Gelatin is a flavorless, colorless, stabilizer and thickener that is used to make desserts such as pudding, mousse, marshmallows, candy, cakes, ice cream, some yogurts, and of course fruit gelatin, such as Jell-O. Gelatin is also used to make some non-food items such as shampoos or skincare products.
Thickening agents like gelatin can be made from different ingredients. Gelatin is made by boiling the skin, tendons, ligaments, or bones of animals (usually cows or pigs) in water. This process releases collagen, a protein that provides structure and also happens to be the most abundant protein in the human body. After the collagen is extracted it is concentrated and filtered, then cooled, extruded, and dried to make gelatin.
Because animal products are used to make gelatin, it is not a vegan-friendly food and even some non-vegans choose not to consume it to support animal rights. But there are also gelatin alternatives that are made from non-animal sources.
Gelatin Nutrition Facts
The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA for a single envelope or about one-tablespoon (7 grams) of gelatin. However, a full envelope may not always represent a single serving.
According to Knox, a company that makes gelatin, a single serving is more likely to be 1.75 grams. The company states on their website that a single serving provides 6 calories, 0 grams fat, 0 grams carbohydrate, and 1.6 grams of protein. This serving size equals about a 1/2 cup serving when mixed with water.
- Calories: 23.4
- Fat: 0g
- Sodium: 13.7mg
- Carbs: 0g
- Fiber: 0g
- Sugars: 0g
- Protein: 6g
While gelatin provides about 30 calories per tablespoon, none of those calories are from carbohydrates. There are 0 grams of total carbohydrate, including 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of fiber in gelatin.
Because gelatin contains no carbohydrates, it will not impact blood sugar levels when consumed. However, it should be noted that gelatin is not usually consumed alone. It is frequently used to thicken dessert foods that can be high in sugar and carbs and are likely to elevate your blood sugar levels. But the presence of gelatin will not change the impact.
There is no fat in a one-tablespoon serving of gelatin. Even a 100-gram serving contains less than a gram of fat.
Gelatin provides about 6 grams of protein per one-tablespoon serving. But remember that you are likely to consume much less than that. If you consume 1.75 grams, you won't even get a full gram of protein. So gelatin should not be considered a high-protein food
Vitamins and Minerals
Gelatin provides no significant vitamins or minerals. Even if it is consumed in larger quantities than is typical in recipes, the powder does not contribute any significant micronutrients.
Where to Find the 6 Major Minerals in Food
People who use gelatin as a food in recipes may not notice any substantial impact on their health by including the ingredient in their diet. It is consumed in such small amounts and in many cases used in foods that aren't consumed every day. But there are a few studies that have suggested that the use of gelatin may provide certain health benefits. There are also some medical uses for pharmaceutical-grade gelatin that are notable.
Treatment of Diarrhea
Some people use pectin or gelatin to treat diarrhea when they prefer not to take traditional medications or when they don't want to give medications to their children. The belief is that the gelling agent that helps thicken foods can also help stools to form more effectively. However, the evidence supporting this benefit has been limited and inconsistent.
There have been some studies suggesting that gelatin tannate can reduce chronic diarrhea. Gelatin tannate is gelatin that contains tannic acid. At least one study has found that gelatin tannate in combination with other products (such as probiotics) may be effective. But most studies indicate that further research is needed.
For example, a 2020 review evaluated three studies involving 276 children who were given gelatin tannate for the treatment of diarrhea. Study authors found that there was no difference between gelatin tannate and placebo in the duration of diarrhea, stool frequency at day two, diarrhea at day three, vomiting, or other adverse events.
Gelatin products are sometimes recommended during the treatment of diarrhea along with a liquid diet. But it is not because the gelatin provides any medicinal value, instead this is recommended simply because sometimes it feels good to eat "solid" food when you're on a liquid diet and gelatin provides a more solid mouthfeel.
Improved Bone Health
Another purported benefit of gelatin is for the protection of bones. But again, high-quality evidence supporting its use is limited.
Some early studies suggested that hydrolyzed gelatin products such as pharmaceutical-grade collagen hydrolysate may help reduce pain in patients with osteoarthritis of the knee or hip. Researchers thought that it may have a beneficial effect on cartilage metabolism. But more recent studies need to be done to confirm this benefit.
Another very small study (involving just eight healthy male subjects) investigated whether or not a gelatin supplement ingested before intermittent physical activity training could boost collagen production to help prevent musculoskeletal injuries. Researchers compared the ingestion of a 5- or 15-gram dose of vitamin C-enriched gelatin versus a placebo.
They found that adding gelatin to an intermittent exercise program improved collagen synthesis and could play a beneficial role in injury prevention and tissue repair. But the study was so small in scope that it would be hard to know if this benefit could translate to a wider population in other circumstances.
What is Collagen?
Provides Compliant Recipe Alternative
Those following certain specific diets can use gelatin to thicken foods instead of ingredients that are not compliant with their eating plan.
For example, those with wheat allergies or who have celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or who follow a gluten-free diet for other reasons may use other thickeners instead of flour in recipes. Cornstarch is one popular replacement, but gelatin can also be used. Cornstarch thickens when food is heated (like flour), but gelatin thickens when food is cooled.
Gelatin can also be used by those following low-carb or grain-free diets. Adding flour to foods like soups and stews can increase the carbohydrate count (albeit slightly). But gelatin can also be used when you want no carbs added. For instance, some cooks use a ratio of 1 ½ tsp gelatin per cup of stock to thicken soups.
May Reduce Hunger for Weight Loss
There is some limited evidence that a gelatin-based diet may be helpful during weight loss. One study published in The Journal of Nutrition compared a gelatin-based custard diet to a casein-based custard diet. Casein is a complete protein found in milk and dairy products, whereas gelatin is an incomplete protein.
The study involved 30 participants aged between 18 and 55 years old with a BMI between 20 and 33. During the experiment, each participant spent a 36-hour session in a respiration chamber which measures energy expenditure and substrate oxidation. Participants repeated the session four times spaced four weeks apart.
Body Mass Index (BMI) is a dated, biased measure that doesn’t account for several factors, such as body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age.
Despite being a flawed measure, BMI is widely used today in the medical community because it is an inexpensive and quick method for analyzing potential health status and outcomes.
During each of the four sessions, they consumed either a gelatin- or casein-based custard diet. Blood samples, and urine samples were obtained during each session as well as appetite scores to help determine appetite suppression. Appetite scores were measured on a visual analogue scale(VAS)—a measurement instrument that tries to measure a characteristic that includes a range of values and cannot easily be directly measured.
At the end of the experiment, the study authors found that the gelatin-based diet resulted in greater appetite suppression.
Energy expenditure was about the same on both diets and the casein-custard diet did a better job of preserving muscle mass. Study authors concluded that "in terms of weight loss for people with obesity, the greater hunger-suppressing effect of gelatin may play a role in reducing energy intake if this effect is maintained when consuming a gelatin diet in the long term. In addition, long-term use of casein may contribute to the preservation of fat-free mass."
It's important to put these findings into context, however. Custard-based diets are not likely to be sustainable for the long-term, and will not provide all of the essential nutrients that you need for a healthy body. However, brands like Knox advise that you may be able to use gelatin to make lower-in-calorie foods.
There are reports of gelatin allergy. In fact, according to the experts at Food Allergy Research and Education, allergy to gelatin is a common cause of an allergic reaction to vaccines, many of which contain pig gelatin as a stabilizer. Published case studies suggest that those who have reactions to vaccines may also test positive in skin tests to several flavored gelatins (e.g., Jell-O), as well unflavored gelatins (Knox). Report authors say that gelatin-related vaccine reactions are rare, but can be life-threatening.
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology also suggests that those with an allergy to beef, cow’s milk, or pork meat may have a higher risk of a gelatin allergy.
Gelatin is affirmed as "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Evidence of drug interactions is lacking.
The flavorless, colorless gelatin that you find in the baking aisle of your local grocery store comes in one variety, for the most part (although there are also flavored gelatin products, like Jell-O).
Gelatin products are made by extracting collagen from the connective tissue of animals, but manufacturers often don't disclose what type of animal bones were used. However, there are a few brands that disclose more information about the animals to help customers who uphold certain religious practices and traditions.
For instance, some people refrain from eating foods derived from pigs, such as those who only choose kosher or halal foods. Since many gelatin products are derived from pigs, these foods would not be compliant. But there are some beef gelatins that are made from slaughtered kosher meat that would be compliant. If the ingredients list is not specific, you can look for the kosher label on the product.
There are also non-meat gelatin alternatives. These include:
- Agar-agar also called "agar" this thickener is derived from cooked, pressed seaweed. This gelling agent is available online and in some supermarkets in flaked form, powdered form, or in bars. When cooking with it, substitute agar-agar for gelatin using equal amounts if using the powdered form. If you're using flakes, a tablespoon is equal to about a teaspoon of the powder. Certain citrus fruits require more agar-agar when substituting for gelatin in recipes. And agar-agar is not the best gelling agent for recipes that include uncooked mangoes, papaya, and pineapple.
- Pectin is a gelling agent that is found naturally in plants, especially apples and citrus fruits. Food manufacturers use pectin to make some types of yogurt and confectionery products. It is also used to enhance the mouthfeel of fruit-based beverages and can be used at home to thicken jams, jellies, and other foods.
- Carrageen is also derived from seaweed. Also called Irish moss, this thickener is usually best for making softer gels and puddings.
When It's Best
Gelatin is available year-round in the baking section of grocery stores. You can also purchase from many online stores.
Storage and Food Safety
Gelatin should be kept in a sealed container and stored in a cool, dry place. According to the USDA, it should stay fresh for about three years when unopened and stored properly. Gelatin should not be frozen.
How to Prepare
The way that you use gelatin may depend in part on the type of recipe you're using it in. In general, however, when using a basic gelatin packet, you start by pouring the packet into a bowl that contains about 1/4 cup of cold water or other liquid. Let it stand for one minute so that the granules separate. Then add another 1/4 cup of boiling water and stir until the granules are completely dissolved.
If you are making a sweetened thickener, add two tablespoons of sugar to the cold water mixture when you add the granules. Then add a half cup of boiling water (instead of 1/4 cup), stir and dissolve.
Some recipes may require that you thicken foods that are heated on the stove. If this is the case, you still add the granules to cold water, but you'll use a saucepan instead of a bowl. Let it sit for a minute then heat the pan on low heat for about three minutes, stirring constantly until dissolved. Gelatin can also be dissolved using a blender or in the microwave.
If you are not following a specific recipe, but simply making a mold with fruit or other ingredients, you'll add the ingredients after the dissolving process and pour into a mold. Small metal molds generally chill faster than larger molds or glass molds. Chilling times vary but can take 20 to 45 minutes depending on the recipe.
Does gelatin have health benefits? ›
Gelatin contains proteins and antioxidants, which help protect the cells in the body, that can support the health of the digestive system, bones, skin, joints, and more. It's also an excellent source of: Calcium.Does gelatin help osteoporosis? ›
Gelatin is used for weight loss and for treating osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and brittle bones (osteoporosis). Some people also use it for strengthening bones, joints, and fingernails.What kind of gelatin is healthy? ›
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 gummy snacks and desserts and must be mixed into warm liquids.Can eating gelatin help your joints? ›
Ease achy joints: The body can use gelatin's amino acids to rebuild collagen, cartilage, and connective tissues in joints. Research shows that athletes who take gelatin experience less pain in their joints.Is gelatin inflammatory? ›
Gelatin is an anti‐inflammatory dietary component, and its predominant metabolites entering circulation are prolyl‐hydroxyproline (Pro‐Hyp) and glycine.Why is gelatin A Superfood? ›
It is absolutely essential for the synthesis of collagen proteins, which are then used to form strong tendons, ligaments, joints and smooth healthy skin. By consuming collagen or gelatin, you provide your body with the building blocks it needs to build strong joints .Is gelatin good for anti aging? ›
Gelatin is rich in protein, and has a unique amino acid profile that gives it many potential health benefits. There is evidence that gelatin may reduce joint and bone pain, increase brain function and help reduce the signs of skin aging.Why do hospitals serve Jello? ›
Why Do They Give Hospital Patients Jell-O? Considering how easily digested Jell-O is because of it's smooth, liquid characteristics, patients in hospitals are given the nutrient dense protein for more reasons than just taste and digestion. It also proves to be a good source of calories because of the sugar content.What foods can reverse osteoporosis? ›
Eat more vegetables, fruits and whole grains.
Studies show that eating more vegetables and fruits will improve bone health. These foods are generally lower in calories and fat, and they are high in fiber and essential vitamins and minerals.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, and gelatin is a degraded form of collagen. Therefore, they have virtually identical nutritional profiles and may both improve joint, skin, gut, hair, and bone health.
Does gelatin help hair growth? ›
Is Gelatin Good For Your Hair? Gelatin is made up of proteins similar to the composition of your hair. Studies show that consuming gelatin or treating your hair with it provides benefits like increased hair growth, greater hair thickness, and slowing of hair loss.Which is better gelatin or collagen? ›
The Bottom Line. Collagen and gelatin are almost identical in terms of amino acids and health benefits. Since hydrolyzed collagen is easier for your body to digest than normal collagen peptides and gelatin, it's a better choice for reaping the full range of health benefits.Is gelatin good for nerves? ›
Gelatin can help calm the body and balance cortisol levels. Sylvie writes, “The research shows that the glycine in gelatin has a calming effect on our nerves which can promote sleep and reduce stress.”Is gelatin good for bone strength? ›
Gelatin contains lysine, which plays a role in muscle and bone health. It helps the body absorb calcium, which helps keep the bones strong and prevents bone loss.What are the benefits of Knox gelatin? ›
- Help relieve joint pain.
- Improve skin appearance and health.
- Support digestion.
- Strengthen bones.
- Prevent bone and joint diseases.
Gelatin supplements can cause side effects such as:
- Upset stomach.
Being rich in glycine, gelatin helps repair the gut lining by strengthening and protecting the mucous membrane layer of the stomach and is a key ingredient in helping to restore a leaky gut. This has so many health benefits…priming the immune system, improving digestion and mood and reducing inflammation in the body.Does gelatin cause high cholesterol? ›
Gelatin is not derived from animal fat. It is a highly refined extract from animal hides. The end result is a pure protein that contains no fat or cholesterol.Is gelatin good for the brain? ›
Brain function – gelatin also shows to improve mood and cognition as glycine is one of the amino acids that acts as an calming neurotransmitter in the brain.Does gelatin reduce inflammation? ›
These results suggest that gelatin tannate exerts anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting the specific cytokines and adhesion molecules involved in several inflammatory disorders.
Is Jello gelatin the same as collagen? ›
Nutritionally, gelatin is equivalent to collagen. One tablespoon of gelatin contains about 6 grams of protein. Gelatin is not a complete protein, however, and should not be considered a high source of protein. Gelatin and collagen both share the same 19 amino acids.Does gelatin build muscle? ›
Gelatin and Collagen are both high in protein and contains 18 amino acids, which makes them perfect for stimulating and increasing muscle growth. Ideal for those who have lost muscle mass due to illness or hospitalisation. Gelatin and Collagen are great for muscle repair after exercise or sports-related injury.Can Jell-O help hydrate you? ›
Jell-O is one of the easiest treats to whip up thanks to the fact that you just add water, and that makes it a surprisingly hydrating dessert, as well. Opt for the sugar-free kind to keep calories down.Does Jell-O have collagen? ›
Though jello is not a nutritious food choice, gelatin itself may be beneficial for your health. It contains collagen, which has been researched in several animal and human studies. Collagen may positively impact bone health.Is Jell-O good for immune system? ›
Gelatin contains an amino acid called glycine, which helps regulate the immune system, reducing damage caused by uncontrolled inflammation. It helps people fight serious diseases like sepsis, liver damage, ulcers, and kidney injuries.What is the fastest way to increase bone density? ›
Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, jogging, and climbing stairs, can help you build strong bones and slow bone loss.What foods destroy bone density? ›
- Excess salt.
- Hydrogenated oil.
- Food rich in vitamin A.
- Soft drinks.
Some ideal nuts for osteoporosis prevention include almonds, sunflower seeds, or pistachios. Eat a handful each day as a snack to promote bone health.Does gelatin make you look younger? ›
Adding gelatin to your diet can lessen the appearance of wrinkles, slow down the early onset of sagging skin, maintain and improve skin firmness, increases skin hydration levels, and aid in maintaining and restoring vibrancy and vitality to your complexion.Is gelatin better than bone broth? ›
The bottom line is: Whether it's bone health, joint pain, overall nutrient profile, gut health… broth is a whole food and delivers a whole package of minerals, vitamins, and nutrients along with the gelatin. It's better to have broth rather than gelatin only.
Is Jello gelatin good for you? ›
Health benefits of gelatin
Although jello isn't a well-rounded, nutritious food, its main ingredient, gelatin, does have several health benefits. Gelatin contains proteins and amino acids, including collagen, which can reduce joint pain and improve the strength and flexibility of your body's tissues and tendons.
- Eggs. Eggs are a great source of protein and biotin, two nutrients that are essential for hair growth. ...
- Berries. Berries are loaded with beneficial compounds and vitamins that may support hair growth. ...
- Spinach. ...
- Fatty fish. ...
- Sweet potatoes. ...
- Avocados. ...
- Nuts. ...
Keratin is a fibrous structural protein that makes up your hair. Lot of protein-rich foods and biotin  help in the synthesis of this protein needed for your hair. Hair cuticles  absorb keratin and make the hair look full and glossy with protein treatments. Besides keratin, you can also look for pantothenic acid.Does gelatin help skin elasticity? ›
It's not just your face that can benefit from taking gelatin either. Amazingly it can even help to prevent stretch marks as it helps with skin elasticity.Is gelatin good for hair and nail growth? ›
And does gelatin help hair growth? Gelatin consists almost entirely of protein, the same thing that your hair is made of. It also has a lot of unique amino acids that are proven to assist in repairing and restoring your hair, skin, and nails.What is the difference between Knox gelatin and collagen? ›
Collagen peptides are not exactly the same as gelatin. Both are proteins made of amino acids, but the amino chains of collagen peptides have been cut into smaller pieces through a specific hydrolysis process. Collagen peptides do not have the gelling functionality of gelatin and are soluble in cold water.Can I use gelatin instead of collagen? ›
Nutritionally, gelatin is equivalent to collagen. One tablespoon of gelatin contains about 6 grams of protein. Gelatin is not a complete protein, however, and should not be considered a high source of protein. Gelatin and collagen both share the same 19 amino acids.What does gelatin do to your stomach? ›
Gelatine also helps seal the colon so that nutrients may be absorbed. It helps food gel within the stomach for more consistent digestion; reduces heartburn, ulcers, and acid reflux by binding acids with the foods and can also help break down fats and proteins which will make it easier for your body to absorb.What are the disadvantages of gelatin? ›
When taken by mouth: Gelatin is commonly consumed in foods. It is possibly safe when used in larger amounts as medicine, short-term. But taking high doses of 15 grams daily might increase the risk for side effects, including sore throat, swollen gums, and mouth sores.
Is Gelatin Good For Your Hair? Gelatin is made up of proteins similar to the composition of your hair. Studies show that consuming gelatin or treating your hair with it provides benefits like increased hair growth, greater hair thickness, and slowing of hair loss.
What is the difference between Jell-O and gelatin? ›
Nutritional Value: Gelatin is a source of protein and contains no sugar or flavor, while Jello contains sugar, artificial flavors, and colors, and is lower in protein compared to gelatin. Texture: Gelatin has a smooth, translucent texture, while Jello has a sweeter, more flavorful and opaque texture.