I'm not really a fan of the "superfood" revolution, as I believe variety is a key to health and that no single food-source has the ability to nourish us on its own – but gelatin might just be a close contender. My family and I turn to this nutrient daily, and I recommend it to most of my clients as part of their health routine.
Gelatin: A Health Tonic
Sourced from the hooves and hides of animals, mainly cow or pig (though you can find marine sources now - discussed below), gelatin is a missing nutrient in the modern diet. Historically, animals were consumed nose to tail – including the tougher muscles, tendons, bones, cartilage and organs. Soups and stocks were made with the “inedible” parts of the animal, providing a deeply nourishing staple in traditional diets across the world.
Conversely, the main staple of today’s diet is limited to muscle meat (ie: grilled chicken breast or steak), which have value, but not the whole picture of nutrition. Nature has a way of providing perfect foods in their whole form, whether from animal or plant sources. When consumed on its own, lean muscle meat can be difficult for many individuals to digest, a problem alleviated by incorporating gelatin into the diet.
Besides helping you digest animal protein from muscle meat (and improving flavor to many dishes!), gelatin has a huge array of known benefits. Some include:
- High in Protein: 6g per Tablespoon
- Improves Digestion: Gelatin naturally binds to water and moves food through the digestive tract
- Heals Leaky Gut: Gelatin can actually repair holes in the GI tract that lead to intestinal permeability. This also helps to recover from food intolerance, sensitivities and allergies
- Reduces Systemic Inflammation (and has also shown to speed up wound healing)
- Supports Bone and Joint Health: The complex amino acids help to prevent and repair degradation of collagen in joints, thus reducing joint pain and arthritic symptoms
- Beauty Tonic: Supports Hair, Nail, Teeth and Skin Health due to its high kerotin content
- Improves skin elasticity: Helps your body create more collagen. This is good for reducing aging signs like wrinkles, preventing stretch marks during pregnancy and physical healing post-partum.
- Improves Sleep: Contains the amino acid glycine.
- Facilitates Weight Loss: Boosts metabolism and increasing satiety due to its nutrient dense profile.
- Reproductive Tonic : Great for pre, during and post-pregnancy (see recipe below!)
Chinese Medicine Perspective - Hormone Balancing
From a Chinese Medicine perspective, gelatin deeply nourishes the kidney energy – yin, yang and essence (also called "jing"). The Kidney Energy is a foundation of reproduction and hormonal health. So if you are struggling with getting pregnant, having a difficult pregnancy, suffering from post partum depression, or have another hormonal imbalance such as menopause or PMS – you may benefit from incorporating collagen regularly into your diet. We even use a form of gelatin in Chinese Herbal medicine – called E Jiao – to deeply nourish blood and is used in many formulas for menstruation and miscarriage prevention.
The Perfect Protein Powder
Because the hydrolysate or peptide versions of gelatin easily dissolve in warm or cold liquid (see below for more detail on these two types of collagen), they make a prime “protein powder” for smoothies - offering whole food nutrition and not an isolated protein like soy, whey or rice (which can lead to inflammation). On busy mornings, I'll add a tablespoon of Collagen Peptides to my morning coffee for a protein boost - it doesn't change the consistency or flavor at all.
The regular form of gelatin must be dissolved in warm liquid such as soup or tea, and will gel when cooled. This makes it great for fun treats such as sweet or savory gelees, homemade jell-o (using fresh fruit juice, kombucha or herbal tea), puddings with fresh raw or coconut milk, fruit-sweetened gummy-bears, and even healthy marshmallows (without corn syrup!).
However you enjoy your collagen, taking a Tablespoon per day is ideal for most individuals. It is safe and beneficial for kids, too.
Where to Source Quality Gelatin
So how can you get more of this superfood? You'll get the greatest nourishment from animal products that are grass-fed and raised on pasture. Buying your animal meats with bone-in is a good start, and preparing them into a stew so all the juices and broth can be consumed is even better. You know you’ve got a good amount of gelatin in your soup or stew when you cool it in the fridge and it forms a solid gel. That is just the way you want it.
You can prepare bone broths from beef, lamb, pig, duck or chicken and they are easy to make and freeze well. I always have a stash of quart-sized broths in my freezer to use as tonics and in recipes at the ready. Boiling a whole chicken with chicken feet will also yield a gelatinous broth for drinking as a tonic – one or two cups daily – or use the warm broth to make soup or boiled grains like rice, quinoa or millet. More and more health conscious companies are producing a high-quality bone-broth for sale in supermarkets and online. You'll pay a pretty penny for the convenience of not making your own, but they can be great options to have on hand.
Perhaps going to all the trouble to get gelatin in your diet through cooking is not feasible. There are ways to consume it in supplement form. As with any animal food, it is extremely important to source supplements for quality. Factory farmed animals yield meat far less nutrient dense and possibly even toxic than organic, pastured-raised versions. Collagen supplements are no different. You want a product that comes from healthy animals, raised on pasture who feed on grass and get plenty of sunlight. This yields the most nourishing food – full of nutrients and void of toxic by-products and pharmaceuticals. Below are three gelatin sources I recommend to patients:
This company offers a myriad of collagen products, including a fish-based product for individuals avoiding consumption of land-animals. I use their Collagen Peptides daily (a supplement that easily dissolves in any temperature liquid), as well as their Beef Gelatin to make tart-cherry juice gummies for my kids (a healthier "jello-jiggler"). Their Beauty-Greens product is new, and an awesome way to source marine collagen and daily greens.
Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin
-Comes in Regular and Hydrolysate
(The Green Bottle is “Hydrolysate” and can be dissolved in any temperature liquid for ease and convenience of taking. The Orange Bottle must be dissolved in warm liquid and will gel when cooled. Both have the same health benefits).
Bernard Jensen Gelatin
(Only available in the regular gelatin form. Equal in quality to Great Lakes.)
Recipe: Protein Kidney Health Tonic
This blend of warming, rich, jing nourishing foods and herbs is ideal for boosting fertility, recovering post partum, and as a gentle energy tonic for pregnant women. To a cup of warm tea or broth, add:
- 1 Tbsp Gelatin
- 1 Wedge Lemon
- 1 Slice Fresh Ginger
- 1 Pinch High-Quality Sea Salt
Dissolve and enjoy!
*Please note that I have an affiliate relationship with Vital Proteins, and I will make a small commission on products sold via the above links. If this inhibits your purchase, please source the product through another avenue. I only endorse and affiliate myself and my posts with products I use and trust completely. Please contact me if you have further concerns or questions.