I know, you are all waiting for the earth shattering post I promised you on Facebook but you will have to wait a few more days as writing it with the triplets deciding this is their day to eat one after the other and be fussy in between writing is just not as easy as it was before they graced us with their lovely presence.
Having said that, I wanted to give you a glimpse into the many health benefits and uses of one of my favorite kitchen staples; gelatin. With all the talk these days about superfoods from the Amazon and other exotic locales, it’s sometimes easy to overlook the real superstars of nutrition that have been right under our noses our whole lives.
Gelatin is one such food with the power to heal damaged intestinal lining, immune systems and boosts hydrochloric acid insufficiency which quells weak digestion. It is hydrophilic which means it is lubricating for joints (handy for arthritis sufferers) and is pro-thyroid. The combination of being able to heal intestinal lining (good for those with leaky gut, vitamin and mineral malabsorption, and even allergies) and being pro-thyroid can be particularly important for those suffering from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis or Grave’s Disease. Gelatin is a must for anyone suffering from an autoimmune disorder. That, in my book, makes it the original superfood.
Way back when before feedlot cattle and supermarkets endeavored to provide us with pretty cuts of meat lined up in a sea of celophane, our traditional diets were gelatin rich. We didn’t have the sophisticated butchers we have today that can cut the muscle meats off the bone rather we cooked the whole joint of meat low and slow usually with connective tissue, bone, skin, you name it, it went into the pot. This gave us a myriad of minerals and amino acids in one meal which made digestion of the meal a snap and assimilation of nutrients an easy task.
Today we throw away all the “waste” and with it, most of the good parts. Rarely do we use the bones and most of us cut away any trace of connective tissue. We turn our noses up at liver, and the tail?? I have had clients exclaim “You want me to boil WHAT????” and worse, “You want me to drink it????” at the thought of using the tail.
Proteins are made up of amino acids. Different proteins have different ratios of amino acids and it is these ratios that determine whether a protein is pro-inflammatory or anti-inflammatory. (Yes, Virginia, there are anti-inflammatory proteins!) Cystein, methionine, histadine and tryptophan are all inflammatory in the fact that they inhibit both the thyroid and adrenals (which help the body handle stressful situations), depress immunity and are generally associated with a multitude of degenerative health conditions (including exacerbating many autoimmune symptoms).
Gelatin is rich in glycine, missing in all muscle meats and low in organ meats. Glycine nutures the thyroid with highly anti-inflammatory properties. It heals damaged intestinal lining from years of high fiber diets, gluten indulgence, food sensitivities and allergies, and leaky gut. It is also hydrophilic which helps in hydrating all tissues in the body and restores hydrochloric acid balance which fuels digestion.
Gelatin is also rich in a non-essential amino acid called proline which has been shown to inhibit tumor production. Both glycine and proline aid in phase 2 liver detoxification and can aid in the protection of the liver.
Incidentally, for those ‘fat phobs’ out there that believe eating bone in “fattier” cuts of meat is a recipe for thunder thighs, it might interest you to know that proper amino acid balance is imperative for regulating fat metabolism (in fact it jump starts it) and preserving both lean muscle mass and bone strength along with keeping joints mobile and maintaining cellular health.
For those who are dealing with estrogen dominance issues, glycine opposes estrogen and helps spare progesterone. This means that glycine is important for ridding the body of dangerous levels of estrogen and helps preserve progesterone levels. Progesterone levels mean youth and vitality (and fertility).
When eating muscle meats, gelatin can help balance amino acid profiles keeping pro-inflammatory qualities of the muscle meat to a minimum. Drinking a cup of bone broth or some orange juice with gelatin is the best way to keep this balance.
Gelatin is a great source of protein. For days when bone broth is not available or when you just can’t face down the taste of something “meaty” (I do have those days), gelatin can be added to a fruit smoothie, hot chocolate, even coffee, or, of course, your morning glass of oj.
What’s the difference between collagen and gelatin? See our post Collagen vs. Gelatin:: Nutrition Faceoff
Although it is technically not a “whole food” in the traditional sense, because we so rarely, when eating meats, eat whole foods, tossing out bones containing life giving marrow, skin (most would bristle at eating poultry skin yet a lot of gelatin is contained in that skin), and cutting away connective tissue. Gelatin is a complete protein and is a fantastic alternative to any protein powder on the market.
A few other words about the beauty of gelatin. Think about how much money women spend to inject collagen into their skin or stimulate collagen growth. Because cellulite is partly caused by a collagen deficiency, eating gelatin corrects that deficiency and can actually help diminish cellulite, give you strong, ridge free nails, and shiny, split end free hair not to mention glowing (even plumper) firmer skin.
How do I use gelatin?
Gelatin can be found in homemade bone broth by simmering grass-fed beef, lamb or any other ruminating animal bones , fish bones and shellfish shells or chicken or other poultry bones(you can use free range pastured chickens too but if they are supplemented with grain then they are higher in PUFAs and should be kept to a minimum).
Eating bone in cuts of gelatin rich meat like lamb shanks, veal shanks, legs of lamb, oxtails, and slow stewing or roasting will provide nourishing meals.
I add gelatin to my morning “orange julius” recipe and enjoy homemade marshmallows, juice sweetened “jello”, panna cotta, ice cream, custards, added into soups; the sky is the limit. I even make my own homemade gummy candies. (You know I have to share a recipe soon.)
Start with 1 tbsp. of gelatin a day if you are new to using it every day. When eating muscle meats, drinking a cup of bone broth or fruit juice with added gelatin is enough to make sure the amino acids are all present and ready to enter the blood stream in the right timing and order.
Note:: If you have leaky gut or a damaged intestinal lining or have estrogen dominance, thyroid, or adrenal issues gelatin is incredibly important. Start with 1 to 3 cups a day of bone broth and add supplemental gelatin to your diet as much as possible.
Dissolve gelatin completely in hot water before drinking or you may end up with gas.
There are two main types of gelatin I recommend. One is the regular bovine gelatin in powder form (from grass-fed beef of course) that requires hot liquids to dissolve. This will form a gel (like jello) or thickening agent when added to juices, soups, or other liquids.
The other type I recommend is a collagen hydrolysate (gelatin is just collagen) that dissolves even in cold liquids.
Which gelatin do you recommend?
I recommend Great Lakes Bovine Gelatin (Kosher) and Great Lakes Collagen Hydrolysate both of which are from grass-fed pastured beef with no MSG and made using all the best “bits” of the cow, the skin, the connective tissues and bones.
How do you incorporate gelatin into your diet? Do you have any favorite recipes to share?