Gelatin can be made from a variety of animal sources, by heating the collagen found in the tendons, ligaments, bones and hides of cows, as well as in the skin of pigs. Gelatin can also be made by boiling the scales from fish. It's easy to understand why so many people avoid it.
Vegetarians and vegans don't eat gelatin because it's an animal byproduct derived from bones, skin, scales, ligaments and tendons. If you want to avoid gelatin, simply choose from an array of plant-based options instead.
Where Does Gelatin Hide?
Gelatin can be found in a variety of food commonly found at mainstream supermarkets, including gelatin desserts, candy, and many frosted cereals. Gelatin is an ingredient in some yogurts and puddings, too. If you wish to avoid desserts and candy with gelatin, read ingredient lists carefully.
Many types of pills are coated with gelatin, too. If you'd rather not have gelatin in your medication, ask your doctor or pharmacist for a gelatin-free option.
If you're seeking vitamins without gelatin, Garden of Life makes a Certified USDA Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, vegan vitamin D3. Another option to avoid gelatin is to take a spray version of the vitamin, such as Garden of Life's B12 Organic Spray. Country Life and Deva make ranges of gelatin-free vitamins, too.
There are other sneaky places gelatin can lurk, including its use as a natural flavoring. In 2017, the FDA posted a voluntary recall of a Herbalife peanut butter protein bar because fish gelatin, a known allergen, wasn't posted as an ingredient, but was instead disguised as a natural flavor.
The company decided to err on the side of caution, and pulled the protein bars from the market. If you have allergies, make sure you know exactly what's in the food you're eating. Seemingly-harmless "natural flavors" can contain much more than just herbs and spices.
Alternatives to Food With Gelatin
Plant-based alternatives exist for just about everything these days, and that includes gelatin. Trader Joe's and Dandies make delicious vegan marshmallows; instead of using gelatin, they use tapioca starch to create that spongy feel.
Another common alternative to gelatin is agar agar or carrageenan, both of which are colorless, flavorless and derived from seaweed. Instead of slaughterhouse byproducts, simple plants give Simply Delish Jel Desserts their jelly-like feel.
It's easy to make a pudding without using gelatin, too, simply by using chia seeds. Chia seeds have been cultivated since 3500 B.C. and are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, calcium, protein, phosphorus and zinc, according to Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Read More: 12 Classic Comfort Foods Made Vegan
When mixed with liquid, chia seeds develop a gel-like consistency. To make a healthy gelatin-free treat, simply mix 1/4 cup chia seeds with 3/4 cup of a plant-based milk of your choice.
To make your chia seed pudding extra flavorful, you can top it with fresh fruit, nuts or a drizzle of maple syrup. Simply let the mixture sit overnight in your refrigerator and you'll awake to a tasty and healthy gelatin-free pudding for breakfast.
Consider Eliminating Gelatin From Diet
Many folks are transitioning to a healthy plant-based diet due to the impact our food choices have on global warming, animal welfare and our own well-being.
People often stop eating animal products for one specific reason, but then, after more research, they find the other benefits to enjoying a plant-based diet are equally compelling.
A review of studies published in October 2018 in BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care found that plant-based diets, centered around fresh fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes, can help manage weight and Type 2 diabetes.
Plant-based foods are nutrient-dense, yet naturally low in saturated fat and calories. With so many delicious plant-based options to choose from these days, it's easier now than ever to avoid eating gelatin and other animal products.
- USDA: "Gelatin Processing"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "YOPLAIT ORIGINAL, LF YGRT MNTN BLBRY/STRWBRY, UNPREPARED"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "Cherry Gelatin"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "KELLOGG'S, FROSTED MINI WHEATS"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "GUMMY BEARS"
- USDA Branded Food Products Database: "Vanilla Pudding"
- mykind Organics Chewable Vegan D3
- mykind Organics B-12 Organic Spray
- Country Life Vitamins: "Top 5 Certified Vegan Supplements"
- Deva Nutrition: "VEGAN MULTIVITAMIN & MINERAL - ONE DAILY"
- FDA: "Herbalife International Of America, Inc. Issues Voluntary Recall For Its Protein Bar – Peanut Butter Due To Trace Amounts Of Undeclared Fish Allergen"
- Trader Joe's Mini Marshmallows
- Dandies Marshmallows
- Simply Delish Jel Desserts
- Harvard School of Public Health: "Chia Seeds"
- BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care: "Effectiveness of Plant-based Diets in Promoting Well-being in the Management of Type 2 Diabetes: a Systematic Review"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Add More Nutrient-dense Foods to Your Diet"