Your body needs adequate amounts of protein from animal and plant foods you eat. Gelatin is an important source of nutritional animal protein to include in your diet, supplying essential nutrients found more abundantly compared to other food sources.
The importance of eating the right protein
Eating protein is an essential part of a well-balanced diet. Every cell in your body contains protein and without enough protein in your diet, new cells cannot grow and be repaired.
During digestion, protein from the food you eat is broken down into its smaller components, called amino acids. These are absorbed into your blood stream to be used by different parts of your body.
Although your body can make some amino acids, essential amino acids are only supplied from protein in the food you eat.
Research has shown the nutritional value of a food protein is measured by the quality of essential amino acids it provides. By including protein that has an adequate mix of amino acids in your diet, you can ensure your body is nourished with quality proteins.
Why do you need gelatin in your diet?
You may be sourcing protein in your diet from flesh foods (chicken, beef, lamb and fish) and legumes (beans and lentils). However, if you’re eating protein sourced from animals, but not the bones, tendons or skin, it’s likely you’re missing out on the benefits of gelatin.
Gelatin is broken down in your body from the collagen found in these parts of the animal. It contains essential amino acids, glycine, lysine and proline in higher concentration compared to eating protein from other animal or vegetarian foods.
These amino acids have an important part in your body, helping cell growth and repair to maintain healthy connective tissue, muscles, organs and skin.
Using gelatin in food
Experts in the food science industry have classified gelatin as a pure protein food ingredient rather than an additive and is safe to consume. It is however not considered a complete protein food because the essential amino acid tryptophan is missing and methionine is only present in low levels. There is much debate surrounding tryptophan and its negative effects on the body in high quantities.
The powdered form of gelatin has a neutral taste, odour and is slightly pale yellow in colour. You would not even know if there was a spoonful added to your drink or food.
Gelatin dissolves only in hot water forming a gel-like substance. It can be easily added to breakfast for example however it is more practically used in desserts.
How gelatin works as an ingredient in food
Gelatin is available in granular powder form or as a sheet gelatin in food preparation. It has a unique ability to attract liquid to its powered form, making it a useful, simple ingredient to add to a vast variety of food.
When used as a food ingredient, gelatin can have multi-functional purposes. You can include a variety of food with gelatin, when it has been used to:
- Thicken or texturize dry soups to improve consistency of the final product
- Foam or for whipping used in the manufacture of marshmallows
- Gel with water to bind in confectionary
- Emulsify for use in the manufacture of toffees and low fat margarine
- Stabilise dairy products
- Clarifying, such as in fruit juice
Want to learn more about the benefits of powdered gelatin?
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Hoffman, J.R. & Falvo, M.J. Protein – Which is best? J Sports Sci Med 2004; 3(3):118-130
Cole, C.G.B. Gelatin Frederick J Francis, ed. Encyclopedia of Food Science and Technology 2nd edition. 4 Vols New York: John Wiley & Sons, 2000. 1183-8