The One Blood-Sugar-Balancing Ingredient I'm Adding To All Of My Thanksgiving Desserts

Photo by Hugo Aitken / Unsplash / Unsplash

Here at mbg, we believe that coming together and celebrating community is a key part of wellness—which is why, this Thanksgiving, we won't be asking you to forgo turkey for salad or sacrifice diving into a bowl of stuffing. Instead, we're arming you with little tweaks that let you keep the best foods of Thanksgiving and ditch the worst (hello, food coma). From the one ingredient that'll make your traditional desserts gut-healing and blood-sugar-balancing to the pregame breakfast your stomach will thank you for, think of it as having your pumpkin pie and eating it too. That's something we can all be grateful for. 

While I'm all about making healthier versions of classic desserts (these grain-free, sugar-free Salted Caramel Pecan Pie Tarts have been a staple at my last 3 Thanksgivings), sometimes I just want to make the originals a little bit healthier.

And that's where my favorite dessert booster comes in: collagen peptides. You may already be familiar with it as the ingredient you froth into your matcha lattes or scoop into your morning smoothies. What you may not know, however, is that, in reasonable amounts, it doesn't change the flavor or texture of baked goods (unlike its cousin, gelatin, which is basically the OG texture manipulator).

According to mbg health editor Gretchen Lidicker, "Collagen is a family of fibrous proteins that are actually the most abundant proteins in the animal kingdom. There are at least 16 different types, and each helps make up the structure of our skin, bone, cartilage, and muscle." It's known for helping with gut health, skin health, and inflammation—according to William Cole, D.C., IFMCP, a functional medicine expert and mbg Collective member, his patients experience "their skin becoming brighter, nails becoming stronger, hair becoming more luminous, and they often experience less joint pain!"

The main reason I'm adding it to my Thanksgiving desserts this year, though? Its protein content. Collagen contains about 18 grams of protein per serving, and all of that protein helps stabilize blood sugar when you're consuming a lot of sugar—say, when you're diving into that third helping of Grandma's pumpkin pie.

To reap the benefits and step off the blood sugar roller coaster, just add two scoops of unflavored grass-fed collagen (I buy Vital Proteins, which is derived from pastured cows and third-party tested to be heavy-metal-free; Primal Kitchen is also a good choice) to the liquid part of any pie batter, healthy or otherwise, then carry on with the rest of the instructions as listed. One note: If there are any vegans in your family, you'll want to eschew the collagen, as it's derived from cows (for bovine collagen) or fish (for marine collagen). If you want to reap the same benefits, I love sprinkling hulled hemp hearts on the top of the pie for the last 5 minutes of baking. They add a decent amount of complete protein (rare for a plant protein!) and, when they turn golden, add a lovely, nutty crunch that plays well with most dessert flavor profiles. Just watch them carefully to make sure the delicate fats don't burn!

Want some dessert inspo for your base?

This pumpkin pie is grain-free.

This pumpkin pie features a gut-healing secret ingredient! (Any guesses?)

This chocolate pie features squash (!!).

This vegan apple pie melds modern and traditional flavors.

Want to learn how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Kelly LeVeque.

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