Last week, we talked about all the Benefits of Protein. Today, I want to cover all things collagen specifically. There will always be “hypes” that come up that suddenly everyone follows and claim to be the “next best health thing” (cue in celery juice….it was not!!). It very much feels like collagen could be considered one of them. Is it worth the hype, and does it make sense to start incorporating it into your diet?
What is Collagen?
Let us start with the basics. We are all made of collagen. It is the most abundant protein in our bodies. There are currently 28 known collagen “family members”. About 80 – 90% can further be classified into Type I, II, or III, with ca. 80% actually being Type I. Most of the collagen in our skin is Type I. Type II is usually found in our cartilages, and Type III can be found in our blood vessels, for example.
Why Should I Care About Collagen?
As we age, collagen begins to break down, whilst at the same time you produce less of it. When we are 40 we have half the amount of collagen in our body than when we were 20!! This becomes visible in fine lines and wrinkles that start to form.
As just indicated, collagen provides structure and elasticity to our skin, reduces roughness, and improves hydration. When these things are optimally taken care of, they create a youthful appearance. But collagen does so much more than that!
The Benefits of Collagen
- There has been some research that suggests that collagen may help with healing the lining of your gut. We come back to this point time and time again – a healthy gut that optimally absorbs nutrients from our food equals not only great nourishment but also a strong immune system. It is a double feel-good whammy!
- Collagen may also improve calcium absorption, and bone mineral density in postmenopausal women. This protects our bodies from bone degradation. A loss of bone density can lead to chronic illnesses, such as osteoporosis or arthritis
- Collagen may prevent arterial stiffness, due to collagen in our blood vessels, and also exhilarates wound healing
- It is known to help with sports recovery
- I do not think a lot of research has been done on this but I oftentimes hear people saying that their hair and nails have gotten a shine, become thicker, and stronger as well
Have I hyped you up yet 😛? Can you see why collagen may be here to stay?
What Foods Contain Collagen?
Unfortunately, a lot of the food that contains collagen is not something that everyone necessarily loves to eat. It can be found in the bone of animals, in the skin of fish, chicken feet, or the comb from a rooster, for example. Now you know why bone (or chicken) broth is considered good for you, especially when you are having trouble with your digestive tract. Collagen production and bioavailability are definitely supported and powered by plants though – think foods high in Vitamin C and trace minerals, such as berries, citrus fruits, garlic, and leafy greens.
If you are not into eating chicken feet (no judgment either way) – there is some good news. Collagen can be supplemented! It comes in a powder format that dissolves super easily in either water or warm food (think tea, coffee, porridge, etc.) and is virtually tasteless. And trust me, I am super picky with taste, especially in any powder form – you cannot taste it. When you are looking for collagen, check that is it hydrolyzed as research has shown that the peptides get digested and absorbed in the small intestine and then get delivered to the target tissue optimally. Most of the collagen out there tends to be either marine or bovine based, which is mainly Type I, so the same one that is primarily part of our body and skin.
Collagen and Dietary Requirements
Collagen is not vegan, nor vegetarian. So adding it may not be an option for some dietary lifestyles. If you do not want to include collagen into your diet – remember that there is no one “fix” to health anyways and that balance is always key! That means a diet rich in antioxidant foods, plenty of water, exercise, and adequate levels of sleep also contribute to us looking and feeling youthful. There is not one “fountain of youth” (else some company would already be making money off it 😉).