What is Collagen and Where Can You Find it?

We’ve been hearing about protein a lot these days. It seems like you can’t walk down any grocery aisle without seeing a product boasting the benefits of added protein from cereal to granola bars, and even cookies! But what about this one protein in particular — Collagen. You ever heard of it? Let’s learn more!

What is collagen?

Collagen is a compound made up of long chains of amino acids, just like all other proteins. It sounds super science-y, but if you’ve ever had jello salad at your Grandma’s Thanksgiving table, that’s basically the best way to understand collagen. Gelatin, the main ingredient in jello, forms from cooking and drying collagen. You can imagine that it takes on a similar role in our bodies as it does jello, to provide, our skin especially, with some plumpness and shine.

Collagen is the most common of the body’s proteins. It’s found in our body’s connective tissues, everywhere from our muscles, skin and bones to our digestive tracts and beyond. Sounds important. Now, remember when I said that collagen is composed of long chains of amino acids? Well, these amino acids are essential and not produced IN the body and therefore have to be consumed from OUTSIDE the body through our diet. Fortunately, we house quite an abundant amount of collagen in the skin, but as we age we tend to lose collagen resulting in such less desirable things like wrinkles, dry skin, and brittle hair or nails. So if you’re really starting to feel like your face is showing your age, consider your diet and how it’s contributing (or not) to collagen production. Keep reading for tips on how to get more collagen in your diet.

What does it do?

Besides just giving us radiant skin and silky smooth hair, hydrolyzed collagen (the broken down and more easily digestible form) has some serious health perks, like acting as an anti-inflammatory, aiding in digestion, or possibly even reducing joint pain — just to name a few. So how do you take advantage of these health benefits? It’s all about knowing what lifestyle choices help you versus hurt you. Things like age, too much sun, elevated weight, and drugs or alcohol actually suppress your body’s natural collagen production. On the other hand, eating a healthy, balanced diet, staying hydrated and limiting stress will only increase collagen production.

Where can you find it?

When it comes to age there’s nothing we can do to combat that, that’s why having a handle on the things we can control is so important. Consuming a diet rich in the collagen building blocks is a must, but the way you go about it is up to you. The most simple way to naturally boost your collagen is to consume foods high in vitamin C and antioxidants such as brightly colored fruits and vegetables and leafy greens. Another dietary approach is to make your own homemade bone broth — it’s generally inexpensive while providing a good source of collagen. Finally, supplemental collagen is always an option, but according to Dr. Mark Moyad, Director of Preventative and Alternative Medicine at the University of Michigan, the true health benefits of collagen supplements are preliminary and still being researched. That said, powdered collagen supplements can be easily added to smoothies or soups to potentially give you an extra boost. When searching for collagen supplements, organic and grass-fed animals are recommended.

What lifestyle choices do you currently make in your life that support collagen production? What could you do better? We’d love to hear from you!

Sources:

  1. How to Boost Collagen for Better Skin — Dr. Mercola
  2. You Asked: Should I Eat Collagen Powder? — Time Health
  3. Effect of Orally Administered Collagen Peptides from Bovine Bone on Skin Aging in Chronologically Aged Mice – Nutrients
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Carly Sippel is a registered yoga teacher, certified life coach, and nutrition nut. She has a Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Dietetics from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. She turns her passion into practice, promoting healthy bodies in both her personal and professional life.