Today we’re going back. Way back. Jello salad, retro back.
Though I cringe now, I adored Jello jigglers while I was growing up. You can’t blame a kid, really: commercial jello is sweet and available in an array of alluringly bright, resort-type colours, the kind that speak in Hawaiian shirts, strawberry daiquiris and chunky jewelry. Spooned straight from the fridge it’s cool to the tongue, a slight reprieve on sticky humid days like the ones we routinely experienced in Essex County, like the ones we’re wading through now in the Six, knee-deep in an Indian summer. Our wine glasses collect fruit flies and our foreheads are slick with sweat beads. While diet-obsessed me was sold on the promise of low-fat and high-taste, I’d later use jello as a tool to cope with and reduce anxiety and depression, amazed at what a pool of powdered cartilage and bone, dissolved in equal parts cold and hot liquid, could change. Apparently history does repeat itself — just never quite in the same way.
Granted, today’s recipe shares a sliver-thin relationship to the store-bought, boxed variety, which is loaded down with low-quality artificial ingredients such as dyes and poorly sourced gelatin. But fear not: you can help to reduce anxiety naturally out of a few ingredients, and the swaps are simple. How can a jello recipe using pastured gelatin directly support the nervous system and reduce anxiety? Let’s talk.
REDUCE ANXIETY: GLYCINE AND A CASE FOR SNOUT-TO-TAIL EATING
I discussed why eating a muscle meat-only diet, particularly one that doesn’t include bones, skin, cartilage, and so on, is possibly detrimental to the human body and can lead to inflammation. This may explain the link we sometimes see between high meat consumption and cardiovascular issues.) Why? Because some amino acids, such as methionine, require other nutrients (like B-vitamins) to break them down. That said, snout-to-tail eating – the practice of eating the entire animal, from beginning to end — helps to eliminate this nutrient depletion issue and supports good mood.
Chicken skin, for example, possesses the nutrients we require to break down methionine, therefore preserving our vitamin stores. This is why I emphasize that “lean meat”, stripped of its natural fats, skin and so on, is not a whole food. Despite so many opinions to the contrary, “lean meat” is not something we should aspire to consume ample amounts of, particularly if we’re invested in supporting the health of our hearts. Okay, SB, but my heart is doing rad. What does this have to do with my primary issue, reducing anxiety and depression?
I hear you. Here’s the 411: glycine, one of the allegedly non-essential amino acids present in gelatin, is an inhibitory neurotransmitter and promotes natural sleep. For most (all?) individuals suffering from anxiety or depression, sleep is habitually compromised; restless sleep, difficulty falling asleep, and insomnia are all common complaints. I’d also argue that sleep is essential to reducing anxiety. Glycine’s nerve-stabilizing action is protective against epilepsy, too, as it increases the amount of stimulation required to activate nerves. Gelatin (and glycine) doesn’t just help to regulate sleep; it also promotes healthy breathing and heart rhythm.
“Glycine is a nonessential (or neutral) amino acid that has profound anti-anxiety properties. Receptors for glycine are found in the vertebrate CNS, spinal cord and brain stem areas, and are equally distributed throughout mammalian tissues. The most unique aspect of glycine’s mechanism of action has to do with its presumed antagonism of norepinephrine (NE). When an individual experiences anxiety or panic, NE is released and creates feelings of anxiety and panic. Glycine antagonizes the release of NE, thus mitigating anxiety and panic and feelings of over-arousal.”
When supplemented, glycine promotes recovery from strokes and seizures, as well as helps to improve learning and memory. On every single type of cell in your body, glycine — present in gelatin — shares the same kind of quieting, protective anti-stress action and thereby helps to reduce anxiety. While trytophan (serotonin’s precursor) and serotonin are both necessary for good health and happiness, excess amounts can cause or contribute to a range of issues, such as the formation of more cortisol (serotonin) and suppressed thyroid function (tryptophan when combined with excess cysteine, another muscle meat-derived amino acid.) An ongoing and ample supply of glycine appears to prevent or correct both issues.
OTHER BENEFITS OF CONSUMING GLYCINE (GELATIN)
Glycine consumption or supplementation has been scientifically linked to the prevention or alleviation of the following conditions: fibrosis, free radical damage, inflammation, cell death from ATP (energy production), mitochondrial damage, diabetes, and more.
Inflammation is a big umbrella term, so I’m going to break it down further. Inflammationincludes anything with “itis” in it, including colitis, sinusitis, osteoarthritis, and arthritis, and is directly involved in any autoimmune condition, including Celiac’s Disease, Hashimoto’s (thyroid), Graves (thyroid), Addison’s Disease (severe adrenal fatigue or HPA-axis dysregulation/dysfunction), and many, many more. What we call free radical damage is involved in cancer and aging (so is cell death.) Because gelatin is an incomplete protein (doesn’t contain all 9 essential amino acids), using it often as a protein source presents an easy way to restrict consumption of heavyweight amino acids associated with many of aging’s issues.
Glycine’s antispastic activity has been used to alleviate the muscle spasms of multiple sclerosis, and is thought to moderate some of the symptoms of schizophrenia.
The takeaway here is this: when looking at issues such as anxiety and depression, you want to protect your pretty (or handsome, whichever you prefer) little cells, each and every last one of them. Gelatin helps to reduce anxiety because it supports the nervous system, but it also supports your body as a whole. As I’ll explore further in upcoming posts, it takes a true curated community of sorts of supplements and whole foods to support anxiety and prevent disease because every single thing in your body is intrinsically linked to every other single thing.
Stress, as Mr. Ray Peat, Ph.D., says, is primarily an energy issue which leads to a series of hormonal and metabolic reactions. And while some stress is inevitable, it’s not as unavoidable or impermeable as we’ve been conditioned to believe. Here’s a simple recipe for jello that you can easily make at home in a matter of minutes and help to reduce anxiety (the tough part, friends, is waiting.)
REDUCE ANXIETY NATURALLY: CONSUME MORE GELATIN WITH THESE TIPS:
- Dissolve a tablespoon of gelatin in a mug of tea or blend into your morning coffee;
- Add gelatin to soups or stews – it will help to thicken the end result and boost the nutrition;
- Use gelatin to make custards, terrines, and other desserts of that nature
- Recommended dosage is 1 tbsp or more per day. As with anything, please use caution and increase gradually.
- I use Vital Proteins gelatin, which is made from pastured bovine hides from Brazil. It is kosher, minimally processed, and contains no additives or preservatives.
Southern Belle Peach Jello Recipe
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