What is Collagen?
Collagen is another buzz word that’s been circulating into the spotlight lately. Before we dive into the benefits of collagen and when to use it, let’s clarify what it is! Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. Woah, that sounds important! There are several different kinds of collagen but the most supplements contain a mixture of Type I-III. Type I is the most abundant and it’s found in skin, tendons, ligaments, bones, teeth and between organs. Type II is found mostly in cartilage and our eyes. Type III is found in skin, muscles and blood vessels. As we age, our bodies naturally produce less collagen, so if we want to keep that youthful glow, making sure we have enough collagen is a good place to start!
Collagen also provides several other health benefits ranging from joint health to digestive repair and boosting our metabolism. It has a gel-like structure and can ease stiff, swollen joints by “greasing” them up and reducing swelling. When it comes to our digestion, having sufficient collagen in our digestive tract soothes the intestinal lining, covering up holes that may have otherwise allowed vital nutrients to seep out. Being a source of amino acids (aka: protein), collagen can boost our metabolism by increasing our lean body mass. Glycine converts glucose into energy to feed our muscles, arginine helps repair muscle tissue and glutamine helps maintain our energy levels by fueling our cells.
We can get ample amounts of collagen by eating a diet rich in animal sources. As with all foods, higher quality sources will typically offer more nutrients, so choosing a pastured animal source is ideal. As collagen is rich in bones, boiling animal bones to make a bone broth and consuming it as a warming beverage or in homemade soups and sauces is another great way to get more collagen. Finally, collagen can be found in supplemental form, as hydrolyzed collagen, collagen hydrolysate and collagen peptides. These powdered forms contain the same amino acid profile but are broken down into smaller chains. The shortened chains make collagen even more digestible and easy to absorb. Supplemental collagen dissolves easily in liquids and makes a great addition to our morning coffee, smoothies or even mixed into oatmeal.
While collagen is certainly a necessary and beneficial source of protein, there is one element we should keep into consideration when consuming it often. Collagen is an incomplete source of protein, which means it does not contain all 9 essential amino acids. In fact, it contains 8 of the 9. Combining collagen with complete sources of protein like pastured meat and wild-caught seafood will ensure we get all the amino acids our body needs to function optimally. Due to its prevalence in our bodies and knowing we obtain collagen in animal proteins as well, we can think of hydrolyzed collagen as a beneficial, but optional, supplement. Utilizing collagen to reach our protein needs and support our bodies will keep us looking young, maintaining muscle and absorbing essential nutrients to keep us on the path to being fit for life.
- Link, Rachael. “What Is Collagen?” Dr. Axe, 5 Feb. 2019, draxe.com/nutrition/supplements/what-is-collagen/.
- Song, Hongdong, et al. “Effect of Orally Administered Collagen Peptides from Bovine Bone on Skin Aging in Chronologically Aged Mice.” Nutrients, MDPI, 3 Nov. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5707681/.