Gelatin is made from boiling animal bones and other leftover bits. It’s one of those traditional foods that just makes sense when you think about it. By boiling the bits we can’t eat, we get all of the benefits out of them—collagen, protein, minerals. And it’s frugal. You’ve heard of cultures that use every part of the pig except the squeal? A lot of that goes into the stock, which produces the gelatin.
There are two main ways to use gelatin. Either as a bone stock, which retains the flavor of the meat, or as a flavorless powder, which is what we use to make Jello and many other delicious desserts.
I recommend Great Lakes brand when you need powdered gelatin. It’s the best brand of 100 percent grass-fed gelatin. It’s available directly from Great Lakes, or from Amazon. For most recipes, you want the one in the red can. The green can, Collagen Hydrolysate doesn’t gel, and so it can actually be better for adding to smoothies and juice. Unfortunately, the Knox gelatin that we grew up with and that is available in every grocery store is made from diseased, hormone-laden, factory farmed cows. You don’t need to put more of that in your body. Also unfortunately, vegetarian gelling agents, like chia, flax, and agar, while they do have some health benefits of their own, they do not have the same healing properties as animal gelatin.
Gelatin can be a base for both savory and sweet dishes. I use powdered gelatin as a thickener in my sauces instead of flour or corn starch. You have to mix the powder with a bit of liquid, stir well and let sit for a few minutes to allow it to absorb some of the liquid and begin to gel. Then add it to your soup, stew, or sauce. You can also use liquid bone stock as the base for many sauces by boiling it down and creating a reduction. The flavor is amazingly rich. You can also drink bone broth straight up with some sea salt. This is real bouillon; never use the MSG crap cubes from the store. This is one of the things I love best about real food—decadent flavor which contributes to health!
The benefits of including gelatin in your daily menu planning are almost endless:
- Gelatin soothes and heals the lining of the intestine. It boosts the immune system and helps immensely with digestive problems like leaky gut and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. By sealing the gut, it can also help alleviate allergies by keeping pathogens out of the body.
- Because one of the primary components of gelatin is collagen, it’s also strengthens hair, bones, nails and skin. It can reduce wrinkles and make skin more elastic and resilient to environmental damage. Collagen is a large molecule that is not readily absorbed through the skin, so you'll get much more anti-aging from eating gelatin than expensive wrinkle creams.
- It is anti-inflammatory, and helps heal joints, arthritis, and osteoporosis.
- It is a source of protein, containing amino acids that are not common in meat proteins. One of these amino acids, glycine, has been shown to help with sleep problems, and it helps heal wounds.
- It can help balance hormones, by reducing excess estrogen.
- Helps boost metabolism and regulates insulin sensitivity, and can aid in weight loss.
So, it turns out that chicken soup and jello are in fact just about the most healing thing you can and should give to a person who is sick. Mom was right!