Goodbye joint, back, and knee pain!
Hello, long nails, beautiful hair, dewy skin, and strong joints.
These are just some of the claims made by numerous collagen supplement brands. Collagen, which comes in various forms like lotions, pills, gummies, and powders, has grown to be a highly desired product in the wellness and cosmetic industries. The demand will only continue to grow as more and more people across the U.S. prioritize their well-being, but collagen's effectiveness is still unknown to this day.
Let's jump into what we do know about collagen, so you can make an informed decision next time you're walking down the Target aisle and are tempted to pick up a bottle of collagen gummies.
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals (humans, too!), making it an essential component of our skin, bones, and connective tissues. In humans, collagen accounts for nearly a third of our total protein mass.
Yet, as we age, our bodies naturally start reducing collagen production. Unfortunately, our bodies cannot replace collagen as quickly as it breaks down, leading to less elastic skin tissue (yes, this means more wrinkles and drier and saggier skin 😢), frailer bones, and thinning hair, just to name a few. Given these side effects, doesn't it now make a bit more sense why collagen has recently become so popular?
If you've looked for supplements before, maybe online or at the grocery store, the phrase "collagen peptides" might stand out. Collagen peptides, sometimes referred to as hydrolyzed collagen, are made of the same amino acids as collagen but are more easily absorbed by our bodies, as their amino acid chains are substantially shorter than those of collagen. That's why the pharmaceutical industry has used them in supplements, due to the quick absorption and easily digestible benefits.
These supplements do not magically turn into skin and cartilage. As much as we would love that to be true, the body must work its magic first! Like any protein, the body needs to break down collagen into amino acids, also known as the body's building blocks. These amino acids will then build and repair your tissues.
Add these collagen-rich foods to your diet
The best source of vitamins and minerals is whole foods. You'll likely get collagen if you follow a high-protein diet (meat, eggs, and fish).
Any Jello-O fans out there? Well, it's your lucky day 😉 as the primary ingredient in jello is gelatin, and for those who don't know, gelatin is made from animal collagen.
If you're following a diet that doesn't include meat, you'll have to get a little more creative with adding collagen to your diet. You can get collagen from plant sources like proline and glycine (two of the primary amino acids in collagen). Other great sources are legumes, seeds, and nuts. Also, Spirulina alga (yes, alga as in seaweed!) consists of almost 60% amino acids. Adding a scoop of Spirulina to your smoothies can promote natural collagen production in your body.
Increase your collagen absorption
Certain nutrients can help increase the body's natural collagen production to maximize its effects. Vitamin C and iron are nutrients that protect the body's collagen stores and can be obtained easily from whole foods. These below items should be on the list next time you're grocery shopping if you’re looking to increase collagen absorption.
- Bell peppers
- Citrus fruits
- Seafood (like salmon, mackerel, and other fatty fish)
- Red meat
- Dark green leafy vegetables
So, what's the verdict?
Although we recommend prioritizing natural collagen (as natural collagen is significantly more affordable than collagen in supplements), there might be times when you need an extra boost of collagen to maximize absorption. If you're recovering from an injury or experiencing ever-increasing stiffness in your joints, a daily dose of 8-10 grams of hydrolyzed collagen can help!