Just when you thought adding butter to your coffee was the weirdest thing you’d try in the name of health, now a new ingredient has made its way into the coffee scene. Gelatin—the same ingredient that makes jelly jiggle and gives snakes and marshmallows their chewy texture—is being touted as the solution to stronger hair, nails, and bones, improved digestion, and joint health.
A protein-based stabiliser, gelatin is derived from collagen extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals. It’s been gaining some popularity because it contains eight out of nine essential amino acids, says nutritionist Jim White. Bone broth proponents say it has similar benefits, because when bones are heated the collagen of breaks down and the amino acids wind up in the broth, he says.
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, contributing to muscle growth and tissue repair. Your body doesn’t produce essential amino acids on its own, so being able to consume most of your daily needs before breakfast can be appealing. “Putting gelatin in coffee may be a good way to get these extra amino acids into the diet,” says White.
At just 40 kJs per tablespoon, gelatin in your coffee won’t wreck your waistline, either. But beyond that, is gelatin the miracle worker it’s chalked up to be? Well, a Ball State University study found that athletes with knee pain who took gelatin supplements experienced less joint pain after eight weeks.
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Otherwise, like most supposed “superfoods” that get trendy fast, there’s just not enough research to back up the claims, says White. “It’s not like taking a dangerous supplement. It’s not going to hurt the body or anything," he says. "But for providing any of the miracles or claims out there, it’s just not living up to it.”
How to Make Gelatin Coffee
While there’s no guarantee adding gelatin to your morning java will keep you from breaking a bone, give you shinier hair, or strengthen your nails, there’s no real harm in trying it out if you’re curious, says White. (Unless you’re a vegetarian, of course). But what’s the best way to add gelatin into your brew? And how do you avoid winding up with cup of coffee-flavored Jello?
Create your own version of Bulletproof Coffee, blending a teaspoon of pasture-raised collagen with organic coffee, grass-fed butter, coconut oil, and honey or maple syrup, or simply whisk it in with a little milk. Some gelatin coffee devotees recommend using a blender, mashing the mixture with a fork until it’s thoroughly blended, or adding the collagen to a little bit of cold liquid for a few minutes before adding the hot coffee for a smooth consistency.