The days of relegating collagen to face creams is over. Collagen is coming into its own and is anything from in protein powders, snack bars, drinks, and supplements. Collagen is taking over the grocery store aisles in a big way. But what is collagen? Do we need it? What does it even do?
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the main protein in our bodies. It’s essential in building tissue, muscles, bones, skin, tensions, and our digestive system. It also helps keep our skin elastic and our joints and tendons together.
There are 16 different types of collagen and four major types. Type 1 provides structure for your skin, tendons, bones, ligaments, teeth and connective tissue. Type 2 supports cartilage growth, as well as the fluid in your eyes. Type 3 also supports skin, muscle and blood vessels. Type 4 is found in skin and acts as a barrier between the lining of one body surface from other connecting tissue.
Do I Need to Use Collagen?
Though collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, there are things that affect collagen production and use in the body. As you age, you start to produce less collagen, which affects skin elasticity and joint health.
If you’re transitioning off a diet high in refined carbs or sugar, that can also affect the health of collagen in your body. The excess sugar in your blood bonds to protein or fat molecules in your body and hardens, slowing them down and making them less effective.
Smoking and overexposure to UV rays can also affect your body’s ability to produce collagen. There are autoimmune diseases that cause the body to attack its own collagen, tissues, or organs, like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma.
The Benefits of Using Collagen
Supplementing with collagen can help multiple organs and systems of your body.
Improves Skin Health: As mentioned above, you produce less collagen as you age. Providing your body with collagen can help keep your skin healthy and hydrated.
Supports Strong Hair, Teeth and Nails: If you have nails that are soft or chip easily, you may need more collagen. Type 1 collagen is also essential for strong teeth, so if you want to fortify your smile, consider adding in collagen. Collagen can also promote hair growth.
Helps with Joint Pain: Collagen can help keep your joints lubricated, which can help reduce joint pain and possibly joint deterioration. This can be helpful for athletes who play high-impact sports, people with previous joint issues, those aging or those with autoimmune issues that affect the joints.
Helps Repair Digestive Lining: Collagen is a rich source of amino acids that can help seal holes in your digestive tract. Holes can be caused by large food particles that weren’t properly digested busting through the walls of your gut. It can lead to digestive issues, nutrient malabsorption, and autoimmune responses of your body attacking whatever’s leaked out.
Where to Get Collagen
You can add collagen to your diet or boost what collagen you already have in a variety of ways.
From Food: You can eat certain foods to boost the collagen production in your body naturally. Like other processes in our body, collagen production requires help from other vitamins and minerals. Vitamin C, vitamin A, magnesium and copper are needed to complete the synthesis. Foods high in vitamin C, A, magnesium or copper would be great to add or double down on in your diet. Switch them up after a few weeks to get more variety and nutrients.
Bone broth is a great way to get collagen. You can make your own or buy it in the freezer or broth section of the store. If you make your own, you can boost the collagen and gelatin content by adding in chicken feet. When the broth cools, it will gel up. To get the most high quality collagen from bone broth, make or buy bone broth that uses grass fed or pasture raised bones and organic produce.
From Powders/Pills: Collagen is also available in a powdered form that’s either loose or in capsules. This collagen is usually comes from either bovine animals (cattle) or from fish. Whenever possible, look for wild caught marine collagen or grass fed, pasture raised collagen so you’re getting a higher quality collagen to supplement with. You can follow the recommended dosing on the packaging.
How to Use Collagen
Once you’ve decided to try collagen as a supplement, you can incorporate in a few different ways.
In Drinks: Powdered collagen dissolves easily in hot or cold water and doesn’t have much of a flavor. You can mix in a tablespoon or two in your water, smoothie, coffee, tea, or any other drink you’re having during the day.
Mix it thoroughly so any clumps break down sooner rather than later. There are certain companies that sell flavored collagen powder, so if you don’t like drinking water, this could be another way to drink more water.
In Food: Because pure collagen is tasteless, you can also add it into food as well. You can add it into soups, baked goods, waffles, pancakes, energy balls, scrambled eggs, and chia pudding, just to name a few.
In Pill Form: If taking pills is easier for you, you can take collagen in a pill form. Consult the label for the amount to take, as well as when to take it.
As with other supplementation, consult with a nutrition or medical professional to see how supplementing with collagen will work with your health and fitness goals. However you decide to add more collagen in your diet, start with one, consistent way to get extra collagen. Give it a week or two to see if you’re getting results. Choose high quality and well sourced collagen to use in addition to the minimally processed, well sourced, unrefined foods you’re eating as part of your healthier lifestyle.
Aimée Suen is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner who shares nourishing, gluten-free recipes and nutrition wisdom at Small Eats. She is driven to help others enjoy whole foods and empower them to find their own healthy in all aspects of life, one small step at a time. When she’s not in the kitchen, she’s practicing yoga, in the gym, or learning something new. You can find Aimée on Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
Main Photo Credit: Luis Echeverri Urrea/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: tamayura/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Madeleine Steinbach/shutterstock.com; Fourth Photo Credit: Imagepocket/shutterstock.com