Energy value (calories per serving): Low
Saturated fat: Low
Major vitamin contribution: None
Major mineral contribution: None
About the Nutrients in This Food
Although gelatin is made from the collagen (connective tissue) of cattle hides and bones or pig skin, its proteins are limited in the essential acid tryptophan, which is destroyed when the bones and skin are treated with acid, and is deficient in several others, including lysine. In fact, gelatin’s proteins are of such poor quality that, unlike other foods of animal origin (meat, milk), gelatin cannot sustain life. Laboratory rats fed a diet in which gelatin was the primary protein did not grow as they should; half died within 48 days, even though the gelatin was supplemented with some of the essential amino acids.
Plain gelatin has no carbohydrates and fiber. It is low in fat. Flavored gel- atin desserts, however, are high in carbohydrates because of the added sugar.
The Most Nutritious Way to Serve This Food
With a protein food rich in complete proteins. Gelatin desserts whipped with milk fit the bill.
Diets That May Restrict or Exclude This Food
Low-carbohydrate diet (gelatin desserts prepared with sugar) Low-sodium diet (commercial gelatin powders) Sucrose-free diet (gelatin desserts prepared with sugar) * Values are for prepared unsweetened gelat in.
Buying This Food
Look for: Tightly sealed, clean boxes.
Storing This Food
Store gelatin boxes in a cool, dry cabinet.
Preparing This Food
Commercial unflavored gelatin comes in premeasured 1-tablespoon packets. One tablespoon of gelatin will thicken about two cups of water. To combine the gelatin and water, first heat ¾ cup water to boiling. While it is heating, add the gelatin to ¼ cup cold liquid and let it absorb moisture until it is translucent. Then add the boiling water. (Flavored fruit gelatins can be dissolved directly in hot water.)
What Happens When You Cook This Food
When you mix gelatin with hot water, its protein molecules create a network that stiffens into a stable, solid gel as it squeezes out moisture. The longer the gel sits, the more intermo- lecular bonds it forms, the more moisture it loses and the firmer it becomes. A day-old gel is much firmer than one you’ve just made.
Gelatin is used as a thickener in prepared foods and can be used at home to thicken sauces. Flavored gelatin dessert powders have less stiffening power than plain gelatin because some of their protein has been replaced by sugar.
To build a layered gelatin mold, let each layer harden before you add the next.