As an ingredient, gelatin seems standard enough. After all, it’s found in a variety of everyday foods—from breakfast cereals to yogurts to marshmallows and gummy bears, and (of course) the nearly eponymous Jell-O treat. But knowing where your food comes from isn’t just about knowing where it’s sourced. As with all foods, it’s a good idea to know just what gelatin is made of. To help you do just that, we’ve taken the liberty of assembling everything you should know about this common (and possibly surprising) ingredient.
What is gelatin made of? Read on to find out.
What It's Made Of
In semi-scientific terms, gelatin is made of hydrolyzed collagen and in its basic form is colorless, flavorless, and translucent. Collagen is a soft protein found naturally in the body—or in this case, the bodies of animals. Collagen serves as connective tissue among bones, tendons, muscles, and skin. Once it’s extracted using hot water or acid solutions, it’s treated to ensure purity and consistency, and then packaged as a final product.
What gelatin is made of can vary widely based on where the raw materials come from. (Vegetarians and vegans, you may want to skip ahead for this part.) Most commonly, following the removal of animal meat intended for consumption, the remaining pieces are thoroughly cleaned, dried, and separated from bacteria and minerals. These parts might include hide, bones, and pieces that are low in meat content, such as ears. Once sterilized and thoroughly processed, gelatin is deemed suitable for use and is either sold on its own or used as an ingredient in an array of other products.
It’s worth mentioning that there are some benefits to gelatin consumption. As anyone who’s ever used a collagen-boosting product can attest, collagen is prized for its benefits to hair, skin, and nail health. As an alternative to gelatin, collagen-boosting foods include red bell peppers, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. Gelatin also includes glycine and proline, two health-friendly amino acids that can help to support joints and reduce inflammation. If you’re interested in a form of gelatin that’s a bit more carefully vetted than standard supermarket fare, a good alternative is non-GMO, grass-fed beef gelatin from Zint.
Our friends at PETA have also been kind enough to share this list of totally viable (and vegan) gelatin alternatives.
Up next, keep reading for nine vegan cookbooks to jump-start your New Year’s health resolutions.