Is Jello Good for Weight Loss? (Benefits of Gelatin Vs. Sugar) 

Weight Loss & Diets | Written by Nathan | Updated on 3 December 2021

Jello is a popular choice for many people on restrictive diets because it is fat-free, has limited calories, and is low carb. But do the benefits of gelatin outweigh the sugar contents, or is jello really good for weight loss?

We won’t bite off more than we can chew, but lets grab a spoon and dive right in as we explain the pros and cons of incorporating this jiggly food into your diet and whether or not it’s a good idea.

What is Jello?

Jell-o is a brand name owned by Kraft Foods, but this sweet dessert is generically referred to as “jello.” You know, the stuff jello shots are made of.

It is usually translucent with a hue added by food coloring components meant to reflect its flavor. It is sold in a variety of flavors and can be purchased in individual serving premixed pudding cups or boxed powders to mix at home yourself. There are both regular and sugar-free options on the market. 

For the sake of being comprehensive, see the following nutritional information for 100 grams of jello:

  • Calories: 300
  • Fat: 0g
  • Sodium: 337.5mg
  • Carbs: 71.2g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 71.2g
  • Protein: 7.5g

Its main ingredients include gelatin, large amounts of sugar, various artificial flavoring, artificial sweeteners, artificial colors, and different food coloring elements [4]. The main flavor component is sugar, and the ingredient that creates that familiar giggly texture is gelatin. Gelatin’s origins and its potential effects on health are discussed further in the following section.

Being that jello is a fat-free, low carb, and very low-calorie snack, many people trying to lose weight may initially think of it as a no-guilt treat because of these positive attributes. This is likely because many trending diets that claim to help maintain a person’s weight express that limiting the number of calories in your diet, along with keeping fat content and grams of carbohydrates low, are the main methods of enacting weight loss.

Now that we know more about its nutrient composition and characteristics, it’s time to look closer at the potential benefits of gelatin and jello for weight loss. 

Gelatin Health Benefits

Gelatin is made from collagen, a protein derived from animals and it has no taste and can be found in powder form, flakes, sheets, or supplements [1] [2]. Since gelatin is made from collagen, it may be referred to as hydrolyzed collagen and serves as the main ingredient for many vital structures of the body (such as skin, bones, tendons, and more) [6].  Since collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in animals, research has been proposed that gelatin could have potential health benefits but more research must be done [5]. This is the reason why the increased consumption of gelatin is allegedly beneficial to your development of healthy skin, hair, joints, bones, or other collagen-rich body components.

Some possible benefits of gelatin include:

  • Decreases the growth of cancer (studies were only done on mice and pigs)
  • Contributes towards bone and joint health
  • Minimize liver damage from alcohol consumption (a study done on rats shows glycine, an amino acid in gelatin serves as a protective barrier)
  • Improve gut flora
  • Assist with quality of sleep
  • Improves hair and skin
  • Help regulate blood sugar for those with type 2 diabetes
  • Helps with memory & attention

Again, many of these claims aren’t conclusive in humans but it can give you an idea of the potential benefits. 

It’s worth noting that there hasn’t been any allergic reaction from gelatin supplementation in food. But, individuals should be aware that gelatin found in vaccines can cause negative side effects in some, even though it’s quite rare.

This may lead you to think jello is good for weight loss, but research discussing gelatin and its potential health qualities generally refers to the intake of gelatin from supplements; and not necessarily from our happy go lucky friend, jello. Gelatin supplements contain a significantly higher quantity of gelatin than a typical serving of jello would contain. Therefore, there isn’t a study with evidence suggesting that the relatively low amount of gelatin in jello may help with weight loss or provide other beneficial health features previously listed.

If you would like to attempt to add more gelatin to your diet to possibly reap the potential rewards of increasing your collagen consumption, you may consider looking into the bone broth diet or other forms of supplementation instead.

 

Fat, Sugar, Nutrition and Weight Loss

Though jello is a low-calorie and fat-free snack, there are a few major drawbacks to it that need to be considered. The two main drawbacks to these sweet snacks for someone on a diet are the high sugar content and the low nutritional value per serving. The nutritional label for jello lists that it contains 285% of your daily sugar intake [9]. Wow! Not as “guilt free” as we first thought! Not only are large amounts of added sugar generally unhealthy, it could lead to cravings or blood sugar spikes and crashes [8]. These cravings could lead to a person to eat more than intended or more than instructed in their weight loss plan. 

The high sugar content present in jello would also be a negative feature and potentially very harmful for a person with diabetes. Due to this high sugar content, people with diabetes, or people that just want to limit their sugar consumption, often choose to eat sugar-free jello, which has its own health concerns. The specific health concerns regarding sugar-free jello and the artificial sweeteners it uses are discussed further in the following section.

The nutritional content in jello is also essentially nonexistent, so although it is a low-calorie snack, it is basically empty calories. “Empty calories” means that the calories from it lack a substantial helping of the vital nutritional components that are important for normal body function. There are vital macros or nutritional elements that need to be included in every person’s diet, such as fiber, protein, healthy fats, and more. Even though gelatin is considered a protein, the ratio of protein to sugars in jello is far too large for it to be considered a significant source of protein.

There is also a surprising amount of sodium present in jello. Harvard lists jello as containing 22% of your daily intake of sodium [9]. Many people are instructed by their doctor to limit their sodium intake because of heart disease and other health conditions. Sodium is used frequently in so many different foods that it can be difficult to stay below the recommended amount. Who would have thought of jello as a potential culprit of unnecessary sodium in your diet?

This overall low nutritional value is detrimental to a person trying to watch their weight because the ideal foods for weight loss are the foods that are nutritionally dense relative to the number of calories. Many people need to watch the amount of sugar and sodium they consume, so they may not want to add another source of those two nutrients to their regimen. For good health and weight loss, calorie counting should always be used in conjunction with nutrition considerations. Therefore, when considering if jello is good for weight loss, you must factor in the nutritional composition.

Are Artificial Sweeteners Healthy?

People with diabetes or persons just wanting to limit their daily sugar consumption may consider eating sugar-free jello as an alternative to regular jello but surprisingly, artificial sweeteners may be detrimental to your weight loss goals. Like most sugar-free foods, sugar-free jello is sweetened with artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, or sucralose. 

Perhaps counter to what you may have guessed, there is actually an increased correlation between consuming these high-intensity fake sugars and type 2 diabetes. Though it isn’t substantiated, it is hypothesized that this correlation could partly be due to the lack of calories in artificial sugars that typically follow a sweet-tasting food. This could lead someone to overeat to compensate for the lack of calories [7]. Therefore, a diabetic, or anyone wanting to resist sweet cravings, may consider limiting their consumption of these high-intensity fake sugars. 

You may have noticed there has been debate regarding artificial sugars and their effect on cancer, but the Food and Drug Administration has concluded that low amounts of approved sweeteners don’t lead to substantial cancer risk [3]. However, eating large amounts of sugar-free jello throughout your day or combining sugar-free jello with other sugar-free foods that also contain these fake sugars could mean you’re eating larger amounts of artificial sweeteners than approved as safe by the Food and Drug Administration.

Although research into the possible effects of food coloring additives on health and behavior is fairly new and not yet conclusive, some people try to avoid certain food coloring additives in their diets. If you are trying to avoid food coloring components, this would be another reason jello may not be your ideal choice for healthy eating. 

Making Healthier Jello

If you are a big fan of jello and want to find a healthier alternative, not all hope is lost! You may consider taking the time to make your own, better version of it at home with natural fruit juices and gelatin sheets. There are many recipes for homemade jello online and if you made your own, you could cut back on the sugar, add more gelatin, or change the flavoring components to healthier, more natural options. When making your own, you could also add other nutrient-dense foods like fruits, vegetables, or various health powders.

Though it certainly wouldn’t be as convenient as store-bought, could you imagine how many different types of healthy jello you could make?

Can Jello be Incorporated Into a Healthy Diet?

While jello may not be too bad when used as an occasional substitute for snacks that contain higher-calorie, higher fat, or a larger number of carbs, it doesn’t inherently contribute to weight loss or a healthy diet. 

The low nutritional value makes jello empty calories and combined with the high sugar content, makes jello generally an unhealthy option for someone trying to lose weight. 

 

Conclusion

If a person is trying to lose weight there are much healthier food options than jand the gelatin jello contains does not outweigh the sugar or lack of nutrients. An ideal snack contains a good balance of important macronutrients and micronutrients where jello doesn’t provide much of either. That being said, limited jello consumption may be acceptable if it’s an occasional treat, but it has no place in a healthy diet. 

So if you’re wondering whether or not jello is good for weight loss, the answer is no. And there’s plenty of healthy snacks to substitute its place. Don’t get caught up in popular trends or fads and always look at a food choices nutritional content before eating it on a daily basis.

References

[1] Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, November 11). Collagen. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collagen.

[2] Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, November 16). Gelatin. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gelatin.

[3] Strawbridge, H. (2020, January 29). Artificial sweeteners: Sugar-free, but at what cost? Harvard Health. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030.

[4] Wikimedia Foundation. (2021, November 2). Jell-O. Wikipedia. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jell-O.

[5] U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.). Gelatin: Medlineplus supplements. MedlinePlus. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://medlineplus.gov/druginfo/natural/1051.html.

[6] Collagen. The Nutrition Source. (2021, May 27). Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/collagen/.

[7] Aller, E. E. J. G., Abete, I., Astrup, A., Martinez, J. A., & van Baak, M. A. (2011, March). Starches, sugars and obesity. Nutrients. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3257742/.

[8] ODPHP. (n.d.). Cut down on added sugars. Cut Down on Added Sugars. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/DGA_Cut-Down-On-Added-Sugars.pdf?fbclid=IwAR2thK0vcfym87sIO1v1bM0ch2aJkllNIyG5nY1Uj9NrYRxLA-WR3Lmoe4M.

[9] Harvard. (n.d.). Nutrition Label for Jello. Food Pro Huds. Retrieved November 22, 2021, from http://www.foodpro.huds.harvard.edu/foodpro/label.asp?locationNum=15&locationName=Dining%2BHall&dtdate=3%2F22%2F2017&RecNumAndPort=185019%2A3.

About the Author

Nathan

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.