Beef gelatin is a powdered supplement made mostly from bovine hides (the natural, unbleached skin and hair of cows). It’s specifically sourced from bovine collagen, which is a structural protein that’s also found in the human body and essential for overall health in many ways — considering it helps form our joints, ligaments, skin, bones, lining of the gastrointestinal tracts and more.
Both gelatin and collagen supplements are made up of amino acids, including glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and arginine, which have benefits for digestion, wound repair, joint support and beyond.
In addition to being a great source of protein, beef gelatin can be used as a thickening agent when cooking or baking. It’s considered a “texturizer” and “stabilizer” in recipes due to how it absorbs liquid and forms a gel or jelly consistency, such as in gummies, jams, jellies, puddings and marshmallows.
Gelatin is defined as “a virtually colorless and tasteless water-soluble protein prepared from collagen and used in food preparation as the basis of jellies, in photographic processes, and in glue.”
If you were to make bone broth at home, you’d notice that gelatin was the “gelatinous” component of the animal parts that aren’t usually consumed nowadays, including the animal’s skin, bone marrow and tendons.
Beef gelatin becomes “bouncy” and jelly-like once mixed with hot liquid. It’s almost tasteless, which means it can be used in variety of recipes.
It works a bit differently than collagen powder because it needs to be dissolved in hot water or other hot liquids, such as coffee.
How do manufacturers make beef gelatin? Does beef gelatin have beef in it?
Powdered beef gelatin supplements do not actually have any beef in them, but they are called beef gelatin because they are sourced from collagen found in cows.
Some of the best-quality beef gelatin supplements that are now available are sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised bovine collagen. Collagen is then cooked and heated, which isolates the gelatin.
Extraction of gelatin in food manufacturing is usually done using hot water and acid solutions to hydrolyze collagen into gelatin. Then certain filtration, clarification and sterilization processes usually take place to form the dried, final product, depending on how it’s sold.
Gelatin is considered a “pure protein” because it hardly contains any fat, fiber, sugar, carbs or other vitamins and minerals. It’s made up of about 98 percent to 99 percent protein by dry weight.
One tablespoon of beef gelatin powder has about:
The primary reason that gelatin is consumed is for its protein/amino acids. Amino acids are the “building blocks” of protein, and gelatin contains several in relatively high amounts that can be hard to get from other food sources.
The amino acid composition of gelatin is approximately:
Beef gelatin vs. collagen protein — what’s the difference?
Collagen protein powder (also called hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides) is unflavored and dissolves in both hot or cold liquids. Once hydrolyzed, collagen protein is easy to digest since the protein is broken down into smaller, absorbable units.
Some consider collagen to be “faster-digesting” than gelatin and recommend it over gelatin pre- or post-workout. Overall, however, hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin are very similar, since they contain the same amino acids and have comparable benefits.
1. High in Absorbable Protein
As mentioned above, gelatin is derived from collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the human body. Collagen protein and gelatin contribute to the infrastructure of connective tissues found all over.
Consuming these proteins regularly helps repair and take care of your gut, skin, hair, tendons, cartilage, bones and joints.
Benefits of consuming more gelatin and protein in general include:
2. Supports Gut Health and Digestion
Gelatin powder is considered to be an easy-to-digest form of protein that is suitable for people following a variety of diets, such as the Paleo diet, keto diet, autoimmune diets, GAPs diet and more. (However, it’s not suitable for vegans or vegetarians since it’s derived from cows.)
For those with sensitivities to dairy or who have a hard time breaking down fatty cuts of meat due to various GI issues, gelatin has the advantage of being free of common allergens and digestive irritants. It can even help keep blood sugar levels steady and reduce one’s appetite naturally, offering benefits to diabetics and those looking to lose weight.
Additionally, it’s beneficial for digestive and gut health because the amino acids it contains help repair the gut lining, supporting nutrient absorption and helping prevent issues such as leaky gut syndrome. Keep in mind that about 75 percent or more of your immune system is located in your gut, which means that a healthy gut also contributes to a healthy immune system.
3. Helps Support Healthy Joints
The amino acids in gelatin and collagen help hold the body together, acting as an internal “glue” by forming connective tissues, including the joints, cartilage and ligaments.
Unfortunately as we age, our bodies’ natural production of collagen slows down, which is why consuming more collagen and gelatin is recommended to help keep joints and cartilage in good shape.
A higher intake of certain amino acids such as glycine can contribute to healthy joint strength and functionality, while reducing joint pain and symptoms tied to osteoarthritis. A diet with adequate protein is also important for building muscle mass, keeping bones strong, and supporting exercise performance and recovery, contributing to overall comfort and mobility.
Gelatin can be homemade, much the same way that you can make bone broth, or bought pre-prepared in powder form.
A general recommendation is for adults to consume about one or possibly two servings of gelatin supplements per day. Each serving is typically about one scoop of powder, providing about nine grams of protein, which can be combined with eight to 16 ounces of liquid (usually hot liquid that is 170 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter is needed to fully dissolve the powder).
Some people even use it in cold water like smoothies or juices. When looking to buy it in grocery stores or online, you’ll likely come across gelatin in the form of sheets, granules or powders.
Using gelatin in recipes helps add volume and smooth texture without adding many calories. It also increases the protein content, giving the recipe more nutritional benefits.
Additionally, it’s a natural thickener, stabilizer and texturizer.
Most beef gelatin powders need to be soaked in cold water first, then dissolved in warm or hot water. This helps the gelatin swell up or “bloom” and then blend into liquid without forming clumps.
Once it’s dissolved in hot liquid, you can chill the mixture to help it form a jello-like texture.
Look for beef gelatin powders in health food stores, some large supermarkets or online. Wherever supplements are sold, gelatin and collagen protein are likely to be found.
For the best quality, opt for gelatin that is sourced from grass-fed bovine hides and that contains no fillers or additives.
You can use gelatin in a variety of sweet and savory recipes, especially those that have a jelly-like, creamy or velvety texture. Some ideas include adding gelatin powder to homemade bone broths or making recipes such as:
You can also add some to soups or stews or use some in baked goods and treats, like pudding, mouse, custard, cream cheese, oatmeal or even pie crusts.
While most brands are flavorless, some people find that gelatin leaves an unpleasant or off-putting taste in their mouths. In this case, adding powdered beef gelatin to soups or smoothies can help mask the flavor and make it much more tolerable.
Here are some ways you can try using beef gelatin in recipes:
What is a substitute for beef gelatin?
Collagen powder is the most obvious substitute for gelatin. However, collagen won’t give recipes the same jelly consistency. The benefit of using collagen is that it dissolves in any temperature liquid.
The best substitute depends on the specific recipe you’re making. Most find that agar powder gives the most similar texture to gelatin in recipes such as jello or mouse.
Gelatin is usually very well-tolerated, even by those with digestive concerns. It’s best to start with a low amount each day, such as one serving or one-half serving, and gradually increase your intake to make sure you can tolerate it well.
For the least risk of consuming a contaminated product, it’s recommended that you purchase gelatin and collagen products made from animals that have been grass-fed or pasture-raised, since these animals are healthier overall and are not raised using artificial hormones or antibiotics.
An organic, non-GMO gelatin is also a smart option, since this ensures that the cows did not eat a diet that consisted of GMO grains or crops sprayed with chemicals.
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