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What the heck is gelatin? And why is it in everything?

Updated: May 6

I'm sure you've grown up sitting around a firepit with friends making smores over the flame, or enjoyed hot chocolate with tiny marshmallows, devoured your sugary and sweet gummy bears, jello, or fudge. Not even limited to just these sweet treats, but you may find one common ingredient in these as well as in some sauces, dressings, and even supplements! But what exactly do they have in common you ask? Gelatin. There's a good chance that maybe you have never heard of gelatin before, or if you have heard of it, perhaps you never paid any attention to it if you have turned over the package to read the ingredients. If you don't know what gelatin is, let me explain, and it's really not very appealing. You might want to avoid this ingredient all together when shopping.

What is gelatin?

Gelatin is used as a bit of a thickener and is added to jellos, puddings, shampoos, cosmetics, supplements, candies, jellies, soups, and sauces. It is frequently added to a lot of the things that we buy. A thickening agent wouldn't be so bad, but it's what it is made from that is a little unsettling. Where does it come from? Gelatin comes from animals. It comes from the discarded parts of the animals from the slaughterhouse such as the ears, bones, hides, and skin. Once it has been slaughtered and reaches the processing plant, the discarded parts are chopped, washed, degreased, and then roasted to dry up the pieces. After this, it is then soaked in an acid solution for a period of time to release minerals and bacteria. The gelatin is then extracted, heated for sterilization, and then pressed into sheets where it is then dyed and packaged.

What should I do?

If you are avoiding all animal ingredients, then you will want to avoid anything that contains gelatin. Be sure to check ingredient labels. Turn over the package and look for gelatin (or gelatine) on the label. It's a bit unnerving, because as we all know, we can have our desserts, supplements, and shampoos made without gelatin and meet all of our requirements and needs. So why not buy without gelatin? Altoids is a very popular mint that has been around since the the 18th century, and is practically everybody's go-to brand. Most people probably don't even realize what is inside of them, and it's just a mint, so who would even think that there would be something like this in there? If you are a mint lover and carry them around with you in your car, bag, or purse like me - there are quite a few brands that I enjoy that are vegan. Pick up the ones from Trader Joe's, like VerMints which have great flavors including peppermint and cinnamon or the Wholefoods 365 brand, which are very minty, non-GMO, and organic. Both are inexpensive. I will most likely add them in to a favorites blog at some point.

Be sure to check ingredients, they may surprise you

The not so obvious is now the obvious

When you first decided that you wanted to go vegan, you knew of the obvious animal ingredients - meat, dairy, eggs, fish, and honey - but then there is the not so obvious, like gelatin. Now it is going to be very obvious to you when you turn something over and see that it contains gelatin. The mints are just one example of what contains gelatin, so be sure to read. Learning these things is just going to take time and practice, and once you get the hang of it, it becomes a breeze. There are some other animal by-products that you might not be aware of, and I will cover those as well, but for now, you are doing a great job. Keep on keeping on and let me know if there are any questions or topics that you would like me to talk about in an upcoming blog or post.

These are at Trader Joe's if they still have them or something comparable

Did you know about gelatin before? Let me know.

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