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One of my favorite scenes in the sitcom The Office is when Jim puts Dwight's stapler in jello. I remember thinking to myself I might want to do that to someone some day. Why not? It's cheap, jiggly and not too messy, which sounds like a perfect prop for a harmless prank. When it comes to its nutrition, however, this wiggly wobbly snack might not be so perfect.
Due to the immense success of Jell-O, this brand name has become a generic term for gelatin dessert across the U.S. and Canada. Google "jello recipes" and you'll get thousands of search results. Walk into a typical American supermarket and you'll encounter rows of shelves featuring myriad Jell-O products. Some hospitals even serve jello to their patients. Is jello really healthy for us to eat, though? Let's take a look at its pros and cons.
Jello-O: Pros and Cons
Contains artificial food additives
Low in Calories (especially the sugar-free versions)
Not a significant source of nutrients
Easy to Digest and known to be soothing for the stomach
May cause allergic reactions, such as hives and dizziness, in some people
Contains a small amount of protein and offers some health benefits
As you can see from this chart, jello is not such a horrific thing to eat. It might actually be a pretty good snack for those who are on a diet, trying to limit their fat intake or have a sensitive digestive tract. Yet, it doesn't do much for the body in terms of nutrition. Plus, it contains food additives (sugar, preservatives, artificial food colorings, etc), which can pose several health risks for consumers. So if you're planning to enjoy this jiggly goodness on a regular basis, I suggest you opt for a sugar-free version, or better yet, buy plain gelatin with no added flavor and color.
What is Jello Made from?
Gelatin is derived from collagen, a fibrous protein in animal flesh, skin, bones and other connective tissues. Manufacturers grind these animal parts and allow them to go through several acid, alkali, and enzymatic treatments. During this process, collagen ends up being partially broken down and turning into a gelatin solution, whereas impurities, such as fat and salt, are removed from the materials. The solution is then chilled, cut and ground into gelatin powder. Other common ingredients that are added to gelatin powder include maltodextrin (a food additive that makes jello appear smooth and slippery), sugar or artificial sweeteners, artificial flavors, preservatives, adipic acid (for tartness), and disodium phosphate (for acidity control).
Is There Such a Thing as a Vegan Gelatin?
Yes, some natural food stores do offer gelatin substitutes that are made from plant products, such as Agar-Agar, guar gum, carrageenan and Kuzu root.
Gelatin Made from Humans!
According to USA Today, Chinese scientists in Beijing have been trying to create a "human-derived" gelatin by inserting human genes into yeast. Although this new type of gelatin may sound unnecessary and borderline cannibalistic, it does have some promises in the medical world. While gelatin made from animals or plants can be allergenic to some people, this genetically-engineered gelatin will not carry that same risk because it's derived from human genes. If the research turns out to be successful, this "human jello" might become widely used in certain medical applications and the production of drug capsules. Yet, it's quite doubtful that this new product would ever find its place in a supermarket aisle or become Jell-O's competitor.
Fun Facts about Jello
- Jello is the official state snack of Utah.
- Since the love for jello is regarded as a "Mormon stereotype," the Mormon Corridor region (where the largest population of Mormons live) has been nicknamed the "Jell-O Belt."
- In the Victorian era, jello was considered a very classy dessert.
- Ivette Bassa won the Ig Nobel Prize (an American parody of the Nobel Prizes, given for trivial achievements in scientific studies) for inventing blue Jell-O in 1992.
Gelatin Health Benefits
- Gelatin and Beauty - Believe it or not, gelatin can make you look more beautiful! It contains keratin, the key component in human hair, nails and the outer layer of the skin. By increasing your keratin levels, you can make your hair healthier, your nails stronger and your skin smoother.
- Gelatin and Weight Loss - Gelatin provides lysine and arginine, two types of amino acids that can potentially aid in muscle growth and improve metabolism. Plus, it is very low in fat and calories. One serving of sugar-free Jell-O, for instance, contains only 10 calories and 0 grams of fat. Last but not least, some recent studies have found that gelatin may also help suppress appetite and make us feel full longer, though this discovery has not yet been widely confirmed.
- Gelatin and the Liver - Another healthy component gelatin has to offer is glycine, an amino acid that the liver needs for detoxification. Without an adequate amount of glycine in the body, its ability to eliminate toxins can also be limited.
- Gelatin and Bone Health - Since it contains collagen, one of the materials that make up cartilage and bone, gelatin can strengthen bones and joints, as well as shorten recovery from strenuous workouts or sports-related injuries.
Richard Lindsay from California on March 31, 2016:
Great post, when I was younger I use to eat Jello. But as I got older it disappeared from mt diet. I may bring it back and try it again.
Hendrika from Pretoria, South Africa on April 24, 2015:
Interesting. In South Africa we call it jelly and as I suffer from osteoporosis this might be just the excuse I need to indulge!
Om Paramapoonya (author) on October 06, 2012:
@moonlake - Haha well, at least you have your boys on your side, moonlake!
moonlake from America on October 05, 2012:
I love jell-o, our daughter hates it, our boys like it but don't love it. They always serve it in the hospital. Interesting hub voted uP!
Om Paramapoonya (author) on September 20, 2012:
@Letitialicious - Haha "to Jell-O or not to Jell-O." I like that!
@anglnwu - Yeah, I know you're a big fan of agar-agar. I believe you wrote a hub about it, didn't you? I really enjoyed that hub.
anglnwu on September 18, 2012:
Ever since I learned that jello is made from gelatin, I'm not quite a fan but your hub may have just changed my mind. I'm however, a fan of agar-agar. Interesting hub.
Letitialicious from Paris via San Diego on September 18, 2012:
Oh Om, that is funny, apalling and fascinating all at the same time. I didn't realize where Jello-O came from (reason enough to become a vegetarian) nor did I ever have any idea it could be good for you (reason not to become vegetarian). To Jello-O or not to Jello-O. That is the question.
Om Paramapoonya (author) on September 17, 2012:
@akirchner - No jello and tofu, huh? Sounds like he just doesn't like slimy stuff. lol
@lindacee - Thanks for the kind words, Linda. Glad you found this info interesting!
@greatstuff - hey, thanks for dropping by. I like both jello and agar agar. The unappetizing ingredients in jello just can't make me flinch! heheeee
Mazlan A from Malaysia on September 16, 2012:
I think I will stick to agar agar. Having all the animal skin & bone grinded to a liquid form means a lot of chemical will be added for these to happen. Agar agar may not be as tasty as jelly-o but this seaweed is at least 100% natural! Good job Om.
Linda Chechar from Arizona on September 14, 2012:
Om, I just loved that scene from The Office!
When you break it down, gelatin is kind of icky stuff (but we won't think about that!) I rarely eat jello except for those jello-fruit salads during the holidays. I did know the connection between gelatin and hair/nails, but I had no idea it was a good "food" for weight loss and liver and bone health. Informative Hub!
Audrey Kirchner from Washington on September 14, 2012:
I absolutely LOVE those glasses of layered Jell-o though---I wonder if I could get him to eat THAT? Probably not---wishful thinking~ Like tofu....the guy just has his quirks.
Om Paramapoonya (author) on September 14, 2012:
@ptrg777 - Yeah, but only if you're allergic to gelatin. I believe it's pretty rare, though. Thanks a lot for dropping by!
Peter from New York on September 14, 2012:
Interesting article! Didn't know jello could cause hives.
Om Paramapoonya (author) on September 14, 2012:
@Justsilvie - Thanks! I like jello a lot, too.
@Arlene V Poma - Wow, your antique jello mold is older than me! It's nice that you're planning to give it to your brother rather than just throwing it away.
@writer20 - Yep, gelatin contains keratin that can make your nails stronger!
@Goodlady - Yeah, I'd say that it's pretty kid-friendly. Not an impressive source of nutrients but good enough to enjoy once in a while.
@carol7777 - Jello, pineapple, sour cream and pecans? Sounds like a nice combination. I've got to try it. Thanks!
@CassyLu - Nah, your kids are not that weird. Although I like jello, I can totally see why some people dislike it. It's so wiggly that it seems almost alive! lol
@akirchner - Hehehee, what a stubborn (and super lovable) husband you have! My husband is not a big fan of jello, either. He probably doesn't hate it as much as Bob does, though. lol
@leahlefler - Haha, it's too wiggly for him, huh? Yeah, I think jello is a "love it or hate it" type of thing. I, for one, like it for its unique texture. The jigglier, the better! lol
Leah Lefler from Western New York on September 14, 2012:
Well, Jello certainly has some unappetizing origins! My older son likes jello, but my little one won't touch the stuff. He just can't stand the "wiggle!" I have never liked Jello with "stuff" in it (fruit/nuts), but I don't mind the plain version.
Audrey Kirchner from Washington on September 14, 2012:
Gotta love the Jell-o-belt~ I thought that was what you wore when you had too much Jell-o....I love Jell-o and love making all kinds of molds. Bob's not a huge fan apparently as they had to drink warm Jell-o while he was in Vietnam to stay hydrated. I try to disguise it whenever I make it by never letting it be "clear"--I'm sure I've SO fooled him. I tried to explain that they probably did that for a good reason but once you get something stuck in your head...hard to let go of it I guess~~ When he has to fast for tests, he'd rather "die" than drink Jell-o---I'm the opposite--bring it on--at least it fills my stomach~
CassyLu1981 from Spring Lake, NC on September 14, 2012:
Wow, amazing all the facts I never knew about Jello. My kids are weird though and they don't like it LOL Excellent hub, voted up and shared :)
carol stanley from Arizona on September 14, 2012:
I have never liked jello but it was interesting to learn the facts. You did a great job and voting up. However jello with sourcream, pineapple, and pecans is pretty good.
Penelope Hart from Rome, Italy on September 14, 2012:
Interesting Hub here - so great to know that's it's just fine to keep on making Jello for kids parties! Super research. Thanks.
Joyce Haragsim from Southern Nevada on September 13, 2012:
I was told that getting jello before made is good for nails.
Voted up useful and very interesting, Joyce.
Arlene V. Poma on September 13, 2012:
I have a big copper-colored mold that used to hold plenty of Jell-O at all our family parties from the 60s-70s. It sits in my garage, now because I am trying to offer it to one of my brothers. The only time I'll eat Jell-O is when someone else makes it. A small cube of strawberry is enough.
Justsilvie on September 13, 2012:
I always loved jello! Now I can love it more. Well done Hub!