I admit I once had a few notions about food that I've since learned were, well... totally WRONG. First on the list of things that I used to say "ew, it's so bad for you" about, but for all the wrong reasons... the food that puts the jiggly-wiggly in Jell-o, gelatin!
In my vegetarian days I'd scowl and tell you how gross gelatin is because "it's made from horse hooves." But gelatin in its real-food form from pastured, humanely raised animals contains nutrients that many of us are missing in our modern-day diets. It's all about the amino acids - the building blocks of protein. Turns out different parts of an animal contain very different amino acids that all work for very specific functions in our body. When you eat only muscle meat (like skinless chicken breasts and steak with the fat trimmed off) you are missing out on amino acids that are contained only in the collagenous connective tissue of an animal.In his article Gelatin, Stress & Longevity, PhD Biologist Ray Peat suggests that a better balance of amino acids in the diet can drastically improve our body's ability to fight stress, and increase longevity. For example, muscle meat contains high amounts of the amino acids tryptophan and cysteine, which in excess/imbalance can reduce the body's ability to handle stressors. Gelatin contains mostly glycine and proline, which are reported to:
- sooth the intestinal tract
- repair damaged tissues
- fight tumors
- improve thyroid function
- assist sleep cycles
I think it's important to note that it's not quite as simple as some amino acids = bad, and others = good. But rather, that a balance of dietary amino acids is important, and that balance is difficult to reach with a muscle-meat only, or vegetarian diet.
Traditional cultures utilized and respected the whole animal, making use of every part, including the strange bits and jelly pieces; the skin, feet, fat, and bones. It's a part of meat-eating we shy away from now - we've become chicken fingers-kids. And while I'm not exactly harvesting whole animals and rendering the gelatin at home (yet) I like the idea of getting back to eating all the parts and respecting the whole animal without waste.
It's not exactly what my former vegetarian-self would like to hear. But the vegetarian-me also consumed WAY too many processed and packaged "health" foods, industrial vegetable oils, (Earth Balance Spread, anyone?) and sugar with reckless abandon (but it's vegan!!) And when I finally learned and accepted the health benefits of including animals as food (for me personally), there was no looking back, because I felt the difference.
Be a Compassionate Carnivore
To become truly responsible, ethical, and healthy meat-consumers, we need to spend our dollars in support of farmers who raise and process animals with care. We should buy and use the "other" cuts of meat - the parts that would otherwise become waste - in addition to muscle meat.
(And just fyi - I can't find any reports of horse hooves being used for gelatin - they don't have enough collagen to gel.)
If you're not quite ready to make a bone broth or fry up some pig skins, find a quality source of powdered gelatin from pasture-raised animals. My favorite is Vital Proteins - they make a pasture-raised gelatin (good for using in things you actually want to "gel," like the healthy cherry jello recipe below), and collagen peptides (which are better in cold liquids because they won't harden or gel-up). I've been using the gelatin to make gummy treats and in recipes like soups. And I use the collagen peptides in smoothies, coffee, and nightly tea.
Black Cherry Jello
1 tablespoon gelatin
1/4 cup cool water
1/4 cup hot water
1 1/2 cups pure black cherry juice
In a mixing bowl, whisk 1 tablespoon powdered grass-fed gelatin into 1/4 cup cool water, leaving no clumps. Let sit for about 5 minutes to allow the gelatin to expand and become thick.
Pour in 1/4 cup hot (not quite boiling) water and stir. The mixture will thin out a bit.
Add 1 1/2 cups of 100% black cherry juice to the mix. I've actually been using 1 cup of juice plus another 1/2 cup of water on this step to lighten the sugar content even further - and it's still delicious.
Pour into molds or a shallow baking pan and refrigerate for 3-4 hours.
FYI - I am an affiliate for Vital Proteins, because I believe 100% in their products and mission! If you buy through any of the links in this post, I'll receive a small commission on the sale, and you'll always pay the lowest price. Thank you for supporting my blog!!