelatin May Lower Your Risk for Cardiovascular and Other Diseases.
Eggs and muscle meats—as opposed to organ meats and meaty bones—are high an amino acid called methionine.
In some people, eating too much methionine can lead to a buildup of a toxic compound called homocysteine in the blood.
High levels of homocysteine are an independent risk factor for a variety of serious concerns, from dementia and Alzheimer’s to heart disease and it also increases the risk of fracture. (3, 4, 5) This might explain why researchers sometimes find a correlation between high meat intake and chronic disease.
What helps keep methionine and homocysteine levels in a healthy balance? Glycine, a compound found in gelatin and for which it accounts for roughly 27 percent of gelatin’s composition, making gelatin the richest food source of this amino acid. Although your body can make glycine, you usually don’t produce enough tocover your needs, meaning you need to obtain ample amounts from your diet. (6, 7)
2. It Protects Your Bones and Joints
Bone is living, growing tissue, comprising mostly of collagen which is the glue that holds our tissues together, hence getting more collagen in the form of gelatin is good for bone and joint health.
Research shows that gelatin may have a beneficial effect on cartilage metabolism and inhibit the breakdown of collagen in bone.
It may be effective in treating both osteoporosis and osteoarthritis. (8, 9, 10)
Its amino acids glycine and proline are anti-inflammatory and are likely responsible for research results finding gelatin effective in reducing arthritis-associated joint pain.
Lysine, also in gelatin, strengthens bones by helping the body absorb calcium and form collagen.
The body can’t make this amino acid, so it must come from diet. Lysine has also been shown, in animal studies, to quicken fracture healing. (11)
3. It Preserves Your Muscle Mass
Glycine is the hero again here: research has found that increasing glycine intake, either through supplementation or high-glycine foods such as gelatin, can help slow or reduce the age-related loss of muscle.
Supplemental glycine can protect muscle in a variety of wasting conditions brought on by serious illness such as cancer or due to reduced calorie intake. (12, 13)
4. Gelatin Is Good for Your Gut
Thanks to the amino acids glycine, proline, and glutamine, gelatin can improve gut integrity and digestive strength by enhancing gastric acid secretion and restoring a healthy lining in the stomach. (14, 15)
Gelatin also absorbs water and helps keep fluid in the digestive tract, promoting good intestinal transit and healthy bowel movements. (16)
5. It Makes Your Skin Shine and Your Hair Long and Lustrous
Collagen is one of the primary structural elements of skin. As we age, we naturally lose collagen, causing our skin to sag and wrinkle.
Gelatin provides glycine and proline, building blocks for collagen, and can help your body create enough of this important protein to improve your skin’s health and appearance. In particular, several studies have shown improved skin elasticity and hydration, as well as a reduction of deep wrinkles, with collagen hydrolysate supplementation. (17, 18)
A diet rich in gelatin may also protect against the aging effects of sunlight, preventing wrinkles in the future. (19) And gelatin appears to induce hair growth and even lead to thicker, fuller locks. (20, 21)
6. It Can Help You Sleep
Gelatin has been found to help with sleep due to its abundance of glycine. Just a few tablespoons can provide roughly three grams of glycine, which is enough to cause measurable improvements in sleep quality. (22, 23)
Glycine is also an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it can decrease anxiety and promote mental calmness to let you sleep through the night. (24)
7. Other Benefits.
Research suggests that gelatin may also aid in weight loss, help control blood sugar, improve cognitive and mental health, slow the growth of certain cancers, and much more. (25, 26, 27, 28, 29)
While gelatin isn’t acceptable to vegans, who shun all animal products, it may be to vegetarians who are open to eating some animal-derived foods, such as eggs and dairy.
Vegetarians Often Have Low Glycine Levels
Some Paleo followers who eat mainly muscle meats and ignore the nose-to-tail philosophy can also be susceptible to low glycine intake.
You Might Be at Risk for Cardiovascular Problems
Studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans have significantly higher homocysteine levels, on average, than omnivores, putting them at significant risk for cardiovascular trouble. (30)
This is possibly due to nutrient deficiencies in vitamin B12 and choline, which help keep homocysteine in check.
How to Incorporate Gelatin into your diet ?
An important note: Some people report a histamine reaction after consuming gelatin or gelatin powders and supplements, so gelatin may not be appropriate for those with severe histamine intolerances.
The brain’s feel good chemical is called dopamine, which sends feelings of well-being and pleasure into your body.
Apart from dopamine making you feel good, it helps with weight control, energy levels and it also supports brain and heart health. Without it, we would feel unhappy, tired and perhaps overweight.
The good news is that you can increase dopamine levels just by eating certain foods. The right amount of dopamine could uplift you from mild depression, help you lose weight, and make you feel more alive !
Dopamine is made from tyrosine one of the protein building amino acids, hence eating foods rich in tyrosine will help to boost dopamine production.
These foods are:
Exercise is a brilliant way to increase dopamine levels to flood your brain with this feel-good chemical. When you exercise, the cells in your brain (and the rest of your body) start firing, becoming more energized.
You also produce more serotonin and dopamine—both crucial in mood elevation. Some credit these chemicals with what’s known as the “runner’s high”, common in endurance athletes. What we do know for sure is that they make you feel good, filling you up with a sense of wellbeing and happiness, increasing your overall physical health.
The best way to a natural happy high would be to exercise, eat tyrosine rich foods and add in a supplement such as ginko biloba, drink nettle or tulsi tea.
It would also be wise to avoid alcohol and sugary foods as these are mood dampeners.
All in all it can be said that through a healthy, whole foods diet and regular exercise, you can boost your mood and attain a sense of overall wellness, smiles and laughs !
Barbara is a qualified nutritionist offering Health, Nutrition & Lifestyle Counseling. She gives Healthy weight loss advice and promotes the Mediterranean diet. She is the author of the Med Life Diet - creating healthy lifestyle habits and attitudes for life !