Collagen is a group of proteins originated from the hides, hooves and bones of animals. It is the most abundant protein in the human body and an important building block. The amino acids present in collagen are the glue that holds our structure together and commonly supports the integrity of the skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, bones, as well as parts of digestion. There are many different types of collagen in our body, but most are Type I, II or III, with the majority being Type I collagen. In our twenties, the collagen in our bodies starts to decline, leading to stiffer joints, weaker bones, wrinkles, and sagging skin.
Our ancestors and traditional cultures around the world largely consumed collagen and gelatin too. No part of an animal was wasted and the bones were often used to make mineral rich and nutrient dense broths. These nutrients are not nearly as abundant in the modern diet as we are less likely to eat nose to tail. We tend to consume a lot of muscle meats (i.e. chicken breasts) which do not contain this important protein and rarely other parts of the animal.
Two essential amino acids abundant in collagen are proline and glycine. We need to consume them through our diet because our body cannot make them. Glycine is an amino acids with many functions. It helps build lean muscle mass and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Proline is important for stimulating collagen synthesis and works as an antioxidant by scavenging free radicals to prevent cell damage. Both of these amino acids help heal the stomach and prevent stress-induced ulcers making them important for supporting digestion.
My favorite way to get in this important nutrient is in homemade or high quality store bought bone broth. Not everyone has the access or time to make their own broths and store bought broth can be quite pricy. That’s where collagen powders come in. They are an accessible way to replenish your body’s collagen supply from years of undereating natural sources of collage in an easy to consume powder form. The collagen powders are tasteless, have no texture and easily blend right into foods and beverages. You can add it to your morning coffee or tea, smoothies, soups or other recipes. You can also bake with it. It’s important to note that many topical beauty products contain collagen, but they are not entirely effective. Collagen molecules are too large to be absorbed through the skin. We need to consume it internally to get the benefits.
Collagen is not all created equal. Like all of our food, the sourcing and quality of the collagen we consume matters, especially if it is something we utilize daily. It is important to find a brand that sources their collagen peptides purely from grass-fed, pasture-raised cattle or from sustainable wild-caught fish. This will ensure that the collagen you buy is pure and doesn’t contain toxins or additives and comes from healthy animals.
Collagen is one of few supplements I believe everyone could benefit from taking daily, especially if you don’t have access to bone broth. The benefits of consuming it are abundant. From more youthful looking skin to reducing inflammation, and supporting digestion, collagen is a nutritional powerhouse that is worth considering to support your health for the long term. Though please bear in mind that not all supplements are right for everyone. If you are unsure if collagen is right for you, please check with your doctor or functional medicine practitioner.