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5 Reasons Why Nearly Everyone (Even Vegetarians) Should Eat Gelatin

by Laura Beth Schoenfeld, RD

Last updated on

gelatin, benefits of gelatin
Incorporating more gelatin into your diet could be as simple as this yummy gelatin dessert. Antonio Mu±oz palomares/Hemera/Thinkstock

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! #healthyskin #paleodiet #optimalnutrition

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 promoter 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.

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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 and vegans will find these health benefits difficult to get 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.

Fish gelatin is available for those who prefer not to consume land animals.

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.
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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.

Laura Beth Schoenfeld, RD
Laura Beth Schoenfeld, RD

Laura Schoenfeld, MPH, RD, is a licensed registered dietitian and women’s health expert trained in Functional Medical nutrition therapy. She assisted in the creation of educational materials for both the ADAPT practitioner and health coach training programs.

Her passion is empowering women to nourish their bodies, develop true strength, and ultimately use their improved health to pursue their purpose. Laura guides her clients in identifying and implementing diet and lifestyle changes that allow them to live a healthy, fit, symptom-free life without being consumed by thoughts of food and exercise. She draws from a variety of sources to form her philosophy on nutrition, including ancestral diets, principles of biochemistry, current research, and clinical experience. Her areas of expertise include women’s hormones and fertility, gut health, autoimmune disease, athletic performance, stress management, skin health, and weight loss. Recognizing that health goes far beyond just diet and exercise, Laura teaches her clients how to focus on and implement life-changing mental and spiritual health habits as well, including changing their thoughts and beliefs to ones that drive health-supporting decision-making around food, fitness, and life in general.

Her greatest mission is to help health-conscious women realize that, while their health is priceless, they are so much more than a body. When she’s not educating and serving her coaching clients and community, Laura loves traveling with her husband, Sundays with her church family, hikes with her dog, beach trips, live music, and strength training.

Professional website: lauraschoenfeldrd.com

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Join the conversation

  1. Gelatin is a natural protein that is derived from the partial hydrolysis of collagen, which exists in the skin and bones of animals. Gelatin is intended for human consumption and mainly used as a gelling agent, a clarifying agent (drink), binding agent for light sensitive silver halides and a thickening agent as well. Commercially available Gelatin is a natural foodstuff and chemically, Gelatin is a pure protein. For more info please visit site http://www.halalgelatin.org

  2. Since this is a hydrolyzed product. What about the hydrolyzed glutamate which is a neurotoxin according to Dr. Blaylock? An informed response would be appreciated. i have found that humans constantly make mistakes with supplements.

  3. I am a vegetarian . For over 19 years, I have not had meat. Yet when one is suffering from medically diagnosed insomnia for 13 years even though I am healthy , cook 90% of what I eat, workout, I gave up the ideal of no meat and started taking Kosher beef gelatin ( NOW foods brands) . I am not exhausted during the day when I use to take long afternoon naps after work. I am off my Rozerem which I have used for years and it really was not working. I am sleeping better and deeper at night. I have better skin and hair. I am losing weight because I don’t have those sugar cravings or even carbs cravings!This is week one of taking the product. Believe me, it took weeks to really research and even go through the process of “wow! this is a beef product and I am going to take it? But I don’t eat meat!” I interviewed gelatin companies to see what is best for me. But when your sleep is better with taking gelatin-better than years of doctors trying to help-, I will give that ideal. I don’t eat meat still nor do I plan to. But my live has improved and changed drastically . Each person has different health needs and it may not work for you. Check with your doctor. ( Ironically all physically were excellent and never revealed I needed more protein.)

  4. This article is interesting but there are a lot of conflicting views out there, which some people take as gospel. it’s about trail and error and finding the best diet for ourselves. The holier than thou attitude of some vegetarians and vegans does nothing for their cause. I cannot eat beans and pulses, I end up in agony if I do. The only grains I can eat are buckwheat and sorghum. (Pause whilst the grain police point out that buckwheat isn’t a true grain) so being vegetarian or vegan is not an option for me. I don’t condemn it or think it is right or wrong. I eat fish and organic fowl from which I make bone broth. I think it’s about a balanced diet and balanced mind and perspective. There is no right or wrong, it’s about each one of us finding the healthiest diet for ourselves, without being offended about the opinion of others.

    • Not everyone is identical, and that affects how our body reacts to certain foods, that’s true. Different people will have different optimal diets. But science and facts ≠ people’s opinions and preferences. As much as you can have variations across different people, we’re all still human, therefore we all function in the same way. If people are offended by the fact that gelatin only has true benefits if it comes from animals (as many on the comments around here are), that changes absolutely nothing. You can think all you want about mercury and lead, it’s still bad for you. You can think all you want about water, it’s still gonna be good for you no matter who you are.

    • Be careful with Sorghum grain I read its on a list of foods that often tests HIGH for Mycotoxin Residues. I am GF, but gave it up a couple years ago, after reading that.