For many of us we first hear of collagen when we come across a skin care commercial which spouts scientific words and promises younger looking skin within 2 weeks. When it comes to gelatin, we’ve all eaten it at some stage or another-whether we knew it or not.
Ever eaten a bowl of Jell-O or a chewy gummy sweet? Then you have most definitely eaten gelatin before. This incredibly useful additive can be found in anything from soaps, to shampoos to store bought sauces.
Gelatin and Collagen: What’s the Difference?
If we judged this ingredient by what it is commonly used for we might not think it is Paleo appropriate or even healthy. The truth is gelatin is actually an important and useful type of protein derived from collagen. Gelatin is actually hydrolyzed collagen, or in simple terms broken down collagen.
Collagen is found in all of the cheaper cuts of meat you would find at the butcher. The pieces of the animal we normally throw away. The pieces our Paleolithic ancestors would not have wasted.
In fact we as humans have more collagen in our body than any other type of protein. It is found in our connective tissue, in our skin, cartilage, muscles and in our bones. Effectively one quarter of our mass is made from collagen (1).
Health Benefits of Collagen and Gelatin
1) Improves Gut Health and Digestion
For many one of the main purposes of embarking on the Paleo diet is to heal their digestive systems. Gelatin has been found to be beneficial in preventing damage of our intestines and healing the lining of our digestive systems. Essentially, through this gelatin works to improve our immune system as we are finding out more and more how important our digestive system is in keeping us healthy.
Additionally the glycine from the gelatin helps to restore a healthy mucosal lining in our stomach and help to balance digestive enzymes as well as stomach acids (2).
2) Improves the Health of Our Skin
Turns out there is a reason for those skin creams, lotion and other products promoting collagen in terms of improving the health of our skin.
Gelatin contains two important amino acids; glycine and proline. Both of which are used in producing collagen. Collagen is basically the building blocks for our skin and so, in providing the ingredients for building this important element of our skin, we ensure that the body is able to produce enough it (3).
Incredibly, a diet rich in gelatin may help protect our skin against the aging effects of sunlight. And as you know, sunlight is one of the main causes of premature skin aging (4)
3) Gelatin Protects our Joints
If you look at the ingredients of any joint support or osteoarthritis supplement available you will be sure to find collagen and or gelatin as one of the main ingredients. As we age we are more prone to joint pain as a result of arthritis.
Getting older may be a natural process but it may be that the symptoms and progress of the process can be slowed with ingestion of both collagen and gelatin. Essentially these proteins help to lessen inflammation and slow degeneration of joints (5).
If you are still young, the old saying prevention is better than cure prevails as this supplement is also important for anyone, at any age who is still physically active or athletic.
4) Improvement of Sleep Quality
As we mentioned before one of the important amino acids found in gelatin is glycine. In a 2007 study, people who complained of unsatisfactory sleep patterns were supplemented with glycine before bedtime. Sleep quality as well as daytime sleepiness were then measured. The study found that not only did the amino acid positively affect the sleep of the participants, but it also did not lead to a side effect of sleepiness like other sleeping aids (6)
5) Improved Feeling of Satiation
One of the many benefits of eating proteins is that you end up feeling fuller and more satisfied for longer. Because gelatin is a protein product it is thought that it too, may have a positive effect on hunger levels. A study has found that taking gelatin in supplement form may have a positive effect on the appetite controlling hormones, leptin and ghrelin in obese adults (7).
How to Increase the Amount of Gelatin and Collagen in Your Diet
In the Paleolithic days you can be sure that we ate every part of the animal that we could. This meant nothing went to waste and in addition we received a healthy does of collagen and gelatin. In more modern times however we discard the bits which contain the highest dose of these important proteins.
The easiest way to get more gelatin in your diet is not through eating Jell-O i’m afraid. Ever heard of bone broth? No it’s not a medieval brew. It is actually just a Paleo approved way to make stock from all those long forgotten bits and pieces of the animal. It also tastes incredible and has many other health benefits besides a healthy dose of gelatin with every spoonful. Head over here for more information about bone broth.
If you run out of time or enthusiasm there is always the option of powdered gelatin. This can be added to stews or smoothies as an added supplement of beneficial amino acids.
Keep in mind that just like any animal product, the quality of the meat is important. Try to purchase gelatin from grass fed or pasture raised beef or from other high quality offcuts to make your own bone broth.
When it comes to collagen, supplementation with powders or capsules is the easiest way to get the required dose.
Back to Basics
A higher intake of gelatin and collagen are just one of the many benefits of following the Paleo way of life. It just goes to show that sometimes going back to a more traditional, slower way of life has it’s benefits. A time when we had to use the whole animal, when wasting was not an option and survival was priority.
Go back in time with one of these incredible Paleo bone broth recipes.
Gelatin and Collagen 101: Benefits, Differences and Good Sources