5 Reasons Why Even Vegetarians Should Eat Gelatin

gelatin

This is a guest post by Laura Schoenfeld, a Registered Dietitian with a Master’s degree in Public Health, and staff nutritionist and content manager for ChrisKresser.com. You can learn more about Laura by checking out her blog or visiting her on Facebook.

There are so many amazing benefits that can come from eating gelatin, including improvements in digestive, skin, and mental health. Plus, gelatin can be used to make a yummy, all-natural dessert that’s actually good for us.

So why aren’t we eating more of it?

Traditional diets are typically much higher in gelatin than our modern diets, because these cultures wisely practiced nose-to-tail eating and consumed parts of the animal that are high in gelatin, such as skin, tendons, and other gelatinous cuts of meat.

We’ve lost the practice of whole-animal eating, and vegetarians typically don’t eat many (or any!) animal products. This means that we’re eating a lot less gelatin than our ancestors, if any at all. The following five reasons will explain why nearly everyone – even vegetarians – should be eating gelatin on a regular basis!

Whether you eat meat or not, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting some gelatin in your diet. Here’s why!

1. Gelatin balances out your meat intake.

Muscle meats and eggs are high in methionine, an amino acid that raises homocysteine levels in the blood and increases our need for homocysteine-neutralizing nutrients like vitamins B6, B12, folate, and choline.

We don’t want high homocysteine in our blood because homocysteine is a significant risk factor for serious diseases like heart disease, stroke, mental illness, and fractures. (This might even explain why researchers sometimes find a correlation between high meat intake and various diseases.)

Those eating lots of animal protein need adequate glycine to balance out the methionine from meat, and you’ll get that from gelatin. For more information, check out Denise Minger’s awesome presentation, where she discusses this very issue.

2. Gelatin heals your gut.

Gelatin can also improve gut integrity and digestive strength by enhancing gastric acid secretion and restoring a healthy mucosal lining in the stomach; low stomach acid and an impaired gut barrier are two common digestive problems in our modern society. Gelatin also absorbs water and helps keep fluid in the digestive tract, promoting good intestinal transit and healthy bowel movements.

Gelatin-rich soups and broths are also one of the key components of the GAPS diet, which has been designed to heal the gut and promote healthy digestion. And healthy intestinal cells prevent leaky gut, which is often at the root of many food intolerances, allergies, inflammatory conditions, and autoimmune diseases.

3. Gelatin makes your skin healthy and beautiful.

Gelatin is a known promotor of skin health. Gelatin provides glycine and proline, two amino acids that are used in the production of collagen. Collagen is one of the primary structural elements of skin, so providing the building blocks for this important protein can ensure that your body is able to create enough of it.

A diet rich in gelatin may also protect against the aging effects of sunlight, preventing wrinkles in the future. So if you eat gelatin, you’ll feel less guilty about getting regular, unprotected sun exposure to boost your vitamin D, because your skin will be more resilient to damage! (Yay!)

4. Gelatin protects your joints.

Body builders have been using gelatin for decades to help improve joint health and reduce inflammation. And research shows that athletes who took a hydrolyzed collagen supplement experienced less pain in their joints, which could help improve performance for athletes and competitive fitness buffs. If you exercise a lot, eating gelatin can help keep your joints healthy and pain-free.

Also, if you have inflammatory joint or bone diseases like arthritis or osteoporosis, getting adequate gelatin can potentially help you manage inflammation and pain in your joints, and build stronger bones.

5. Gelatin helps you sleep.

Glycine from gelatin has been found to help with sleep. One study found that 3 grams of glycine given to subjects before bedtime produced measurable improvements in sleep quality. Many of my clients swear by gelatin as an effective sleep aid without bothersome side effects, in contrast to medications and even natural sleep aids like melatonin, which can sometimes cause grogginess.

Glycine is also an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which can decrease anxiety and promote mental calmness. This is because glycine antagonizes norepinephrine, a stress hormone which causes feelings of anxiety and panic. Gelatin can thus help keep you calm and sleeping through the night.

How to Eat More Gelatin

The traditional way to get gelatin is from skin, gelatinous meats, and bone broths. Those who eat a Paleo or ancestral diet can easily include these foods, but vegetarians will find it difficult to get gelatin from a largely plant-based diet. Gelatin is only found in animal foods that come from the body of the animal itself.

For vegetarians (and even omnivores!) I recommend getting a high-quality gelatin powder to add to food or to create yummy, healthy gelatinous desserts. Gelatin is somewhat more environmentally-friendly than lean meat because it uses parts of the animal that might not be used otherwise. And it’s much easier to digest than normal muscle meat, making it a good gateway food for vegetarians branching out into a more ancestral diet. (And in case you think vegetarians aren’t ever using any parts of the animal, think again.)

My favorite brand of gelatin is Great Lakes, which comes from grass-fed animals. It’s available in both hydrolyzed and whole form; each type has its own health benefits.

Hydrolyzed means the protein is broken into individual amino acids, making them easier to absorb. Use this type to improve skin and joint health or get better sleep. Hydrolyzed gelatin can be mixed into any type of liquid, including cold liquids, so it can be added to cold smoothies or juices easily. It also is great as a real food protein powder.

Whole protein gelatin is better for improving gut health. It helps carry fluid through the intestines, and can even coat the lining of the digestive tract as a soothing and protective layer. This is the type used to make gummies or jello snacks, and must be mixed into warm liquids.

One population who may need to be careful about consuming gelatin or gelatin powders are those with histamine intolerance; some people report a histamine reaction to these foods and thus gelatin may not be appropriate for those with severe intolerances.

Have I convinced you to eat more gelatin? Are you a vegetarian that uses gelatin? Share your story in the comments below!

Note: Chris Kresser has not reviewed this post and is not responsible or liable for any errors in content. This is general nutrition information only and should not be used in the place of medical advice for the prevention or treatment of any diagnosed condition.

Like what you’ve read? Sign up for FREE updates delivered to your inbox.

  • I hate spam too. Your email is safe with me.

Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Alice says

    Eating gelatin may be great for your health, but IMO you have no business calling yourself a vegetarian if you ingest it.

    • Wenchypoo says

      I see a whole lot of confusion between vegetarian (eats SOME meat/fish) and vegan (eats NO meat)–vegans are the ones who won’t consume gelatin because of its animal origins, and they substitute with a seaweed-derived product called agar-agar. I’m not familiar with the nutrient profile of agar-agar, and do not know if it affects the joints, cartilage, and so forth, as regular animal-derived gelatin does.

      • Harry Mossman says

        Neither vegans nor vegetarians eat any meat. Most vegetarians eat dairy and/or eggs. Vegans try to avoid all animal products, even ones like honey. (I am neither.)

      • Cheryl says

        Vegetarians, as a general rule, don’t eat any animal products that require the animal to be killed. Many, however, will eat dairy and eggs, as those don’t harm the animal (of course, assuming the animal is treated humanely, which is a whole other issue).

        Vegans, on the other hand, don’t consume any type of foods from animals, including foods that contain dairy or eggs.

        I can’t imagine anyone considering themselves a true vegetarian and eating gelatin.

      • Amazed says

        You most certainly have no idea that the word VEGETARIAN comes from the word vegetables.

        Anyone who consumes ANY part of ANY animal has no business calling themselves a VEGEtarian.

    • Karin says

      In my opinion, if you use computers and other things made with animal byproducts, you look silly trying to tell others what it means to be an authentic vegetarian.

      • AnnieLaurie Burke says

        Not to mention how many animals get killed, poisoned and/or abused by modern farming practices. Or that have been exterminated to clear land for various types of PLANTations (where do you think the word originated?). I lived in KS for a while, where the State song is “Home on the Range”. There haven’t been any buffalo roaming or antelope playing there for a long, long time. It’s border-to-border wheat fields and feedlots. As for those who eschew honey because producing it “exploits” the bees, they have no qualms about eating bee-pollinated crops. Compare the exploitation of bees in pollination hives, hauled from pillar to post to pollinate crops in strange fields, with the lifestyle of bees producing honey. I don’t think these folks are being hypocritical. I think it’s an “out of sight, out of mind” malfunction.

        • Tim says

          “Natural” Bee keeping consists of practices that work with the Bees, not Aganst their best interests. Practices such as only removing Honey when the Bees themselves want it gone, in the early spring when the Hive is intent on increasing numerically the number of empty cells for the queen to lay eggs in. Rather then the fall, when the Honey is truly needed for overwintering as fuel. Unlike other insects which sleep (diapause) Bees stay awake in smaller numbers, living longer in a tight ball which like humans prefers to stay at 70 degrees unill spring, consuming Honey as fuel. In spring, the core temp rises to 98.6 (like humans) at which point the queen starts laying fertile eggs. Instead of robbing Honey when needed, and feeding sugar to the Bees Natural Beekeepers take only when the Bees themselves don’t need the Honey.

      • Sarah Fitzgerald says

        It’s not silly to feel put off eating meat because if the cruelty that animals are treated with and maybe you just think cows are cute and don’t want to consume them. We can’t control the whole world but we definitely can control what and put in our mouth. It’s a start.

      • Amazed says

        It’s about what you EAT.

        Key is to minimize suffering of other sentient animals.

        Just because there is killing going on does not mean that we have to adopt a “I am a vegetarian and animal lover, therefore I will renounce society as it is and live in the mountains surviving on only pure air and spring water” neither do we have to go “Oh, since there is killing going on and the road that I drove on may be built by a meat eater who wears a leather belt, let’s go and kill everything in sight and feel attempt to feel good about being a dastardly murderer”!

  2. charles grashow says

    “Those eating lots of animal protein need adequate glycine to balance out the methionine from meat, and you’ll get that from gelatin.”

    SO – if you’re a vegetarian then why would you need gelatin??

  3. Becky says

    I’ve been looking into gelatin, and using it with regard to gut healing from diverticulitis. The Great Lakes works well for making gummie squares. I use diluted Concord grape juice. It feels soothing, and I imagine it is a good thing. But who knows.

    I’ve read recently that collagen is not necessarily a beneficial thing to encourage in our bodies as we age, because of its tendency to accumulate and harden. And too much glycine is problematic. A little Googling makes gelatin a little less appealing.

    So I am putting gelatin under my general category of “now and then,” where most processed foods of even the “healthy?” kind are now. And certainly, gelatin is a processed food. As the Jaminets say, “the dose makes the poison.”

    In fact, I am wary and respectful dose-wise of ANYTHING someone says should be consumed in greater quantities as a “cure” of any sort.

    Everything we do to “correct” one condition can inadvertently cause another one. I had a lot of time in the hospital to think about that fact. So. Balance and good sense must rule the day.

    • says

      Do you have some evidence that consuming gelatin as a food is harmful in reasonable quantities? And gelatin from gelatinous meat isn’t processed so you can always eat that if you’re concerned.

      • Becky says

        I make no claim in my comment that reasonable quantities are harmful. I advocate caution and doing a little research about potential problems with substances gelatin contains.

        We don’t have any idea what harmful or healing doses of gelatin would be. So it seems a little restraint should be advised, especially with the processed product. Far easier, I would think, to get “too much” gelatin from it than from bone broth!

        • einstein says

          or oxtail for that matter, which i just finished a plate and it was yummy :-) you’re right. i take the natural form over the processed one anytime. too bad the vegetarians can’t do the same.

          • Amazed says

            too bad you don’t get a kick in the mouth by a cow trying to prevent you from making SOUP with her body part.

    • Anne says

      “Everything we do to “correct” one condition can inadvertently cause another one”

      Hi,

      I can only confirm this view, I started using Great Lakes Gelatine after reading this article and then also a couple of other articles on the subject, also to heal my leaky gut, for joint pain etc, I bought Great Lakes gelatine, and started using the green hydrolyzed one that dissolves in cold liquids, it made me soooo sick, still I was happy that I tried it, because it was the final clue that made me realize that I am sensitive to free glutamic acid, which affects my mental health in extreme ways, makes me depressed and OCD-ish, have avoided yeast for years due to this, but I never knew what was the reason behind, now I know, Great Lakes write on their homepage that their products contain very little free glutamic acid, probably true, I’m just extremely sensitive then, in case this interests you here are the links

      http://www.greatlakesgelatin.com/consumer/noMSG.php
      http://www.truthinlabeling.org/SourcesBrochure.pdf
      http://www.truthinlabeling.org/hiddensources_printable.pdf
      http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/02/22/vaccines-depression-and-neurodegeneration-after-age-50.aspx
      http://www.msgtruth.org/depress.htm

      • Matt says

        Hi Anne

        I also have a problem with free glutamic acid.
        Have you tried the non-hydrolysed form of collagen?

        • Anne says

          Hi Matt,

          sorry for the late reply!

          So happy to hear from someone else experiencing this problem!

          I did buy both the hydrolyzed and the non-hydrolyzed gelatin from Great Lakes, I have not yet tried the non-hydrolyzed one yet, don’t know, if I dare try it, as it is recommended to avoid gelatin in general, if you’re sensitive to msg, even the smallest of gel caps can make me very sick, so I think I’ll avoid trying it out. Don’t know if gel caps use hydrolyzed or non-hydrolyzed gelatin?

          Found out something else, digestion frees glutamic acid/glutamate, so even if you try to avoid what’s “free” beforehand (almost all foods contain “free glutamate” in different amounts!), you’ll end up “getting it” and I guess we must, cause it’s a neurotransmitter, the problem is getting the right amount.

          How do we end up getting too much? I think leaky gut plays a role and also increased blood-brain barrier permeability (inflammation).

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excitotoxicity

          http://paleohacks.com/questions/32526/if-glutamic-acid-msg-is-natural-why-is-it-bad.html

          What are your symptoms, neurological or allergy-like? As far as I can see, surfing the internet, some people “only” have allergy-like symptoms.

          For me this whole problem started with a Candida yeast infection, and I am certain that it is the Yeast that is the culprit.

          My (conventional) doctor does not belive that Candida has got anything to do with it, but I have had some email contact with a swedish neuroscientist who confirmed to me that studies show that Candida Yeast can drive the synthesis of quinolinic acid (marker for inflammation and neurotoxicity). And as far as I have understood quinolinic acid is a substance that strengthens glutamate signalling in the brain.

          Did you check if you have a Candida yeast problem?

          For me the worst foods are yeast (incl. alcohol) and fermented foods (all milk products except cream and uncultured/sweet cream butter are fermented), how do you do with those foods?

          When reading this comment keep in mind that I do not have any education within medicine or nutrition, this is just how I have understood the subject (or not!) as a layman ;-)

          Anne

  4. Jane says

    Hi Laura
    Can you please provide any research to back up your claim that gelatin heals a leaky gut, ie. repairs tight junction function?. Also, how does it actually “restore the mucosal barrier”?
    Thank you

  5. Judi says

    I have arthritis in my fingers and gelatin has been the only real help for that. It has almost eliminated the pain. I’ve tried many different supplements and changes to my diet and this has been the biggest help. It works quickly, too.

      • says

        There is no taste to the hydrolyzed collagen from Great Lakes. None at all. It’s like drinking water. I add it to my bulletproof coffee and it’s not noticeable in the least. There’s nothing to fear.

  6. Alana says

    I’m a vegetarian. I took gelatin every day for 6 months and saw absolutely no benefits. I quit rather than gag twice a day every day!

    • Mynona says

      Well, benefits that are seen years later (such as slower skin aging), or healing leaky gut (one has to cut down on raw vegetables and fibres too in the beginning) I think can’t be seen in some months with just adding gelatin to a diet rich in fibres and probably rich in raw vegetables.

  7. Peewee says

    Why are we worried about vegetarians and vegans?

    Akin to ” 5 reasons why even smokers should brush their teeth.

  8. says

    I’m confused. Eggs have high levels of Choline which is supposed to lower homocysteine levels.
    Also, you’re saying that eating red meat is unhealthy?… meanwhile Kresser, Sisson, Wolf, et al, have been defending it forever.

    • Karin says

      She’s not saying that red meat is unhealthy. She’s just saying that you need to eat more than just the muscle meat. We evolved eating the whole animal, including muscle, skin, organs, etc. Other societies tend to do this better than we do, for example, the French.

      Denise Minger has a good lecture on this:

  9. Ant says

    How much gelatin/glycine is too much? I have adopted this a while back. I take about 6-10 tablespoons of Great Lakes Gelatin. Is this too much? Yes, I end up getting well over 100g of Gelatin at times.

    Personally I don’t see this as a supplement. But your thoughts would be great!

    • says

      It’s really hard to say if that’s too much, though I’d argue that it would be difficult to get that much from eating gelatinous meat on a daily basis, which is the way our ancestors would have eaten it.

        • Mynona says

          Depends on where they lived. In Europe, and more so the more north you get, meat was common food.

          In Afrika, I guess they eat more fruit. Man ate what was easiest to get.

          The same with omega3-fish, rarely seen in Afrika, frequently seen in the north.

          Also, people with African genes, seems to age slower, and seems often to be de ones best suited for vegetarian diets. Maybe we have adapted somewhat to where we came from, so that kaucasians are in bigger need of glycine?

          Nothing seems to be simple. So what about an African man living in Finland, or a Norwegian living in Africa? Since both genes and “where one lives” is important in my way of looking at it, the two scenarios is sort of “no good”.

          I really can’t see an easy “diet for all”. I would like that, but it does not seem to be possible.

    • says

      Due to its high glycine content, large amounts of gelatin consumed regularly can cause serious depression. I don’t have time right now to explain it all, but I recommend doing a search on “glycine and depression.” Glycine is, of course, a necessary nutrient, and most of us need more of it, but going overboard with it can cause serious problems, namely depression.

    • einstein says

      allergic to gelatin! poor you! never heard about that condition. you might be the only one having it. how did you find out you were allergic to gelatin if you are vegetarian? just curious.

  10. Pony says

    “We’ve lost the practice of whole-animal eating”

    Who have? White people? Lots of cultures/people/families still practice whole-animal eating.

      • Brad says

        Brazil is totally following. Lots of lean red meat and hormone fed chicken, little saturated fats, and LOADS of soy oil and margarine. Beef heart, tongue, liver, tail, hooves, breast bones, etc. are sold in most places but the consumption is very low in comparison.

  11. Gorettia says

    You had me sold on needing more gelatin … until I read the paragraph …’except those who are histamine intolerant.” – something I discovered in myself about a month ago. I still like knowing all the good things gelatin can do for the body and maybe I can treat myself if/when the histamine thing is resolved. Great information…Thanks!

  12. says

    Well written Laura. Dr. Cate Shanahan speaks on the glycosaminoglycans found in traditionally made bone broth pertaining to joint health as well.

    It’s exhausting listening to people with the inability to understand your message.

    Very few have the ability to think for themselves entirely anymore. Everyone wants to be told EXACTLY what to do.

    Vegetarians/Vegans take the supplement form if you dare toe the line in the effort for optimal health while maintaining ethical standards.

    Omnivores: Make your own bone broth, specifically joints and knuckle bones will be highest in collagen

    Glycine is a much needed precursor to Glutathione, our bodies “Master antioxidant”.

    Eating only skeletal muscle cuts is in essence a refined food.

    Much love to all in their own pursuit of health.
    http://www.SubjectiveSustenance.com

  13. rs711 says

    I’ve got tripe, beef tongue & veal foot slow-cooking right now – how a propos! :)

    Could you expand on the histamine point you made? Also, please throw in a few of the studies/links you used to make that point – I’d like to explore them starting from where you did.

    Thanks!

  14. John says

    I’ve upped my gelatin intake recently. I’ve just tried both oxtails and shanks, and really liked both cuts. I’ve tried marrow bones before, and never really liked them, but the marrow in the bones with the shanks is the perfect amount. I’ve also been making more bone broth. On top of that, I’ve been using both the gelatin and hydrolized collagen (which dissolves much better). I’ll use the gelatin as a snack with some unsweetened applesauce and coconut milk. Even reminds me of a few desserts I used to love as a kid.

    • Lynne says

      John, do you just mix the applesauce, coconut milk and gelatin together like a pudding? I’m always looking for simple bedtime snack ideas and want to increase my gelatin intake.

      • John says

        Yep, that’s what I do. I use light coconut milk from Trader Joes, mainly cause it stays in liquid form much better than regular coconut milk (the fat seems to clump up near the top in regular coconut milk). That said, coconut cream is delicious, and I use it in coffee all the time.

      • einstein says

        cocoa, honey, coconut oil, coconut milk and and gelatin. with nuts and dried berries. that’s my pudding. mighty delicious a snack too!

  15. Jeff S says

    So if you have some stomach issues and joint pain would taking one type in the morning and the other in the evening help?

  16. Blair says

    I’ve had sleep issues for quite some time now, but I’ve never tried taking glycine! Do you know if it’s safe to take while pregnant? Actually, I should also ask, is the extra gelatin safe during pregnancy? Thank you much!

  17. says

    Do you know of or recommend any fish gelatin products? I have clients who do not eat mammals or birds but do eat some fish. Would love to hear your thoughts!

    I also want to recommend using the term “plant-based.” Someone who is vegetarian or vegan would not eat gelatin because it is an animal product that involves the death of the animal. Someone eating a “plant-based eating plan” could be vegetarian or vegan but may also eat small amounts of fish, meat, eggs or dairy as well. Just something to consider!

  18. Holly says

    I use the Great Lakes powder in my black coffee and it dissolves wonderfully with barely any trace of taste and I use quite a bit. Smaller amounts wouldn’t taste like anything.

  19. pm says

    What amount of gelatin per day would you say is good for maintenance and what would be good levels to correct chronic conditions like arthritis?

    Thanks in advance.

    • says

      I would think a couple (1-3) of tablespoons per day should be fine but it might depend on the person’s tolerance and symptoms. I don’t know of any scientific evidence for a specific dose… sorry!

  20. Laurel says

    I’ve been doing this for several years now and haven’t had to have the usual injections in my knees. I take a can of frozen juice, 2 cans of water, and add, while whisking, 1 heaping cup of Great Lakes gelatin. Warm it gently in a pan, and when dissolved pour into a 9 x 13 cake pan. When it sets up I cut into 3″ x 3″ squares and eat one about four times per week. Seems to have worked for me.

  21. Elaine says

    Judy-do you have Heberden nodes in your fingers or just generalized pain in your fingers. I have Heberden nodes (the bottom knuckle is getting bigger and bigger and one finger is slightly deformed already). I am looking for a solution!!

  22. Kim says

    Something to add to #3: for pregnant women, gelatin can help prevent stretch marks! I didn’t get a single one and my midwife remarked that my skin must have excellent collagen levels “for some reason”. My secret … add a tbsp of gelatin to my cups of tea. :)

  23. Jo-De says

    I have been using the Great Lakes gelatin for about 6 months now. I ordered the double pack of whole protein from Amazon and finished that and now I am trying the hydrolized, which is so much easier to take. I mix a heaping tablespoon each night into about 1/3 cup of cherry or apricot juice. I also mix in a big tablespoon of diatomaceous earth (which is neither here nor there in this conversation). Both dissolve like crazy and the juice is very palatable (to my taste). I am 60 years old, and had knee surgery in Feb 2004, where the ortho wanted to do a replacement… I have been waiting for stem cell work or something else that could be done less invasively than a knee replacement. I have been taking a glucosamine/chondroitin supplement for many years and would like to switch it out for the gelatin. Do you think the gelatin alone (whole food properties, yes!) will be enough for my needs?

  24. Andrew says

    Hello,
    We eat lots of grass fed beef. Half of what we get is ground beef – we purchase a whole cow once a year. I’d like to know what nutrients are in grass fed ground beef as I understand this is from the “leftovers”. I would assume that this has high amounts of gelatin..?
    Secondly, in Chris’s book he suggests that eating processed meat in moderation. I’d like to know if that applies to meat that we cure (dehydrate) ourselves. I would think not since we only add high quality salt, vinegar and some herbs and it is hung-dried.
    Any thoughts on this would be appreciated.
    Andy

    • Laurel says

      Andy – I doubt very much that ground beef has much gelatin in it. Gelatin is mostly derived from skin and bones and connective tissue. Most of that is removed from ground beef.

    • says

      Most of the gelatin will be in areas around tendons, so oxtail and bone-in shanks are two more common parts that would be gelatinous. You might be able to ask your farmer if he/she sells actual tendons at all. Perhaps they’re not selling those parts for whatever reason, but they might be able to get you some if you’re interested!

    • says

      Andy, I don’t think ground beef is “high” in gelatin, but there is *some.* I say this because I’ve done some experiments — the last two times I made meatloaf (the only ingredients being grassfed ground beef, salt, pepper, onions, and herbs), I made them free-form in a glass baking dish. After it was done, I drained the fat/liquid that had come out of the meat and put it in a small glass bowl in the fridge for a few hours. The fat solidified at the stop, giving me a nice little “disc” of tallow that I could remove easily and store it for cooking with some other time, and the liquid layer below had completely jelled! That tells me that there was a fair bit of gelatin in that ground meat. (And then I used that as a kind of “gravy” for the meatloaf.) Tallow, gelatin, *and* the meat itself — talk about not letting anything go to waste! I could kick myself for all the fat & meat juices I’ve drained and then thrown out in the past!

      It makes sense that there would be at least a little gelatin in ground beef (or pork, turkey, etc) — we can probably assume a little bit of connective tissue ends up in the grinder too. I don’t think ground meat is a *concentrated* source, like the powdered stuff, but my meatloaf experiment shows there’s at least some. (So even if you just brown ground beef in a skillet, son’t assume all the liquid that comes out is fat — it’s not.

  25. Heather C says

    I’m a vegetarian and I tried the Great Lakes gelatin (the orange/red bottle) but it gave me digestive discomfort. I make gummies or marshmallows with it for my daughter and she is ok with it. I was bummed that I can’t take it because I was looking forward to the health benefits.

  26. Zach Cantu says

    So I am fairly new to this “digital rapture” of health, but my own recent ailments have got me clamoring for knowledge. My journey went from Dr. Mercola > Mark Sisson > Dave Asprey > Chris Kresser > Chris Masterjohn > Mat Lalonde… and so on. I find myself always coming back to Chris and Mark for their scientific stance and seemingly non-dogmatic views on everything. Been paleo/primal for 2 months, and have had a sluggish start since I thought red meat was a treat and low fat/whole wheat “everything” were the ticket to the promised land i.e. I’m “American”. Just when I think I’m eating as healthy as it gets I stumble upon this Ray Peat character preaching gelatin and sugar like it’s holy water, and muscle meats are the anti-christ. Forgive my religious analogies but I think it’s rather appropriate while speaking about one’s diet e.g. the first comment by the vegetarian. Naturally, I am confused as all hell, get prematurely full, still burp up protein hours after meals, and tried HCL/ enzymes which led to nausea and pain by my right rib cage (gallbladder/small intestines?) By all other accounts i’m fairly healthy, have a 6 pack (which by no means is deserved) and shed hair like crazy. All this venting to say this: Gelatin will be getting a fair shot in my diet as I am big on broths and stews right now to heal this imaginary leaky gut of mine. Good read!

    • pm says

      Regarding your stomach issue I would recommend having your stomach acid and enzymes levels tested, so you can be sure what is your problem and what dosage of Betaine HCL and/or pancreatic enzymes to take. This is done through the Hiedelburg test. http://www.phcapsule.com/

      I was able to find right dosage through experimentation for my low acid caused gerd, but this is not a safe way.

      • Zach Cantu says

        Thanks pm. I definitely tried the same ramp up process recommended. Start with one, wait for burning, move to two… and so on. I found myself using 5 or 6 with no distress after eating, but the next morning woke up with the mid abdominal side pain/ nausea followed by more distress when eating again. Tried this process twice, and the pain/nausea would go away within a day or two of stopping the supplementation. Strange indeed, and without health insurance self diagnosis is probably a fools endeavor, but then again, being foolish is half my charm.

        • einstein says

          have you read the Perfect Health Diet fm the Jaminets? Instead of browsing around looking for info fm questionable sources (by which I do not this site of course), get that book and read it thoroughly. conscise, well reasoned, scientific, but at the same time written for the layman. one of the best for people looking for solutions to their health issues. among my top favourites.

    • Jane says

      Love this little essay by Cantu about the “digital rapture” of health! Excellent.

      Finding knuckles or other joints to use to make our own broth has proven impossible so far. So I am about to embark on the packaged gelatin experiment for osteoarthritis.

  27. Mikey Mileos says

    Hi Laura,

    Great article!

    You mention that if you eat too much protein you should also eat gelatin to balance it out. Is there a rough amount you should eat for a certain amount of protein?

    Thanks,
    Mikey

    • says

      Yikes, not sure there’s a real formula… an easy way to balance it is to choose meats that have gelatin on them already, like shanks for example. Would have to look into it further though.

  28. ALMC says

    Is there a difference in effectiveness between powdered gelatin and powdered collagen? Are they different forms of the same substance, and is one generally easier for the body to absorb than another?

  29. says

    Hi, Laura:

    I’m curious about your feelings on the powdered gelatin vs. “real” gelatin in broth. I’m generally not a fan of powdering things, because they oxidize so much more quickly, but I’m really undereducated on the topic of gelatin. Do you have an particular feelings with regard to oxidation in powdered gelatin? If I had a choice and time were no issue, would you still recommend the Great Lakes, or would you rather people only use broths (etc) to get gelatin?

    Thanks!

    • says

      Well unfortunately it’s hard to know if gelatin powder poses any risk of oxidative stress, but as with most things I would recommend the whole food source as often as possible. So eating gelatinous meats or broths is the ideal here. As you mentioned, however, not everyone has the time or resources to eat these foods regularly so I think gelatin is a good 2nd choice.

      Here’s a video of how one company makes their gelatin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bYIow9pc6M

      Sounds like the heat doesn’t get that high, but who knows. This would probably be a good question for Chris Masterjohn!

  30. Nurse says

    Hi Laura, while this article may be thought provoking – it unsubstantiated by research and other than #1 maybe – a bit to iffy for me. Antidotal evidence does not make me comfortable to recommend to patients (placebos work too). There is not one research paper cited. I don’t know your licensing requirements as an RD but I would worry about mine – recommending supplements with no research to back me up.

    For example you state:
    - Yikes, not sure there’s a real formula…
    - I don’t know of any studies
    - As far as peer reviewed evidence goes, there isn’t a whole lot available.
    - I don’t know of any scientific evidence for a specific dose… sorry!
    etc.

    And just a note (because I am an instructor) you stated: …:”since the whole protein is digested differently than the individual amino acids.” You really meant that – protein is digested to release the amino acids and amino acids are absorbed by the intestines.

    • says

      First of all, gelatin is a food, not a supplement. And just because I don’t know of any studies on specific dosage recommendations doesn’t mean that the general benefits of gelatin are unsupported by science. And yes, whole proteins are digested differently than amino acids, because whole proteins require enzymatic cleavage, whereas amino acids can be absorbed immediately by the intestinal villi and thus are easier to digest for people who have suboptimal digestive capabilities. That’s why elemental enteral formulas were created, after all, and those are used in hospitals regularly. I don’t see how you think I made a mistake in that statement.

      As for “not citing any research”, I suppose you missed the 5 studies that I cited, but here they are for your convenience:
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814609000387
      http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1185/030079908X291967
      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0049017200568255
      http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00262.x/abstract
      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11396606

      I’m seriously wondering if you even read the article? If you did, you certainly didn’t read it very carefully.

      • Nurse says

        I do apologize: I see now that you cited studies via hyperlinks within the text – my bad. I did click on the first several that did not lead to research (wellness mama, balanced bites, the daily lipid, Weil, etc.), so didn’t continue to click on the links. I guess I am used to having research noted.

        The digestion of amino acids vs absorption of amino acids are 2 different things – but no worries – sorry I brought it up.

        Ok your got me there – not a supplement but supplementing…Great Lakes Unflavored Gelatin.

        I do apologize if I offended you in some way by your response which is not kind to me but I can take it: “I’m seriously wondering if you even read the article? If you did, you certainly didn’t read it very carefully.”

        Maybe you could say – I cited the articles via hyperlinks – I am sure you must have over looked those by mistake — or something like that. Would make me want to comment again but I will keep quiet now. Thank you for your work.

      • Nurse says

        Ok, you don’t accept my apology to Laura. Therefore, I apologize to you personally: Julie I am sorry please reference my comments to Laura.

        Well obviously, I am new to the blogosphere. I am finding that so much misinformation exists I just want to be sure I base my decision on the facts – thus the need to review the research myself. But I think I will just stick to PubMed, Medline, etc. As in the funny words of Stephen Colbert: “The Word” was Wikiality, defined as the concept that “together we can create a reality that we all agree on—the reality we just agreed on.” http://bit.ly/1gbv5G2 Good bye.

  31. Cheryl says

    Laura, thanks for all the great information. I actually have Great Lakes hydrolized gelatin on my to buy list, after learning of the benefits of gelatin / collagen. I’m not a vegetarian or vegan, and eat about 80% primally. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to bones, etc. from grass fed animals (yes, I’ve searched) for bone broth, and organ meats gag me. Would 1 -2 Tbsp a day of this gelatin be a good supplement for those of use who don’t have the luxury of making good quality bone broths?

    • says

      I think 1-2 tablespoons per day is a reasonable amount. I tried finding more specific dosage information, but even WebMD says that dosage depends on factors like age, body size, and purpose of using gelatin. In fact, their exact words are: “At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for gelatin.” But they do say gelatin is generally recognized as safe for the majority of people, barring allergy.

  32. Diana says

    I was diagnosed with antibiotic induced colitis that caused leaky gut and severe allergies to many foods.
    Gelatin, in the form of bone broth, as well as the Great Lakes brand made a Huge difference in my recovery. A vegetarian based diet caused me to go deeper into illness for an entire year. I almost died after losing 25% of my already lean body mass. The bone broth, in this extreme case, soothed my intestines on contact and delivered nutrition in an easily absorbable form. It also increased absorption of protein, allowing me to keep my meat portions modest.
    I drink one cup per day for maintenance with a dash of turmeric and black pepper. I am SO grateful for discovering this!
    Tradtional diets always incorporated this wisdom.

  33. April says

    Hi Laura. I enjoyed reading your post. I have Celiac/Hashimotos and I have been drinking 2 cups of lamb/beef broth a day. Is it possible to drink too much? Also one evening I drank it late and I think it kept me up all night. Somewhere I think I read the issue was glutamates. Would this have done it? Do you have to drink the bone broth with muscle meat to reap benefits or can you drink it alone?Thanks for letting me pick your brain :)

  34. April says

    Laura thank you for your prompt answer. When you say glutamic acid…I’m assuming that it is not an excitotoxin. Is that a naturally occurring substance? Also I was drinking homemade broth if I switch how much would I drink I would switch to drinking mornings only…lol. Could you differentiate between the glutamic acid and free glutamate for those of us lacking brain cells….Thanks again.

    • says

      Sorry I think I didn’t explain that properly. Gelatin has glutamic acid as part of a protein chain, which is different than free glutamic acid or glutamate that is a free amino acid that acts as an excitotoxin. So if you are MSG sensitive, you’ll want to stick with the whole protein gelatin, as that doesn’t have the same free amino acids as the hydrolyzed version.

      Here’s a good article about MSG: http://www.realfoodwholehealth.com/2011/05/excitotoxins-msg-and-hidden-names/

      Usually people who aren’t super MSG sensitive can handle bone broth with no issue, but if you’re sensitive, it’s possible you could have been overly stimulated by the free glutamates in the broth.

      • April says

        So other than losing sleep for a night and probably being sensitive to it…I could drink it in the morning only but will I be harmed in any way other than “it excites me” or should I just drink the gelatin from Great Lakes to be on the safe side??Sorry for all the questions. You’re awesome!!

  35. Sandra says

    Hi Laura,

    I have a client who has two autoimmune diseases and has seen tremendous results on the Paleo diet. We have not introduced any kind of supplementation due to budget constraints and after 3 weeks of elimination diet, we introduced bone broth.
    It did not go well. Made my client sick, loose stools, etc.

    What are your thoughts on having her try the gelatin powder?

  36. Steven Weil says

    Are beef ‘sweetbreads’ a good source of gelatin?
    Is the slimy quality of okra due to its content of gelatin?

  37. Petr Murmak says

    Hi Laura,

    Thanks for this amazing article. I was discussing it with my wife. She is big advocate of seaweeds and products from them like agar. She use it as a substitute for gelatin. What do you think about it?

    • says

      Seaweed doesn’t have the same amino acid profile as gelatin. While it may create a similar texture in food, I can’t say it would have the same benefits as gelatin would. Dried agar is only about 6% protein, whereas gelatin powder is 86% protein. (These numbers were determined using USDA data on grams of protein per 100 grams of food)

  38. says

    I tried drinking broth for awhile, but my sources for quality bones are not great. So, I starting using powdered gelatin about a year ago. I’ve seen benefits in joint pain, the strength of my nails and hair, and my wrinkles and stretch marks have faded significantly. I’m convinced to eat more gelatin. :)

  39. Marcel says

    Hi Laura
    Just wondering if you knew what level of histamine gelatin has.? Our 3 year old is sensitive to histamines, so can’t do broths unfortunately. Thanks : )

  40. Myka says

    How much gelatin should one eat every day (from great lakes)?

    Both the ordinary ones and the green hydrolyzed one.

    1 TB of both (want both benefits) or 2 TB of both? Or more? I who ask, also drink 2 cups of broth every day.

  41. leonardo says

    With regards to the whole protein gelatine, should that be taken in it’s solid form (i.e. after it has cooled) or can one mix it in a warm drink and consume it immediately?

  42. Honora says

    We have a very smelly gelatine factory in our town so I have unpleasant associations…however it would be good to get around that. It sounds as though it would be a very beneficial practice. Thanks for your many explanations in both the article and comments. It’s good to see your responsiveness.

  43. Cathy Pemberton says

    Laura, my 87 year old mom isn’t going to purchase Great Lakes gelatin, unfortunately. But she has used Knox gelatin. Is there ANY benefit at all in a commercially made and available product like that, or is it completely different?
    Thank you!

  44. Jesse says

    Laura,
    Thanks for the article. I use the Great Lakes brand as well and have often seen it referred to as being sourced from grass-fed animals. Getting any specific info on this has been hard to find when I’ve looked a little deeper. Have you seen anything more specific about the sourcing of GL?

  45. prioris says

    Chris said … “We don’t want high homocysteine in our blood because homocysteine is a significant risk factor for serious diseases like heart disease, stroke, mental illness, and fractures.”

    There is a way around this – take fibrinolytic enzymes (FE) on empty stomach like nattokinase. This will clean the plaque out of your arteries over time. Nattokinase is a blot buster and doesn’t have side effects. FE’s have been proven to prevent heart attacks and strokes in China. It takes about 3 to 4 weeks to work. Use at higher dosage if you have heart disease symptoms. You can use both Nattokinase and Serrapeptase at same time.

    Vitamin K2 (ML7) can clean calcium out of arteries and put it into the bones but it should be used with care since it is a blood coagulant. FE is a blood anticoagulant and clot buster. I would use K2 intermittently since it builds up in the blood in 4 days. FE’s don’t build up in the blood. Clean the artery plaque out first with FE’s before addressing calcium and bone issues.

    If you have osteoperosis, herniated disc, spinal compression, you will likely need an animal based cure. Highly absorbed Hyaluronic Acid / Collagen like Biocell’s will cure these when supplement consumed on empty stomach.. It takes about 6 weeks and 150mg of HA. There are situations where one may needs to bend and be practical. Being a vegetarian while your life is crippled with a herniated disc makes no sense.

  46. Debbie says

    Hi there,

    I read somewhere that you should take gelatin supplements on an empty stomach to have the health benefits. I don’t know if this is true so I’m hoping you can shed some light. The website (by a naturopathic physician) states that if you take it with a meal your body will simply use it for the calories (and protein) and nothing else, but if you take it on an empty stomach it will be assimilated into the bloodstream and convert back to collagen that the body can use to repair hair skin etc. Although this doesn’t sound right to me (it doesn’t make sense that a supplement would be more beneficial than gelatin consumed from whole foods), I don’t know a huge amount about it so I wanted to get your thoughts. Here’s the page so you can read for yourself: http://naturopathic-physician.com/index.php?page=73

    Many thanks!

  47. deirdre says

    Do you know where I can find research that compares amino breakdown of plant-based gelatin vs animal-based gelatin? I keep reading that plant-based does NOT have the same benefits, but don’t see research to back it up. I am not vegan (I eat fish, eggs, and occasionally some chicken, but I don’t eat dairy), but I like to limit my intake of meat where possible because of the high acidity (trying to eat 70 % Alkaline diet).

    If I can find hard evidence showing plant-based gelatin (like in sea vegetables) is inferior, I wouldn’t mind eating fish-based gelatin because I’m convinced of the health benefits of gelatin. Can you point me to some hard research on this topic?
    THANKS!

  48. olivia says

    this is so stupid. why should any vegetarian eat gelatin?! if you do eat it, you are NOT a vegetarian. eggs, fine. honey fine. milk sure! bottom line: VEGETARIANS DO NOT EAT ANYTHING THAT USED TO BE ALIVE. gelatin is ligaments, cartilage, bone, hoofs, trotters, etc. if you are faithful to vegetarianism and take it seriously, you should not eat gelatin.

    • Dee says

      Why is it ok to eat animal foods like the ones you mentioned but not parts of the animal? Do you think that drinking milk somehow means no animals have to die? Taking milk from an animal means the calf doesn’t get that milk for starters, and if it’s a male it gets killed and sold as veal. If you want to be a vegetarian because you don’t like meat or think meat is unhealthy, fine, but this article is about supplementation for health.

      • prioris says

        The physical realm we live was designed to require that in order for most life forms to survive, other life forms must be sacrificed. There is the idea of the Demiurge and why pain and suffering inflict out physical realm.

        Life doesn’t really die, only the physical vessels that the spiritual life force resides in is gets discarded. Life force also resides in minerals.

        Plants and trees are life also. When we build a house made out of wood, there will be casualties. We kill mosquitos and insects. If one is brought up in a tribe of cannibals, one will eat human meat.

        A rock will also have a life force. That life force limitation will be determined by the characteristics the physical vessel where it resides.

        The issue really comes down to pain and suffering. Its about starting somewhere to do something about it. The livestock are is a prime area to start.

        This planet could be built on a lot less pain and suffering but the political landscape on this planet is entirely dominated by sociopaths. They would have enough advanced technology to obsolete a lot od pain and suffering in life but they won’t. Sociopaths also make up most of the population. Most compassionate people dull their awareness because their bonded to sociopaths.

        The idea that vegetarians need to be PERFECT is absurd. No matter how perfect a vegetarian in trying to avoid killing life, they can’t reach perfection.

        The act of trying should be enough. One has to balance their diet with practicality.

        I think someone who becomes a vegetarian to limit pain and suffering should be commended. It shows a functional conscience. It shows someone wanting to start to somewhere to stem the pain and suffering. People who claim that you must be perfect or your a hypocrite are really just sociopaths playing devils advocate. A truly compassionate person would see things differently

        Anybody expecting perfection is ignoring reality. A vegetarian needs to be practical. You do what you can do but realize there is a limit.

        Not eating gelatin doesn’t prevent the pain and suffering of that animal. It is just the remaining part after the core product was removed.

        If you have a serious health problem, i think that life form that was killed would welcome a vegetarian to their residual body parts.

        • Emma says

          As a life form I don’t want to killed and eaten to fulfill someone else’s needs. No one is welcome to any of me, really important bits or residual bits. Sorry if that sounds selfish but I value my life as do all animals.

  49. olivia says

    if you have a serious health problem, gelatin will not help you. can it cure cancer? no. infections? no. it cant even cure a bad throat. I have been a vegetarian since I was 7. a real one. I am not saying that vegetarians should be perfect. nobody is. I myself have mistakenly eaten gelatin. MISTAKENLY! when you know its gelatin but you eat it anyway, you are clearly not faithful to vegetarianism. unlike many others, I take vegetarianism seriously. it is like a religion to me. to be honest, I feel quite hurt at this article and these comments. there are so many people who claim to be vegetarian but are not. oh, ps: only female cows can give milk, and they can give it after having one calf, so they are NOT constantly pregnant.

    • Dee says

      Again, this article is about HEALTH. Emotional arguments about your reasons for being vegetarian do not belong here. There are many forums where you can go and have an emotional debate if you would like, but this is not the place. It is also a bit silly to go on about what gelatin CAN’T do because that is not how people who eat for health look at foods – they look at what foods CAN do for your health. And as others have already mentioned, the gelatin is made from parts of the animal that otherwise would have just been disposed of. They don’t kill more animals to create gelatin, they are making use of the whole animal and therefore even from an ethical standpoint eating gelatin is better than just eating meat.

      It’s quite strange that an article focusing on health would hurt anyone – you are choosing to put your emotions in somewhere that they don’t belong. If you can’t handle the subject matter then don’t read it, it’s that simple.

      And yes, obviously only female cows can give milk, hence why the males are killed or raised for beef. And just like humans, cows don’t constantly produce milk so they do have to keep calving in order to keep up production.

  50. olivia says

    oh, by the way, I’m not going to comment again after this because you people are really depressing me.

    • prioris says

      this is just confirmation of what i said above – people prefer dulling their awareness to reality.

Join the Conversation

Current ye@r *