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.
Here is my favorite chocolate pudding with gelatin. Enjoy!
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. In addition to her coaching practice, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and kick nagging digestive issues for good. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.