The Secrets of Gelatin

I had a hard time figuring out what to call this post. The Joy of Jello, but no, it’s not about Jello. The Glee of Gelatin? Oh, whatever, moving on.

I’ve been using gelatin as an essential part of my diet for about a year and a half now. Really not thinking much of it, I mentioned how and why I use it to someone and they thought it interesting enough that I create a blog post about it. Here goes.

First, the difference between Jello and gelatin. You’re all probably familiar with the fruity, sweet, colorful stuff from your childhood known as Jello. Jello contains gelatin, plus flavors, colors, and sugar. Lots of sugar. The critical thing here is the gelatin that creates the special property of thickening and setting fluid into a jiggly semisolid.

What I’m largely talking about is gelatin, just the plain powder itself (also available in sheets).

Second, you need to know what gelatin is. You’ve probably heard of collagen, the substance that forms connective tissues in the bodies of most animals, including humans. Gelatin is derived from collagen from pigs and cows. It is rendered by boiling bones and hides to extract the collagen. The finished product is highly refined and does not contain any residual beef or pork meat protein.  

If you thought your colorful bowl of Jello was a vegetarian or vegan product, think again. Gelatin is an animal-derived, pure protein.

Have you ever used a packet of plain Knox gelatin? Did you notice that the Knox box contains four packets in a space smaller than one box of Jello? That Jello box is filled with sugar and flavorings (mostly sugar).  

Plain gelatin is your friend. I use Great Lakes brand, made from grass-fed cows (not that I think it matters much, given the processing to create gelatin). I won’t go into all the potential health benefits here – you can look it up yourself. For someone with a leaky gut, gelatin is considered a critical healing supplement.

Now, I’ll tell you how I use gelatin to make it way healthier than Jello. Pour one cup of cold fruit juice (100% pure juice, no sugar or high fructose corn syrup, no fruit blends) into a bowl. Sprinkle one tablespoon of powdered gelatin (or one packet of Knox gelatin) onto the juice. Let the gelatin soak up the juice – it takes a minute or two. Add one cup of boiling hot water and stir a bit. You don’t need to stir like crazy because you’re not trying to dissolve all the sugar like in Jello. Refrigerate until set, then enjoy!

A typical box of Jello (one serving in my world) contains 320 calories, of which almost 300 calories is sugar, and 23 calories of protein. My homemade gelatin contains about 160-170 calories, of which 140-150 calories is fructose from juice and the remainder is the same 23 calories of protein.

Finally, I’ll leave you with my really big secret. Unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know that bone broths are all the rage these days, and for good reason. The downside of bone broth is that really good ones are very expensive and making it yourself is very time consuming (like twenty four hours in a crock pot per batch). While good bone broth contains some trace minerals from the bones and marrow, the essential ingredient is – you guessed it – the collagen that makes up gelatin. So, I cheat. I don’t drink bone broth. I eat mildly fruity gelatin instead and get most of the same benefits.