Collagen vs. Gelatin: What’s the difference?
Collagen and gelatin are two proteins getting a lot of attention these days. Touted for their ability to heal everything from our gut to our joints, and reverse the aging of our skin, hair and nails (1). These proteins are similar, but different. You’ve probably seen gelatin and collagen used interchangeably. While they’re similar, there are some key difference to be aware of.
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It forms your bones, joints, skin, hair and nails. As we age, our body produces less collagen, resulting in wrinkly skin and weakened bones. Collagen is a protein that is very elastic and tough to break, and is what gives the human body fluid motion. Humans have long consumed collagen from animal products, such as bones, skin, joints, tendons and ligaments. The human body is efficient at breaking raw collagen down into a from that can be utilized, so it must be cooked or processed.
You’ve probably eaten gelatin before and didn’t realize it. Ever heard of Jell-O? (Ew!) Gelatin is what gives it that unique, albeit weird, jiggly texture.
What is gelatin? Gelatin is a protein derived from collagen, made up of strands of amino acids. Both gelatin and collagen are found in the connective tissue, ligaments, bones, skin and tissue of animals. It’s these amino acids that provide us certain benefits when we consume them as a food or supplement.
Gelatin = Cooked Collagen
Since eating raw collagen in the form of tough ligaments, skin and connective tissue would be difficult and highly unenjoyable, there are processes for extracting the collagen and gelatin into forms that are more easily digestible.
Partially Hydrolyzed Collagen = Gelatin
While complete hydrolysis breaks collagen down into individual peptides, partial hydrolysis breaks collagen into individual strands. This makes the collagen easier to digest and more bio-available, meaning the body has to do less work to absorb the amino acids and put them to work. Think of this process as pre-digestion, making the collagen easier for our bodies to absorb and utilize.
Because gelatin has not been broken down into individual peptides, its protein structure is what allows it to gel when cooled. This is how Jell-O gets its signature jiggle, and why gelatin has many culinary uses such as thickening gravies and sauces, or making gummies or desserts.
Gelatin is the form of collagen found in bone broth. This elixir involves combining bones, joints and connective tissue in water and slowly simmering for at low temperatures for an extended period of time, normally at least 24 hours. This low and slow process gently cooks the collagen and extracts it into the liquid. Next, the liquid is strained and can either be used as a broth for cooking or drinking, or, like hydrolyzed collagen, the liquid can be passed through an evaporator to remove moisture and concentrate the gelatin. Then, the broth concentrate can be desiccated (dried) in drum dryers, or spray-dried, and then pulverized into a powder – creating a bone broth powder.
Completely Hydrolyzed Collagen = Collagen Peptides
If you take gelatin and hydrolyze it even further, breaking the amino acid strands into individual peptides, you are left with completely hydrolyzed collagen. In this form, the collagen is completely pre-digested and ready to be absorbed by the body.
This method of extraction involves soaking the collagen-rich parts of the animal in an alkaline or acidic solution to facilitate the release of collagen. Next, the parts are washed and then boiled in water to extract the collagen. This liquid is then put through an evaporator, which removes the moisture, concentrating the collagen. Lastly, the collagen concentrate is then desiccated (dried) in drum dryers and then pulverized into a powder.
This method breaks the bonds of the individual amino acids into individual peptides, making them easier to digest. Think of this form of collagen as completely pre-digested, making it more easily digestible for our bodies. Unlike gelatin, collagen peptides can be dissolved in both warm and cold water, and do not gel. Studies have shown that when we consume individual peptides, they are directly absorbed in the bloodstream and build up in our bones, skin and joints (2).
Adding Collagen and Gelatin to Your Diet
Studies show that as we age, our bodies produce less collagen. We produce about 1% less collagen in our skin each year after the age of 20 (3). Studies have also shown that consuming collagen daily can reduce some of the effects of aging, such as wrinkling (4), and improve skin elasticity (5).
Here are a few ways to get gelatin and collagen into your diet.
Cooking with collagen & gelatin
|Add to smoothies||Jell-O, marshmallows, gummies|
|Stir into water or protein shake||Thicken soups and sauces|
|Blend into coffee with butter or MCT oil||Blend into coffee with butter or MCT oil|
|Stir into oatmeal or cereal||Use as binder in baking|
- Smoothies & Drinks
Blending gelatin, collagen, or bone broth into a smoothie or protein shake is one of the easiest ways to get your daily dose of collagen. You can also add collagen peptides to your morning coffee or tea without affecting the flavor or texture, since they’re flavorless!
Nowadays, people are sipping steaming mugs of bone broth just like you would tea or coffee to kick start their day, or as an evening night cap to wind down after a long day. Add in your favorite herbs & spices and get sipping!
Using a quality bone broth in your cooking in place of water or conventional stocks and broths is a great way to not only add flavor to your meals, but also reap the benefits of the naturally occurring gelatin found in a slow-simmered bone broth.
Whether you’re making soups, stews, sauces, slow-cooking meats or veggies, or simply replacing water when cooking grains or oatmeal, we believe bone broth is the most versatile ingredient in the modern pantry.
Use gelatin to make homemade Jell-O, marshmallows, or gummies to create convenient collagen-rich snacks that you can take with you anywhere. We love whipping up small batches of snacks like this because they’re convenient for when you’re on the run, and it’s a tasty way to get in your daily dose of collagen.