Nose-to-tail eating: you may have heard about this in the “foodie” or restaurant scene. Well known chefs are building reputations for using as much of a whole animal as possible, and it’s actually really smart when you consider your health. Eating parts of an animal (a healthy, sustainably raised animal I would add) like skin and connective tissue, or consuming bone broth, provides you with something often lacking in the modern diet: gelatin. If you’re sticking with just skinless and boneless cuts of meat, you’re missing out on the important benefits that gelatin can provide. In my cooking as a personal chef, I always incorporate bone broth where I can and I encourage clients to try different parts other than chicken breast or beef tenderloin. Hellooo beef shank!
To expand on this idea, here are some benefits gelatin has to offer. I encourage you to do more reading and research as there is lots more to learn! I am just touching upon some common benefits here:
- Maintains appropriate amino acids:
Did you know if you are only eating muscle meat (cuts of meat without any skin, cartilage, connective tissue, etc), you may be creating a major imbalance in your diet? I didn’t know this either!
Let me explain: Gelatin provides two amino acids we often don’t get enough of in our diet: glycine and proline. The cuts of muscle meat we most often consume- such as boneless skinless chicken breast– are high in the amino acid methionine.
Why do we care about that?
Methionine raises our homocysteine levels because homocysteine is essentially synthesized from methionine. Now, homocysteine is an amino acid that tends to promote injury to blood vessel cells, as well as promote inflammation. This can contribute to the damage of arteries, by way of inflammation and cell injury. This is a very interesting implication in heart disease – I would consider it food for thought.
Additionally, unbalanced levels of methionine increase can our need for vitamins such as folate and B vitamins (because these vitamins are used in homocysteine conversion processes). The amino acids found in gelatin-such as glycine- help “balance out” these effects from methionine. This is of course a simplified explanation of an incredibly complicated process, but the important thing to remember is that ideally you have a healthy balance between methionine and glycine.
- Gelatin helps your digestion:
Amino acids found in gelatin seem to play roles digesting fat, absorbing fatty-acids, restoring the lining of your digestive system and also improving stomach acid production. Studies have indicated a role between probiotics in the gut and the metabolism of amino acids. This means that dietary amino acids may contribute to the survival of healthy gut bacteria, which in turn affects the nutritional uptake from the intestines, which ultimately affects your health. Interesting relationship, eh?
- Helps bones and joints:
- Improves sleep:
Studies have shown that glycine contributes to an improvement in sleep quality. One example demonstrated a correlation between ingestion of glycine before bedtime and a decrease in core body temperature. This decrease in temperature is a natural indication of the onset of sleep, and humans also maintain lowered body temperatures throughout a period a sleeping. These findings point towards the potential for glycine to play a role as a natural sleep aid.
How to get your gelatin:
- Tougher cuts of meat that require long, low-heat cooking have more connective tissue, collagen and tendons. Which means, more gelatin. Going for cuts that are bone-in (meaning the bones have not been removed) is also great because as you cook the meat, the bones release the gelatin into the surrounding liquid, which you should then consume. Think more beef shank, less tenderloin. These cuts of meat are also much cheaper because people consider them less desirable. Little do they know you’re getting quite a bang for your buck, AND your being more sustainable in your food choices. It’s a win win.
- Bone-broth made from grass-fed beef or poultry bones is incredibly valuable for many reasons, one of them being it is a great source of gelatin (as well as minerals). What is bone broth? It is essentially soup stock, cooked for at least 8 hours. When I make a big pot of broth, I freeze it in small batches so I can easily pull a jar out whenever I need it. I use it often in soups, I cook veggies in it, I add it to sautés and sauces…..the uses are endless. You can drink it warmed in a mug too. Here is my video and recipe for bone bone broth.
- You can also purchase gelatin from grass-fed reputable sources, however I do recommend trying to get it from real food as per the above-mentioned sources before you go for a supplement. With that said, take a look at these:
Both are good brands. You can find tons of recipes for smoothies, puddings, gummies, ice cream, and more online. Gelatin also happens to be a great binder for cooking, especially for anyone who is avoiding gluten and/or eggs. I have a few personal chef clients who cannot eat gluten, eggs, fruit or nuts, so many options for cooking are limited -especially any type of baked good…. but low and behold, gelatin works wonders (so does pumpkin puree but that’s a topic for another day!)
- Note: If you try gelatin as a supplement powder and feel you don’t tolerate it well, you’re not alone. There are people whom it may not be right for. But, if incorporating some type of ‘supplement’ into your diet is important to you, find the one that works for you. I don’t tolerate whey protein, and gelatin works for me, so I use it. I sometimes add collagen protein into warm drinks like homemade hot chocolate or coffee, which gives them a velvety, smooth creamy texture. Also, I put it in smoothies when I know I would otherwise be skipping a meal (sometimes I’m just too busy for breakfast or lunch- it happens to all of us!).
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3155927/ (oxidative stress)
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4167623/ (platelet aggregation)
Please note: some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means I receive commission if you click on the link and make a purchase. Regardless, I only recommend products I personally use and believe add legitimate value for my readers. Many of the links in this post are not affiliate links and are just inserted to be additional resources to my readers.