It’s almost in all creams, cosmetics, and even protein bars, protein powders, and pills, but what are the health benefits of collagen? And more importantly, is the hype worth it?
Spoiler alert: we think it is.
What is collagen?
It’s actually one of the most abundant proteins in the body and is found in muscles, skin, blood, bones, cartilage, and ligaments. Obviously, if it’s found in so many tissues, it must be pretty important, right? That’s because it forms the building blocks for:
- Skin — promotes elasticity
- Bones and muscles — hold them together
- Organs — protects them
- Tendons and joints — offers structural support
- Cell signaling — sends signals to fight inflammation and repair damaged cells
Glycine is one of the 21 amino acids found in the body and is the principal amino acid used to build collagen. Like many other processes in the body, collagen production starts to slow down as we age. To maintain its functions, the body needs about 10g of glycine per day to form enough collagen, but it can only produce roughly 3g on its own. Don’t worry; supplementation is where we fix that.
Health benefits of collagen
1. It eases joint pain
As we age, the cartilage in our joints starts to deteriorate and we may experience joint pain and aches. Supplementing with collagen may help reduce pain and ease discomfort.
2. It improves skin aging
One of the most well-known benefits of collagen is its ability to promote youthful-looking skin. It does this by improving the elasticity of the skin, making it look younger and more vibrant.
3. It helps build muscle and burn fat
As a major component of muscle tissue, there’s no doubt that collagen can help build muscle mass. Glycine, the major amino acid in collagen, is also a precursor to the synthesis of creatine, which is known to stimulate muscle growth.
PRO TIP: 30 minutes before a workout, mix 1-2 tbsp. of collagen hydrolysate powder with a little bit of high-quality vitamin C.
4. It supports digestive health
Collagen is a component of the connective tissue that lines our digestive tract and therefore helps to support and strengthen the protective lining of the GI tract. When the lining of the intestine is not fully intact, small particles escape through and can lead to what’s known as leaky gut syndrome.
5. It promotes a deeper sleep
Glycine is one of the amino acids that promote a deeper, more restorative sleep; it affects the neurotransmitters in the brain that control sleep quality.
Wondering how to get more collagen? Start here!
If taking collagen in a powder form or pill form doesn’t interest you, there are still plenty of options available. While most vegan forms are not collagen per se, they contain the nutrients and amino acids necessary to produce collagen in the body. Here’s a list of foods to incorporate into your diet on a regular basis:
- Meat (pork, beef) — more gelatinous parts of the animal contain more collagen (cheeks, oxtail, ribs, etc.)
- Poultry (whole chicken, turkey)
- Bone broth
- Wild caught fish (salmon, cod, tuna)
- Leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard)
- Chia seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
Keep in mind that the only way to absorb collagen directly is to consume it in its pure form (pill or powder). Alternatively, why not make a pot of bone broth? But don’t be grossed out of your bone broth looks like jello. The more gelatinous the broth, the higher the gelatin and collagen content – and the better it is for you!
Our favorite way to consume collagen is hot chocolate. Give it a try! Pour one can of full-fat (preferably organic) coconut milk into a small saucepan and heat on medium-low until it starts to simmer. Mix in a few squares of dark chocolate and a couple of teaspoons (or tablespoons, depending on how rich you like it) of cocoa powder to taste. Sweeten with 2-3 teaspoons of natural sweetener (birch-tree xylitol or monk fruit). Stir with a whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in 2 tablespoons of collagen hydrolysate powder (be careful you don’t mix too fast as it can become lumpy). I like to add a pinch of pink salt to intensify the flavors!
It seems as though all the hype around collagen is probably worth it. For such a simple compound, the benefits are endless. Smoothies, soups, broths, trail mix, seafood — the ways to consume it are also just as abundant.
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