What Is Jello (Jell-O) and Is It Good or Bad for You? (2023)

  • What Is
    • What is jello?
  • Brief History of Jello
    • A brief history of jello
  • Ingredients
    • What other ingredients are used in jello?
  • Is Jello Good for You?
    • Is jello good for you?
  • Health Benefits
    • Health benefits of gelatin
  • Is Jello Vegetarian?
    • Is jello vegetarian?
  • Should You Eat Jello?
    • Should jello be a part of my diet?

What is jello?

What Is Jello (Jell-O) and Is It Good or Bad for You? (1)

Jello is a food product derived from animal collagen. Jello is not the healthiest food option, but eating it in moderation likely won't hurt you.

Most of us are familiar with the sweet, jiggly substance known as jello. It’s served in school cafeterias, at community events, and might even be sitting in your pantry right now. Although “Jell-O” is a brand name owned by Kraft foods, the food item jello is sold by many manufacturers. It's a flavored, gelatin-based dessert that's low in calories and fat. But it’s also high in sugar and artificial sweeteners, which may be harmful to your health.

Jello is a food product sold as a powdered mix or a pre-made dessert. It’s primarily made of gelatin, a protein product derived from animal collagen.

Collagen is one of the main building blocks of connective tissues, bone, and skin. It contains several essential amino acids, including glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.

Rumors might have you believe that jello is made from horse or cow hooves, but that’s a myth. Instead, gelatin is made by washing the skin, tendons, ligaments, and bones of animals, usually cows and pigs. The raw materials are soaked in acid or lime, washed several more times, and filtered before the collagen is extracted. The collagen is then dried, ground into a powder, and sifted to make gelatin.

Research has shown that gelatin has many health benefits. As a result, it’s a common ingredient in cosmetics, foods, pharmaceutical products, and ointments.

When you buy jello at the store, it comes pre-made (usually in individual cup servings), or you can make it at home with a flavored powder mixture. To make jello at home, pour the powder into a pot of boiling water and then let it cool. The process produces a sweet, gel-like final product that both kids and adults can enjoy.

Jello comes in many flavors, including strawberry, cherry, fruit punch, lemon, lime, peach, watermelon, and many others.

A brief history of jello

In 1845, a man named Peter Cooper patented and developed a powdered gelatin. Nothing much became of it — until a few decades later. In 1897, a carpenter named Pearl Wait experimented with the gelatin and developed a sweet-tasting dessert. His wife called it Jell-O. He lacked the money and experience to advertise and sell his product successfully, so he sold the trademark to Orator Frank Woodward in 1899.

(Video) Is Jello good or bad for you?

At first, Woodward was unsuccessful in marketing and selling Jell-O. But eventually, sales grew, and it became a best-seller and a wildly popular product among American consumers.

By 1904, Jell-O was nicknamed “America’s Favorite Dessert.” The sweet, processed, and colorful food appealed to Americans of all socioeconomic backgrounds due to its versatility. It was marketed as a food product that belonged in every home, from the humble cabin to the stately mansion.

Jell-O soon became an iconic American food. In the early 1900s, immigrants passing through Ellis Island often received a bowl of jello to welcome them to their new home.

During the Great Depression of the early 20th century, jello was highly desirable because it was a simple and inexpensive dessert. Its popularity continued to grow with the introduction of convenience foods in the 1950s. By the 1990s, it had even become a form of edible entertainment and has since been an American pantry staple.

What other ingredients are used in jello?

Aside from gelatin, jello also contains sweeteners, food colorings, and artificial flavors.

Most often, jello contains sugar substitutes like aspartame, which gives it a sweet flavor but with fewer calories than sugar. Although these sugar substitutes have some benefits, scientists are divided on whether they're safe.

The artificial flavors found in jello are made with mixtures of chemicals. They imitate natural flavors but are not derived from natural sources. Most jello also still contains artificial food dyes instead of naturally sourced colorings created from fruits, vegetables, and seeds.

Some types of jello may use different sweeteners and flavors, and some may even use natural food colorings. Because many different companies make jello, it’s best to read the ingredients list to determine exactly what’s in the jello you're buying.

Is jello good for you?

Jello is generally a low-calorie and fat-free food. But it’s also low in nutrients, containing very few vitamins and minerals.

For example, one ½ cup serving of orange Jell-O contains:

  • 80 calories
  • 2 grams of protein
  • 19 grams of carbohydrates
  • 80 milligrams of sodium

Unless you choose sugar-free Jello, it will also be very high in sugar, making it a poor nutritional choice.

Jello continues to be a common staple in many diets, but its overall poor nutritional value makes it an unhealthy food choice. Many people are also wary of the artificial ingredients it contains and their possible health effects.

(Video) Why Is Gelatin Good for You?

Health benefits of gelatin

Although jello isn’t a well-rounded, nutritious food, its main ingredient, gelatin, does have several health benefits.

Gelatin contains proteins and amino acids, including collagen, which can reduce joint pain and improve the strength and flexibility of your body’s tissues and tendons. Collagen is also widely praised for its ability to improve skin hydration and elasticity and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Although it might be tempting to eat more jello simply to reap the health effects of collagen, the amount found in jello isn’t nearly enough to provide any noticeable benefits.

Gelatin is also a rich source of glycine, an amino acid that your body uses to create protein. Your body naturally produces glycine, but it's also found in many foods. Research has indicated that glycine may:

  • Improve muscle and brain performance, including short-term memory, intelligence, and reasoning
  • Help people with type 2 diabetes manage their blood sugar levels
  • Reduce your risk of a heart attack

Gelatin can even have an impact on sleep quality, especially among people with insomnia.

Other foods containing gelatin include:

  • Yogurt
  • Chewing gum
  • Gummy bears
  • Marshmallows
  • Ice cream
  • Vitamins
  • Soups
  • Sauces
  • Gravy
  • Whipped cream
  • Icing and frosting for baked goods
QUESTION According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

Is jello vegetarian?

Jello’s main ingredient, gelatin, is made with animal products, so it’s not vegetarian or vegan. Although jello isn’t suitable for vegetarians, another similar food product, called agar agar, is a good alternative. It’s derived from seaweed and is sometimes marketed as “gelatin,” but it’s vegan.

Like jello, agar agar has little nutritional value, but it’s an excellent substitute for vegetarian or vegan recipes that require a gelatin-like ingredient.

Many grocery stores have agar agar in the natural foods section. It’s useful in a variety of dishes, including:

  • Pudding
  • Jelly
  • Cheesecake
  • Ice cream
  • Gummy candies
  • Mousse

Should jello be a part of my diet?

Including or excluding jello from your diet mainly comes down to personal preference. Jello is not the healthiest food option, but eating it in moderation likely won’t hurt you. Even though it contains artificial ingredients and has very little nutritional value, many people still eat jello because they enjoy its flavor, consistency, and convenience.

For a healthier alternative, avoid buying packaged jello mixes or pre-packaged jello cups. Instead, make your own jello at home with grass-fed beef gelatin, fruit juice, and a natural sweetener like honey or agave.

(Video) Amazing Gelatin Health Benefits You Never Thought Existed - Jello Properties and Its Benefits

With a homemade version, you can still end up with delicious, brightly colored jello depending on what type of juice blend you use. The main difference is that you can limit or eliminate the refined sugars, artificial flavors, and additives found in the processed versions.

Vegetarians, vegans, and people with a gelatin allergy should avoid eating jello unless made at home with a gelatin alternative that meets their dietary needs.

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Medically Reviewed on 9/14/2022



American Chemical Society: "Eating with Your Eyes: The Chemistry of Food Colorings."

American Journal of Industrial Medicine: "The carcinogenic effects of aspartame: The urgent need for regulatory re-evaluation."

Annual Review of Food Science and Technology: "Collagen and gelatin."

British Journal of Anaesthesia: "Anaphylactic shock after sensitization to gelatin."

Center for Science In the Public Interest: "Food Dyes: A Rainbow Of Risks."

Chemical & Engineering News: "What's That Stuff? JELL-O:The quintessential American dish is a part of everyone's childhood."

Chicago Section of the American Chemical Society: "Jell-O: Chemistry In a Box."

Current Medical Research and Opinion: "24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain."

(Video) Dr. Joe Schwarcz on the chemistry of Jell-O

Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison: "Natural and Artificial Flavors."

Diabetes: "A Glycine-Insulin Autocrine Feedback Loop Enhances Insulin Secretion From Human ß-Cells and Is Impaired in Type 2 Diabetes."

Environmental Health Perspectives: "Diet and Nutrition: The Artificial Food Dye Blues."

Environmental Working Group: "Jell O Gelatin Dessert, Orange."

Experimental Gerontology: "Effects of creatine supplementation on cognitive function of healthy individuals: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials."

FoodData Central: "Seaweed, agar, raw."

Gelatin Manufacturers Institute of America: "Frequently Asked Questions."

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Collagen."

Industrial Gums: "Polysaccharides and Their Derivatives."

Journal of Biological Chemistry: "Mapping the ligand-binding sites and disease-associated mutations on the most abundant protein in the human, type I collagen."

Journal of Pharmacological Sciences: "New therapeutic strategy for amino acid medicine: glycine improves the quality of sleep."

Journal of Pharmacology & Pharmacotherapeutics: "Sugar substitutes: Health controversy over perceived benefits."

Journal of the American Heart Association: "Plasma Glycine and Risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction in Patients With Suspected Stable Angina Pectoris."

Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health: "Splenda alters gut microflora and increases intestinal p-glycoprotein and cytochrome p-450 in male rats."

MedlinePlus: "Gelatin."

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Nutrients: "Oral Intake of Low-Molecular-Weight Collagen Peptide Improves Hydration, Elasticity, and Wrinkling in Human Skin: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study."

Nutrition Reviews: "Revisiting the safety of aspartame."

(Video) The History of Jell-O Salad

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Vegetarian Resource Group: "Questions About Food Ingredients."


Is Jello good or bad for you? ›

Jello is high in sugar and low in fiber and protein, making it an unhealthy food choice. One serving (6.4 grams of dry mix) of sugar-free jello made with aspartame has only 13 calories, 1 gram of protein and no sugar. Still, artificial sweeteners may have negative effects on your health ( 2 , 3 ).

Is Jell O gelatin good for you? ›

Gelatin contains proteins and antioxidants, which help protect the cells in the body, that can support the health of the digestive system, bones, skin, joints, and more. It's also an excellent source of: Calcium.

Does Jello help your stomach? ›

Foods that are high in starch can often calm an upset stomach by soaking up the excess acid. The tame taste also makes for easier consumption when your appetite may be a little off. Jell-O, or gelatin, is another virus-friendly food.

Why do hospitals serve Jello to patients? ›

Why Do They Give Hospital Patients Jell-O? Considering how easily digested Jell-O is because of it's smooth, liquid characteristics, patients in hospitals are given the nutrient dense protein for more reasons than just taste and digestion. It also proves to be a good source of calories because of the sugar content.

Does eating jello help your joints? ›

The collagen in gelatin gets broken down when you eat it. It wouldn't travel directly to your joints. Nonetheless, there is some evidence that gelatin could help ease joint pain in people with osteoarthritis. In animal studies, gelatin supplements also reduced swelling caused by rheumatoid arthritis.

What are the side effects of jello? ›

Gelatin can cause an unpleasant taste, sensation of heaviness in the stomach, bloating, heartburn, and belching. Gelatin can cause allergic reactions in some people. There is some concern about the safety of gelatin because it comes from animal sources.

Why do doctors recommend jello? ›

Why do doctors recommend jello? Glycine, the amino acid found in gelatin, has anti-inflammatory properties that not only accelerate wound healing, but they improve the quality of an individual's sleep.

Is jello good for immune system? ›

Gelatin contains an amino acid called glycine, which helps regulate the immune system, reducing damage caused by uncontrolled inflammation. It helps people fight serious diseases like sepsis, liver damage, ulcers, and kidney injuries.

Is Jello good for your colon? ›

Gelatine also helps seal the colon so that nutrients may be absorbed. It helps food gel within the stomach for more consistent digestion; reduces heartburn, ulcers, and acid reflux by binding acids with the foods and can also help break down fats and proteins which will make it easier for your body to absorb.

Is Jello good for your intestines? ›

Gelatin provides amino acids like glycine that strengthen the gut lining and therefore lower inflammation. Glycine is used by doctors to help improve digestive, joint, cardiovascular, cognitive and skin health.

Does eating jello help your hair grow? ›

Research shows that taking gelatin can also improve hair thickness and growth. One study gave either a gelatin supplement or a placebo for 50 weeks to 24 people with alopecia, a type of hair loss. Hair numbers increased by 29% in the group given gelatin compared to just over 10% in the placebo group.

Does jello help with constipation? ›

Gelatin also absorbs water and helps keep fluid in the digestive tract, promoting good intestinal transit and healthy bowel movements.

Does jello help coughing? ›

The gelatin in Jell-O does wonders for coating your throat. While tea and other over-the-counter products attempt the same result, they just don't do it like Jell-O can. Honey is a great addition as well due to its antimicrobial properties (and its superb taste).

Why do hospitals keep it cold inside? ›

Hospitals combat bacteria growth with cold temperatures. Keeping cold temperatures help slow bacterial and viral growth because bacteria and viruses thrive in warm temperatures. Operating rooms are usually the coldest areas in a hospital to keep the risk of infection at a minimum.

Does eating jello help with wrinkles? ›

Eating gelatin may help boost collagen levels and support skin elasticity. A 2016 study found that ingesting collagen helped the skin retain moisture and reduced wrinkles in participants.

What foods lubricate your joints? ›

Consuming healthy fats can increase joint health and lubrication. Foods high in healthy fats include salmon, trout, mackerel, avocados, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, and chia seeds. The omega-3 fatty acids in these foods will assist in joint lubrication.

What is the healthiest gelatin? ›

Whole-protein gelatin is better for improving gut health. It helps carry fluid through the intestines and can even coat the lining of the digestive tract as a soothing and protective layer. This is the type used to make gummy snacks and desserts and must be mixed into warm liquids.

Is Jello a inflammatory food? ›

Gelatin, with it's anti-inflammatory properties, has also been shown to reduce the pain and inflammation of arthritis. Gelatin helps your body release toxins ~ Glycine, an amino acid found in gelatin, assists the liver to efficiently remove toxins from our system.

What foods cause thick hair? ›

The 13 Best Foods for Hair Growth
  • Eggs. Eggs are a great source of protein and biotin, two nutrients that are essential for hair growth. ...
  • Berries. Berries are loaded with beneficial compounds and vitamins that may support hair growth. ...
  • Spinach. ...
  • Fatty fish. ...
  • Sweet potatoes. ...
  • Avocados. ...
  • Nuts. ...
  • Seeds.

What drink makes your hair grow faster? ›

Nutrafol's supplements are natural all the way.
  • Aloe vera juice. Aloe vera juice helps you prevent hair loss. ...
  • Kiwi juice. Enriched with vitamin E, kiwi juice will make your hair grow faster, but make sure to apply it only from time to time. ...
  • Onion juice. ...
  • Spinach juice. ...
  • Garlic juice. ...
  • Cucumber juice. ...
  • Coriander juice. ...
  • Carrot juice.
Jul 13, 2017

What are the disadvantages of Jello? ›

Gelatin can cause an unpleasant taste, sensation of heaviness in the stomach, bloating, heartburn, and belching. Gelatin can cause allergic reactions in some people. There is some concern about the safety of gelatin because it comes from animal sources.

Is it bad to eat too much Jello? ›

When taken by mouth: Gelatin is commonly consumed in foods. It is possibly safe when used in larger amounts as medicine, short-term. But taking high doses of 15 grams daily might increase the risk for side effects, including sore throat, swollen gums, and mouth sores.

Why do doctors recommend Jello? ›

Why do doctors recommend jello? Glycine, the amino acid found in gelatin, has anti-inflammatory properties that not only accelerate wound healing, but they improve the quality of an individual's sleep.

Is Jello healthy for weight loss? ›

Can Jello Help You Maintain Weight Loss? Previous research has shown that gelatin can suppress short-term appetite more than other sources of protein; one study showed a breakfast that contained gelatin as a protein source reduced food intake at lunch by 20% compared to other proteins.

What nasty ingredient is in Jello? ›

Gelatin. This probably wouldn't scare you if you found it in an ingredient list. But gelatin (commonly found in Jell-O, yogurt, candy and more) is actually kind of gross. Gelatin is actually made from collagen – a protein taken from animal skins, often pigs.

Is Jello bad for digestion? ›

Gelatine also helps seal the colon so that nutrients may be absorbed. It helps food gel within the stomach for more consistent digestion; reduces heartburn, ulcers, and acid reflux by binding acids with the foods and can also help break down fats and proteins which will make it easier for your body to absorb.

Can eating too much Jello Constipate you? ›

Limit binding foods such as apples, bananas, rice, cooked carrots, cheese, and gelatin such as fruit snacks and Jell-O®. Limit milk and dairy products (substitute with non-dairy and soy products) until constipation is gone.

Is jello good for inflammation? ›

If you exercise a lot, eating gelatin can help keep your joints healthy and pain-free. Also, if you have inflammatory joint or bone diseases like arthritis or osteoporosis, getting adequate gelatin can potentially help you manage inflammation and pain in your joints, and build stronger bones.

What are the 5 foods that burn belly fat? ›

7 Foods that Burn Belly Fat
  • Beans. “Becoming a bean lover can help you lose weight and whittle your middle,” registered dietitian Cynthia Sass told Today. ...
  • Swap your beef for salmon. ...
  • Yogurt. ...
  • Red bell peppers. ...
  • Broccoli. ...
  • Edamame. ...
  • Diluted vinegar.

Does jello help dehydration? ›

Jell-O is one of the easiest treats to whip up thanks to the fact that you just add water, and that makes it a surprisingly hydrating dessert, as well.

Is jello a Superfood? ›

Yes, gelatin. This ancient super food can remedy health ailments by healing holes in the gut, filling in nutrients missing from the Standard American Diet, and provide the structural matrix for your skin, hair, muscles, and bones.


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