Collagen 101 – Everything You Need To Know
Curious about collagen? By now you’ve certainly seen this buzz-worthy trend hitting shelves in the cosmetic aisle, supplement aisle and now the grocery aisle. So, is collagen the fountain of youth or an edible hoax? Let’s break it down in today’s post.
U.S. consumers are expected to spend $122 million on collagen products this year. That’s up 30% from last year. As collagen gains awareness and popularity, many questions arise as to what it is, how well it works and concerns about its safety.
What is collagen?
Collagen is the main structural protein found in the human body. It’s the foundation of our bones, skin cartilage, blood vessels, hair ligaments, and more. When it comes to our joints and tendons, in simplest terms, it’s the “glue” that helps hold the body together.
Our ability to produce collage on our own diminishes around age 20 to 25, so we must supplement our diets to keep collagen production going. The system of modern food processing in which the parts of the animals where collagen is found, connective tissue and bones, are being discarded so it’s difficult to get enough collagen from our food these days.
One way to make sure you’re consuming enough collagen is to take a collagen supplement. In the past few years, there has been some impressive studies showing that ingestible collagen can indeed impact the appearance of skin.
ONE RECENT STUDY found that women who took 1 gram per day of a chicken-derived collagen supplement for 12 weeks had:
- 76% less dryness
- 12% fewer visible wrinkles
- Increased blood flow in the skin
- 6% higher collagen content
Is collagen more than just a beauty booster?
Looking for an aid to digestive problems? Hair and nails won’t grow? Not feeling as energetic as usual? Collagen could be what’s missing from your diet. There are many benefits to taking collagen apart from preventing or reversing the signs of aging.
Collagen’s TOP Benefits:
- Strengthens hair and nails
- Improves digestion
- Reduces joint pain & degeneration
- Supports restful sleep
- Helps heal leaky gut
- Boosts metabolism
- Improves liver and cardiovascular health
Types & Sources of Collagen
Although there are MANY different varieties of collagen (28 known to date), the majority fall under three different categories, type I, type II, and type III. These three types all work together to fortify the connective tissues in our bodies, but there are certain characteristics of each that make them unique.
Type I, which is most abundant in marine (fish) collagen, has the following benefits:
- Is highly bioavailable
- Builds bone strength
- Stabilizes blood sugar
- Slows or reverses aging
- Lowers cholesterol levels
- Antibacterial effects
Bovine (cow or beef) collagen, Type II and III, has the following benefits:
- Better sleep
- Healthier gut
- Helps to treat osteoarthritis
- Beneficial to skin, hair & nails
- Great source of protein pre or post workout
Chicken collagen is a Type II collagen that specializes in:
- Reduces joint pain for arthritis relief
- Boosts the immune system
- Benefits skin and improves digestive health
- Enhances athletic performance
How To Take Collagen Supplements
There are many ways to introduce collagen into your daily routine. It’s just a matter of picking what works BEST for you and sticking to it! The key is regularity.
Top ways to consume more collagen:
- Making or drinking real bone broth.
- Using protein powder made from bone broth in recipes. You can consume bone broth on its own or use it in all sorts of sweet and savory recipes depending on the type of product.
- Taking collagen supplements. A collagen supplement can be found typically as hydrolyzed collagen, which helps form new collagen. When you hydrolyze collagen, collagen peptides become bioavailable.
- Add it to your morning coffee, tea or smoothie! We love mixing it with raw cacao powder to amp your antioxidant + magnesium intake. Think POWERHOUSE MOCHA!
- And lastly, eating a well-rounded diet that helps increase absorption of the collagen peptide you consume.
Final Thoughts & Tips on Collagen
In order for collagen to be activated in the body, you always want to take your supplements with a source of amino acids and vitamin C if possible, or make sure that your supplement already includes these activating nutrients to ensure absorption.
While many creams and powders claim to revitalize skin by adding collagen, the molecules in these topical products are usually too large for your skin to actually absorb. Through bone broths and supplements, you’ll improve your body from the inside out.
Lastly, certain foods — specifically ones heavy in amino acids — promote collagen growth more than others. Animal products like eggs, poultry, fish and milk can all help boost collagen formation significantly.
And lastly, what if I’m vegan?
There’s no getting around the fact that collagen can only be derived from animals, however, there is an option for vegans. Enter, silica.
So what’s the difference you ask? Collagen provides the readily available base for an instant collagen ‘top up’ while silica helps to ‘make or produce’ collagen so it takes a bit longer for any noticeable effects.
Your body contains around 7g of silica, concentrated mainly in your skin, bones, hair, tendons and blood vessels. When you’re young, you naturally have higher levels of collagen and silica, and this is reflected in your firm, wrinkle-free skin and flexible pain-free joints. Silica is required for the production of collagen.
Horsetail silica is probably the most widely known source of silica (about 5-8% silica) but our favorite is Bamboo silica (about 70 bioavailable silica).
There are dietary sources of silica, but they don’t yield much, and I wouldn’t rely on them for targeting bones, skin, hair and nails. You need at least 10 to 25 mg of silica daily just to prevent a deficiency, and even more (30 to 40 mg) to make a visible difference.
Most food sources aren’t even going to get close to that. That’s because the absorption from those sources is very limited, due to its insoluble form and the way it is bound to fiber.
For example, bananas contain a significant amount of silica, but less than 2% of it is actually absorbed. In fact, eating even 50 bananas provides only about 8 mg of absorbed silica.
Silica helps your body build the collagen framework for healthy bones, and it helps calcium collect on that framework. In fact, this same specialized silica that is so potent for beauty also boosts calcium absorption into the bone by 50%!
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