Remember how magical jello was when you were a kid? It came in florescent colors and jiggled and even sometimes had fruit suspended in it! The main ingredient, gelatin, is what gives jello its jiggly texture. At some point you surely heard the rumor about the gelatin in jello being made from horse hooves (the rumor was true at one point, but now it’s primarily made from pig parts). While that seems gross when you’re a kid, using all parts of the animal means less waste, and some of these parts are quite beneficial. Gelatin has beneficial properties, and you can use it to boost health.
Classic jello is not a health food. Aside from the gelatin, it contains sugar or artificial sweetener, artificial flavors, and food coloring. But gelatin, jello’s primary ingredient, is quite the superfood. Gelatin is made from cooked collagen that is produced from the hides, ligaments, tendons and cartilage of pigs and cattle. It supports skin, joint health, hair, and is rich in amino acids for digestive wellness and muscle recovery.
The main gelatin on the market is Knox, which is not made from humanely raised animals, and quality matters when you’re consuming animal products. I like Vital Proteins beef gelatin, which is made from pastured and grass fed beef. You can use it to make healthier jello, puddings, panna cotta, gummy snacks, homemade marshmallows and other treats that need a thickener. I add it to smoothies to thicken them and for the protein and benefits.
If you want the benefits of gelatin without the thickener effect, try collagen, which offers similar benefits but dissolves instantly in liquid. Read my post on it here. There’s some evidence that collagen peptides may be better digested and absorbed because the proteins are smaller. I use collagen regularly, as it keeps my joints and hair happy.
Gelatin has some impressive health-promoting properties. In my practice, I’ve recommended it for clients healing from IBS and digestive issues, or for those wanting a palatable way to add more protein. It’s great for your skin, nails and hair; you can even make a mask for your hair with it OR add a teaspoon to your shampoo!
- Great source of trace minerals and amino acids
- Good protein source. I like to add 1-2 tablespoons to smoothies.
- Builds healthy skeletal system and strong teeth
- Healing for the GI tract
- Excellent for joint and tendon support. Great source of chondroitin and glucosamine
- Prevents wrinkles
- Good for post workout muscle recovery
- May aid in weight loss due to amino acid content
- Supportive for hormones, thyroid & adrenals
My favorite gelatin treats are mousses and puddings. I typically make pumpkin or chocolate puddings. Mmmmm… therapeutic pudding! None of the artificial junky ingredients from store-bought pudding.
There are many ways to incorporate gelatin into your diet. Here is a homemade healthy jello recipe, for example, or try this lemon panna cotta.
Here is my favorite chocolate pudding with gelatin. Enjoy!
1 Tbsp Unflavored Gelatin
1/3 cup warm water
2 oz Unsweetened Dark Chocolate
1 can coconut milk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup maple syrup or honey
Melt the chocolate in a double boiler with the coconut milk and sweetener until melted and mixed thoroughly. Use a whisk and whisk it to break up clumps. Remove from heat and mix in the vanilla and cinnamon. Mix the gelatin with 1/3 cup of warm water until dissolved. Add the dissolved gelatin to the chocolate mixture and stir well. Divide between 4 bowls and put the pudding into the refrigerator for two hours or until set and chilled.
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.
How can it possibly be kosher and made from pig?
They offer a beef gelatin and porcine gelatin. The beef is kosher.
Any thoughts on using while pregnant?
yes! gelatin is awesome during pregnancy to prevent stretch marks. bone broth is a must too.
Glad to see the comment about the difference between the red and the green can. I bought the green can and have been putting a Tbsp into smoothies in the morning, but wondered why it didn’t thicken things at all. Does the green can still offer the health benefits though of the red can?
yes, the green and red offer the same benefits.
I am trying the gelatin now. I will make some super foods for my grandson using the gelatin. He is just starting to pick up things. I got a book called Super Nutrition for Children and they are great fans. So many good foods for you instead of the garbage in the supermarket. Cheers to everyone’s good health!
Hey. Do you have a recipe for a Jello type dessert?! Thanks.
I do not, but try searching grassfedgirl.com
She has an ambrosia recipe and various gelatin/jello recipes.
i still love jell-o <3
Isn’t there a more humane way to get this? It’s certainly not vegetarian, I’m thinking of the animal/cruelty factor here.
You could use something like agar agar, but you won’t get the benefits of gelatin. The humane factor is the reason we recommend Great Lakes brand. It’s kosher and grass fed.
What kind of dog is that you have? We rescued a dog as a puppy and he looks so much like your dog. We never knew what kind he was. He has the red in his beard as well.
She is a labradoodle, first generation lab-standard poodle cross.
I made bean curd with gelatin and it set well in the fridge. However, when I keep the bean curd in the room temperature for a while, its getting softer and softer and almost turn back to soya milk.
Appreciate if you can give me some advise.
Good article. I first learned about this from the book, “Sip Away Your Wrinkles.” I’m a man in my 60s, and I think it has made a definite difference in appearance. I get comments from people who are surprised when they learn my age.
I have just read most of what’s on your web pages and I am so interested in what you have to say. I am a 65 female I live some of the year in Cyprus but go home to Uk in the Summer and Christmas time. I am suffering from hair loss and at times I think I am going mad as have paid a lot if money to see a trichologist and have been to my own GP but I am getting nowhere . I am interested in your theory about diet but I can see how important it is to get all the relevant tests done to see where the hair loss problem is coming from. But in the UK we do not seem to have the same abundance of expertise as you do in America, Can you suggest to me how I can get these tests done , do I have to go back to my Gp and insist that she refers me to a specialist and if she does decide to help me to go further what type of Specialist are we looking for ie saliva tests?? Plus hormone levels which is what I suspect the problem is, I am sorry I am rambling but really would appreciate your advise. Thank you.
Sorry, I don’t have information on how to get this testing in the UK.
Kosher means the animal slaughtered according to certain rituals- with a Jewish Rabbi involved. The animal is not unconscious when slaughtered so you could argue this is less humane than other method. Kosher is not standard that guarantees any kind of animal welfare standard.
Great post! I love learning about Gelatin Food. You are the best Marry
does gelatin always need to be dissolved for benefits or can you take it raw mixed with water (for benefits)
Mixing gelatin with a liquid or using it in recipes is the only palatable way to take it. It will thicken whatever it’s mixed with.