Gelatin is a stabilizer and thickener used to make desserts like fruit gelatin, pudding, mousse, marshmallows, candy, cakes, ice cream, and certain yogurts. It is also used in some shampoos and skincare products. Because animal products are used to make gelatin, it is not a vegan-friendly food, and even some non-vegans choose not to eat it. However, there are gelatin alternatives that are made from non-animal sources. The use of gelatin may provide certain health benefits, and there are some medical uses for pharmaceutical-grade gelatin.
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Gelatin is affirmed as generally recognized as safe/GRAS by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Gelatin is made by boiling the skin, tendons, ligaments, or bones of animals – cows or pigs in water. This process releases collagen, a protein that provides structure and is the most abundant in the human body. Once the collagen is extracted, it is:
Thickening agents can be made from different ingredients. These include:
- Also called agar, this thickener is made from cooked and pressed seaweed.
- This gelling agent is available online and in some supermarkets in powdered, flaked, and bar form.
- When cooking with it, substitute agar for gelatin using equal amounts if using the powder.
- If using flakes, a tablespoon equals about a teaspoon of the powder.
- Certain citrus fruits require more agar when substituting.
- Agar does not gel well for recipes that include uncooked mangoes, papaya, and pineapple.
- Pectin is a gelling agent found naturally in apples and citrus fruits.
- Food manufacturers use pectin to make some yogurts and candies and enhance fruit-based beverages.
- It can also thicken jams, jellies, and other foods.
- Carrageen moss is also derived from seaweed.
- This thickener is usually for making softer gels and puddings.
Improved Bone Health
- A benefit of gelatin is the protection of bones; however, evidence supporting its use is limited.
- An early study found that hydrolyzed gelatin, such as pharmaceutical grade, may help reduce pain symptoms in individuals with knee or hip osteoarthritis.
- Researchers thought that it could have a beneficial effect on cartilage metabolism.
- A study found that adding gelatin to an intermittent exercise program improved collagen synthesis and could aid in injury prevention and tissue repair.
Treatment of Diarrhea
- Some studies have suggested that gelatin tannate, which contains tannic acid, can reduce chronic diarrhea.
- One study found that using gelatin tannate and other products like probiotics could be effective.
- However, further research is needed.
- Individuals following specific diets or nutritional plans can use gelatin to thicken foods instead of ingredients that they are avoiding or removing from their eating plan.
- It can be used by those following low or no – carb or grain-free diets.
- Individuals with wheat allergies, celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or who follow a gluten-free diet can use gelatin or other thickeners instead of flour.
- Adding flour to foods like soups and stews can increase the carbohydrate count.
- Cornstarch is one replacement that thickens when food is heated, like flour; however, gelatin thickens when food is cooled.
- For example, some chefs use 1 ½ teaspoons of gelatin per cup of stock to thicken soups.
The USDA provides the following nutrition information for a single envelope or around one tablespoon/7 grams of gelatin.
- There are about 30 calories per tablespoon, and none of the calories are from carbohydrates.
- There are 0 grams of total carbohydrates, 0 grams of sugar, and 0 grams of fiber.
- Because there are no carbohydrates, it will not impact blood sugar levels.
- However, it is not usually consumed by itself.
- It is commonly used to thicken desserts with sugar and carbohydrates that can elevate blood sugar levels.
- There is no fat in a tablespoon serving of gelatin.
- A 100-gram serving contains less than a gram of fat.
- Gelatin provides about 6 grams of protein in one tablespoon serving.
- It should not be considered a high-protein food.
Vitamins and Minerals
- The powder does not contribute any significant micronutrients.
- Does not provide vitamins or minerals.
Storage and Safety
- It should be kept in a sealed container and stored in a cool, dry place.
- It should stay fresh for about three years when unopened and stored correctly.
- It should not be frozen.
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Blanco, Francisco J, and Ronald K June 2nd. “Cartilage Metabolism, Mitochondria, and Osteoarthritis.” The Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons vol. 28,6 (2020): e242-e244. doi:10.5435/JAAOS-D-19-00442
Daneault, Audrey, et al. “Biological effect of hydrolyzed collagen on bone metabolism.” Critical Reviews in food science and Nutrition vol. 57,9 (2017): 1922-1937. doi:10.1080/10408398.2015.1038377
Florez, Ivan D et al. “Gelatin tannate for acute diarrhea and gastroenteritis in children: a systematic review and meta-analysis.” Archives of Disease in Childhood vol. 105,2 (2020): 141-146. doi:10.1136/arch dis child-2018-316385
Hölzl, Katja, et al. “Gelatin methacryloyl as an environment for chondrocytes and cell delivery to superficial cartilage defects.” Journal of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine vol. 16,2 (2022): 207-222. doi:10.1002/term.3273
Lopetuso, L et al. “Gelatin tannate and tyndallized probiotics: a novel approach for the treatment of diarrhea.” European Review for Medical and pharmacological sciences vol. 21,4 (2017): 873-883.
Shaw, Gregory, et al. “Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis.” The American Journal of clinical nutrition vol. 105,1 (2017): 136-143. doi:10.3945/ajcn.116.138594
Tehranzadeh, J et al. “Cartilage metabolism in osteoarthritis and the influence of viscosupplementation and steroid: a review.” Acta radiologica (Stockholm, Sweden : 1987) vol. 46,3 (2005): 288-96. doi:10.1080/02841850510016027
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