Recently, I have been having fun playing with gelatin. And this little “experiment” was a hit at my house. Made with just a few ingredients, it has a bright mango flavour and a unique texture that’s reminiscent of panna cotta — kind of like jello and pudding had a baby... Intrigued?!? Well, the good news is, it’s crazy easy to make, great for the gut, and packed with healthy fats, protein and adaptogens, too.
For anyone unfamiliar with gelatin, it is a water-soluble protein derived from collagen. It is nearly colourless and tasteless and works as a gelling agent — hence the jello-like texture of my pudding.
Collagen is a natural protein found predominantly in skin, bones, joints and ligaments as well as the digestive tract. Our bodies make collagen using specific amino acids that we consume through food. The main collagen-forming amino acids are glycine, proline and hydroxyproline. Unfortunately, as we age, our bodies produce less and lower-quality collagen. This contributes to the wrinkles, joint problems and reduction in bone density and metabolism that many of us have already started to experience!
Research also suggests that adequate collagen is necessary to balance the gut microbiome and maintain a healthy digestive tract. In addition to acting as a prebiotic, collagen is believed to reduce inflammation and support the integrity of the mucosal barrier or gut lining. This helps to prevent what is sometimes referred to as the "leaky gut syndrome".
In a leaky gut, undigested proteins and microbes are allowed to pass through the intestinal wall. Over time, this may lead to chronic inflammation and dysfunction of the immune system and gut-brain-axis. Leaky gut is believed to be associated with numerous medical conditions, including arthritis, eczema, nutrient malabsorption, chronic fatigue, functional gut disorders like irritable bowel syndrome, and mental and neurocognitive disorders such as depression and autism.
To help our bodies make collagen, we must first ensure an adequate intake of the amino acid building blocks. Good food sources include bone broth, eggs, and white fish such as cod. Vegans can get the necessary amino acids from plant-based foods such as legumes (including peanuts), soy, brewer’s and nutritional yeast, and spirulina.
There are also a number of grass-fed gelatin (which is basically an easily digested cooked form of collagen) and oral collagen supplements available. While more evidence is needed, studies indicate that these supplements may reduce the visible signs of skin aging and improve joint and arthritis symptoms.
And Why Maca?
Native to Peru, maca has a slightly earthy, butterscotch taste and is rich in vitamins and minerals. Touted as the "Incan superfood", it has been used for millennia to increase stamina and endurance. Maca root powder is also a wonderful herbal "adaptogen". This means it helps the body to lower cortisol levels and deal with stress. Consumption may help to relieve anxiety while simultaneously boosting energy, concentration, and even libido and sexual function. Here I have used gelatinized maca since it is easier to digest.
Mango “Panna Cotta'“ Recipe
Ingredients for 4 servings:
1 can (1.5 cups) full-fat coconut milk
2 cups peeled, diced ripe mango
1 Tbsp gelatinized maca powder (optional)
optional raw honey, stevia, Lakanto monkfruit, or sweetener of choice, adjusted to taste
2 to 3 Tbsp grass-fed gelatin (use more for firmer consistency)
optional toppings: fresh fruit, bee pollen, diced dark chocolate, toasted coconut chips, nuts/seeds, granola, coconut yogurt and beetroot powder, or toppings of choice
Put coconut milk, mango, and maca in food processor or blender container. Blend until smooth and sweeten to taste.
Add gelatin and blend again.
Transfer pudding to a bowl or single serving ramekins or mason jars and refrigerate overnight.
Serve chilled with your favourite toppings. Mango "Panna Cotta” can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 4 to 5 days.