Gelatin: Benefits of the Superfood

Healthy Dessert

When we think of healthy foods, we don’t often think of desserts or sweets. Gelatin is the sweet bridge between health and dessert. Gelatin has long been on the list of classical desserts at gatherings such as picnics and Thanksgiving. Jell-o does not sponsor this post, but Jell-o is the most recognizable and accessible form of gelatin and what this post is about. Any gelatin brand dessert should have the same nutrition; Jell-o has name recognition as well. Whether you like gelatin or not, it has many surprising health benefits. It just may be the best dessert option for health-minded eaters or those looking for some relief from certain medical conditions.

Gelatin Ingredients

Jell-o powder mixture

Jell-o is made of gelatin. Gelatin is a protein similar to collagen from bones, skin, and cartilage of animals. We break down many of the collagen-containing parts of animals we don’t usually eat in the average diet to make up the flavorless jelly-like gelatin. It’s used in gummies, broths, and marshmallows, as well as a few other surprising places. Gelatin is available in multiple forms, such as powders and capsules. However, they aren’t as fun, delicious, or jiggly as Jell-o. 

Gelatin Benefits?

Amino Acids

Gelatin contains high levels of amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Amino acids can be used for energy, help repair tissue, and are vital to the human body. The amino acids present in gelatin are all beneficial, and some may not be present in our diets otherwise.

  • Valine- is an amino acid that must come exclusively through our diets and helps build protein and repair tissues.
  • Glycine – is an amino acid that has favorable effects on sleep, the immune system, and inflammation
  • Proline -is an amino acid building block of collagen which makes up joints, skin, and bones
  • Lysine- is an amino acid that helps keep the bones strong by promoting the absorption of calcium
  • Arginine -the amino acid that reduces blood pressure and improves circulation by producing nitric oxide
  • Alanine-is the amino acid that helps reduce muscle fatigue and improve exercise endurance

Protein

Aside from providing a source of amino acids, gelatin contains protein at a relatively low-calorie cost. A half-cup serving of standard Jello includes 2 grams of protein and 80 calories. In contrast, a sugar-free Jell-o serving of the same size contains 1 gram of protein per 10 calories

Although this may not seem like much protein, it adds up over time and could be critical to those who don’t or can’t get it from other food sources. The (RDA)recommended dietary allowance for protein intake is .8 grams per kilogram body weight for adults for healthy lean body mass.

All protein, including the protein in Jell-o, plays many essential roles in the human body’s daily functions.

  • Build, maintain, and repair muscles and tissues.
  • Stimulates metabolism for fat burning.
  • Keeps us feeling full longer.
  • Fight off cravings
  • Builds strong bones. 

Using protein properly can help achieve body composition goals by supporting lean muscle growth, reducing body fat, and controlling body weight. 

Anti Aging

Gelatin’s protein and amino acid profiles make it beneficial to the body’s anti-aging efforts. Gelatin is made of collagen, the most abundant protein in our body, which makes up the skin, hair, and nails. Adequate collagen intake can help keep our skin from becoming dry and losing its elasticity, making it look older. Studies have also proven that collagen in gelatin also helps keep hair looking fuller and growing strong. 

Joint Protection

The collagen connection makes gelatin a strong candidate for joint support. The collagen in gelatin is what makes up and repairs our joints. Studies on gelatin supplementation show that eating gelatin can improve collagen levels in the body, maintain joint health, and aid injury prevention. 

Better Rest

The gelatin in Jell-o can also help improve sleep quality. By eating gelatin for dessert before bedtime, studies show you can help increase your chances of waking feeling well-rested due to glycine. The amino acid has been linked with greater ease of falling asleep, more sleep time, and greater energy upon waking.

Gut Protection

Glutamic acid is present in gelatin and converted to glutamine in the body. Glutamine plays an important role in gut health. It helps regulate the intestinal permeability or gut barrier that protects inflammatory and harmful substances from affecting the body. This inflammation inhibition can protect the stomach from becoming irritated.

Anti Inflammation

The amino acid glycine in gelatin also makes it an anti-inflammatory food. It helps reduce inflammation by directly suppressing the inflammatory cells like macrophages from setting off the chain reaction that leads to painful inflammation. Glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means it sends signals that tell the body not to react. This inhibition has been shown to play a part in glycine and gelatin’s anti-inflammatory powers.  

Healthy, Versatile, Delicious

Another bonus to gelatin is that you can add fruit to it. It will add more sugar, calories, and fiber, but it’s a way to get more healthy nutrients in your diet. Since it comes in various flavors, there are endless possibilities to keep it from getting boring. Lastly, you can add a little whipped cream for another light calorie hit that adds even more flavor and texture if the fruit doesn’t do it for you. Watch out though because although Jello is fat free, whipped cream may not be. 

What’s the Catch?

Now with all those benefits, there has to be a catch, right? Suppose you want to make your own Jello. In that case, it takes about 4 hours to solidify in the refrigerator after you mix everything up. Fortunately, though Jell-o lasts a long time and is easy to store, it is also simple to make a significant amount in a single sitting. It is good to note that most stores sell premade Jell-o or gelatin relatively cheaply, so you don’t have to wait or worry about making it yourself.

Conclusion 

Gelatin is a highly beneficial and versatile food. You can eat it any time of the day, and it may keep you feeling full longer, on top of all its other benefits. There are plenty of options to change up your gelatin to keep it from becoming repetitive, and you can even get artistic with themed gelatin. Gelatin’s health benefits at a low-calorie cost make it something everyone should consider adding to their diet. So whether you eat it before bed for better sleep or as a between-meal snack to lose weight, Gelatin is tasty, super simple and useful food.

Works Cited

Achamrah N, Déchelotte P, Coëffier M. Glutamine and the regulation of intestinal permeability: from bench to bedside. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2017 Jan;20(1):86-91. doi: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000339. PMID: 27749689.

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27749689/

Beasley, J M et al. “Is Meeting the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for Protein Related to Body Composition among Older Adults?: Results from the Cardiovascular Health of Seniors and Built Environment Study.” The journal of nutrition, health & aging vol. 20,8 (2016): 790-796. doi:10.1007/s12603-015-0707-5

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12603-015-0707-5

Glynis, Ablon. “A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair.” The Journal of clinical and aesthetic dermatology vol. 5,11 (2012): 28-34.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3509882/

Gregory Shaw, Ann Lee-Barthel, Megan LR Ross, Bing Wang, Keith Baar, Vitamin C–enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 105, Issue 1, January 2017, Pages 136–143,

https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/105/1/136/4569849

Inagawa, K., Hiraoka, T., Kohda, T. et al. Subjective effects of glycine ingestion before bedtime on sleep quality. Sleep Biol. Rhythms 4, 75–77 (2006). https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-8425.2006.00193.x

Rubio, I.G.S., Castro, G., Zanini, A.C. et al. Oral ingestion of a hydrolyzed gelatin meal in subjects with normal weight and in obese patients: Postprandial effect on circulating gut peptides, glucose and insulin. Eat Weight Disord 13, 48–53 (2008). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF03327784

Song, Hongdong et al. “Effects of collagen peptides intake on skin ageing and platelet release in chronologically aged mice revealed by cytokine array analysis.” Journal of cellular and molecular medicine vol. 22,1 (2018): 277-288. doi:10.1111/jcmm.13317

Wheeler, M., Ikejema, K., Enomoto, N. et al. Glycine: a new anti-inflammatory immunonutrient. CMLS, Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 56, 843–856 (1999). https://doi.org/10.1007/s000180050030

 Zhong, Zhia; Wheeler, Micheal D.b; Li, Xianglib; Froh, Matthiasb; Schemmer, Peterb; Yin, Mingb; Bunzendaul, Hartwigc; Bradford, Blaird; Lemasters, John J.a L-Glycine: a novel antiinflammatory, immunomodulatory, and cytoprotective agent, Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care: March 2003 – Volume 6 – Issue 2 – p 229-240

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