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Gelatin (also known as cooked collagen) is a wonder food with anti-inflammatory and anti-aging qualities, as it helps to fill in the missing amino acids (the building blocks of proteins) in the standard American diet.
According to Ray Peat, Ph.D., “The degenerative and inflammatory diseases can often be corrected by the use of gelatin-rich foods” (1).
One of the greatest benefits of using gelatin is to help balance our amino acid intake. Because collagen makes up approximately 50% of the whole animal, gelatin can be used to help create a more complete protein balance in our diet. The standard American diet tends to be very high in muscle meats (such as beef, chicken, lamb, and turkey), which when not balanced by other proteins (such as eggs, fish, dairy, shellfish, organ meats) can contribute to inflammation over time (2).
The benefits of gelatin are many as it has a unique and very non-inflammatory amino acid profile, primarily consisting of glycine, glutamic acid, proline, and alanine (tryptophan and several other amino acids are completely missing). Although these are non-essential amino acids (meaning your body can make them), many malnourished and over-stressed livers are not able to manufacture all the non-essential amino acids in the amounts demanded by the body. The liver needs an abundance of these proteins to keep functioning optimally, particularly to fuel phase 2 detoxification. This helps your body detox or “take out the trash” in our toxic world, reducing inflammation!
Gelatin versus Collagen Hydrolysate
Although the most nutrient-dense source of gelatin is homemade bone broth (since it contains minerals as well), powdered versions offer a more convenient way to consistently get it into your diet.
Collagen Hydrolysate or Gelatin? The Difference is Processing
I spoke personally with the president of Great Lakes Gelatin to get the low down on exactly how collagen hydrolysate (also called hydrolyzed collagen) and gelatin are processed.
According to Bob Busscher, they carefully source grass-fed beef hides for the raw material for their bovine products. The split hides (under the hair where the collagen lies) are put into an alkaline solution and held for a number of days where the material is broken down into smaller pieces of skin.
Next, it’s acid back washed and pumped into cooking kettles which separate tallow, skin, and collagen. The collagen is then filtered and put through a vacuum evaporator at 212 degrees F (a very delicate process). After evaporation is complete there is a four-second sanitation process at 240F degrees that kills any unwanted bacteria. At this stage, it is classified as pure collagen.
Collagen hydrolysate (quality sources): The collagen is stored in a holding tank at a higher temperature to reduce the molecular weight cleaving the amino acid bonds. This process is called hydrolysis. At the appropriate time, it is then introduced to the spray dryer whereas the product is made into a dry powder.
Gelatin (quality sources): The collagen is sent to a votator, chilled and solidified, pumped onto a drying belt, and is now considered gelatin. It is dried to under 12% moisture, milled to a granular specification and packaged.
How to Best Use Each Type of Collagen
Collagen hydrolysate – The hydrolysis process described above renders the gelatin powder more easily digestible and appropriate for those with digestive weakness and sensitivity. I find this type of gelatin best used as a protein powder with careful dosing (see Important Note below).
Mix collagen hydrolysate in drinks, shakes, smoothies, ice cream, or add a tablespoon to your favorite recipe to give it an anti-inflammatory protein boost. It will dissolve in cold liquids easily.
Having collagen hydrolysate with a meal that contains muscle meat can help balance the amino acid profile that enters your bloodstream. “If a person eats a large serving of meat, it’s probably helpful to have 5 or 10 grams of gelatin at approximately the same time, so that the amino acids enter the bloodstream in balance.” Ray Peat, Ph.D. (3).
Collagen Peptides: How Much Do You Need?
Individual needs will vary, but most people can start off with about ½ -1 tablespoon per day of collagen hydrolysate (either as powder or capsules), and increase by 1 tablespoon every two weeks or so as tolerated. According to Ray Peat Ph.D., gelatin can make up about 30% of total protein intake, which for the typical person is about 3-6 TBL of gelatin per day (1 tablespoon of gelatin is 6 grams of protein).
Important Note: Remember not to get too carried away with gelatin. Adding too much too quickly can cause digestive issues: bloating, loss of appetite, stomach ache is just a few side effects.
It’s important to remember that more gelatin is not always better, especially if you are adding it to your diet for the first time. Gelatin should be used in addition to a nutrient-dense diet and not to replace real food like homemade bone broths and grass-fed meats.
Where to Find the Best Collagen and Gelatin
The company Radiant Life is a quality source of both collagen and gelatin that is gently manufactured and tested for purity (no glyphosate residue risk!). These quality protein supplements blend easily into the beverage, smoothie, or food of your choice. Choose from these brands of marine collagen, grass-fed collagen, and gelatin all available in large, economical canisters.
The collagen supplements are also available in very convenient collagen capsules. This is a great option for traveling.