Gelatin for a Health Boost + A Good Alternative That SAVES TIME & MONEY!

When someone thinks of healthful food, gelatin may not be one of the first things that come to mind. But gelatin is more than just a jiggly childhood snack or a hospital staple. It’s mostly made up of protein.

Gelatin is made by boiling animal bones, cartilage, and skin to extract the collagen. Collagen is a fibrous protein that connects muscles, bones, and skin in animals. When collagen is processed, it becomes a flavorless, colorless substance called gelatin. The health benefits of gelatin are similar to the benefits of collagen since gelatin contains the same amino acids.

The most abundant amino acids in gelatin include glycine, proline, and valine. Valine is an essential amino acid that cannot be produced by the human body, which means it must come from the diet.

Gelatin also contains the amino acids lysine, alanine, and arginine.

Besides providing essential amino acids, gelatin also improves skin texture, aids in digestion, eases joint pain, helps control blood sugar, protects bone health, improves sleep quality, and aids in weight loss (by controlling hormones associated with weight hunger).

It is easy to make your own gelatin-rich broth by cooking the beef or poultry or bones for several hours. As the broth cools, you will see a gel-substance on the surface, which is the collagen. If not interested in making your own gelatin/collagen, however, it is available in capsule form from most health and natural food stores.

Lastly, we all know the wonderful things we can make, using gelatin. When the dry form is dissolved in hot water, it makes great sauces, soups, and desserts.

Now on a related, but different note: Health factors aside, what if you’re just not interested in using an animal by-product in your cooking? Is there anything besides flour or cornstarch that thickens well?

Yes! Instant CLEAR JEL is my go-to for this job. It’s modified food starch made from tapioca and has been modified so that it thickens without cooking—a BIG time saver! You can get this at most kitchen specialty stores.

This starch has many advantages. Besides thickening food instantly, it stays thick whether hot or cold; it has an indefinite shelf life if kept cool and moisture free; it’s relatively inexpensive; and it has endless uses. Home bakers prefer it to substitute it for cornstarch or flour when making pie filling, for instance. The end product is prettier and has a cleaner, fruit-oriented taste.

There are 3 specific ways to add it into your liquids so you have no lumps:

When sugar is one of the ingredients, add the CLEAR JEL to the sugar and stir thoroughly before adding the liquid.

Use the blender: have your liquid measured into the blender and add the CLEAR JEL as the blender is running.

OR, while stirring liquid, add the CLEAR JEL by using a salt shaker so it is added very slowly and in small amounts at a time.

Let stand 10 minutes to get full thickening power. If the product is too thin, shake in more CLEAR JEL. If the product is too thick, add more liquid. But note: it is much easier to thicken more than it is to thin it down.

I’ll conclude by sharing a favorite way we use this product. When I’m out of real pure maple syrup, I’ll combine maple flavoring with water, sugar, and CLEAR JEL to make one of the yummiest homemade syrups ever!

Buttery Maple Syrup

Serving size: 1
Calories per serving: 440

1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon maple extract
2 teaspoons liquid butter flavor

Mix dry ingredients together then add to liquid or put all together in the blender. Can be served hot or cold. Really yummy and much better than store-bought syrups—NO preservatives!

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    Alice Osborne
    Weekly Newsletter Contributor since 2006
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