The top 5 ways collagen can help your body run better
You might recognize it as an ingredient in your favorite body lotion, or perhaps you’ve noticed supplements in the vitamin aisle that feature it. But what is collagen? What does collagen do, exactly? And how can you incorporate it into your life?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. It’s found in muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, tendons and the digestive system. Collagen’s benefits are so striking because this protein is what helps give our skin strength and elasticity, along with replacing dead skin cells. In the simplest terms, when it comes to our joints and tendons, collagen is the glue that helps hold the body together.
What is collagen?
Just how healthy are collagen and other related proteins, such as gelatin, for you, really? Very. And is collagen a protein? Yes.
Collagen is often referred to as a complex protein, which isn’t surprising considering it contains a whopping 19 different amino acids. These include a mix of both nonessential — also called conditional — and essential types. Consuming collagen is a particularly great way to get more conditional amino acids, like arginine, glutamine, glycine and proline.
Top five collagen benefits
1. Improves the health of skin and hair
Collagen for skin? It’s considered the No. 1 collagen benefit for a reason. As we age, collagen production declines — it’s happening as you read this. You’ll notice it physically: looser skin, more wrinkles and less elasticity. Increasing collagen levels can help your skin look firmer, increase smoothness and assist in cell renewal and repair.
2. Reduces joint pain and degeneration
Have you ever felt like you’ve got “skeleton legs” — that is, legs that feel extra stiff and cause pain when you move? It’s likely collagen loss rearing its ugly head. That’s because when we lose collagen, our tendons and ligaments start moving with less ease, leading to stiffness, swollen joints and more. With its smooth, gel-like structure that covers and holds our bones together, collagen allows us to glide and move without pain.
3. Helps heal a leaky gut
If you suffer from leaky gut syndrome, a condition in which bad-for-you toxins are able to pass through your digestive tract, collagen can be helpful. It assists in breaking down proteins and soothes your gut’s lining by infusing it with beneficial amino acids and healing damaged cell walls.
4. Boosts metabolism, muscle mass and energy output
Increasing your collagen intake may help increase your metabolism by adding lean muscle mass to your frame and helping with the conversion of essential nutrients. Remember that retaining muscle mass is crucial as you age, since it helps support posture and bone health, and burns more calories.
5. Strengthens nails, hair and teeth
Ever had peeling and splitting nails? A lack of collagen could be to blame. Collagen protein is the building block of your fingernails, hair and teeth. Adding collagen into your diet regimen can help keep your nails strong and possibly reverse signs of hair loss.
What are collagen peptides?
There’s been a lot of hype about collagen peptides in health and fitness news lately, and for good reason. Collagen peptides contain the same exact set of amino acids and nutrients as collagen, but they’ve undergone a process called hydrolysis to break them down into shorter chains of proteins.
Not only can hydrolyzed collagen be dissolved in hot or cold water, but it’s also much easier for your stomach to break down and digest.
How to add collagen to your diet
The top ways to consume more collagen include:
- 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 usually comes in the form of hydrolyzed collagen, which helps create new collagen. These supplements may take the form of collagen protein powder or collagen pills. When you hydrolyze collagen, collagen peptides become bioavailable.
- Eating a well-rounded diet that helps increase absorption of the collagen peptide you consume.
Our ancestors chowed down on quite a bit of collagen as a natural way of life, since earlier traditional diets incorporated whole-animal eating. Simply put, they ate many animal parts, like skin, tendons and ligaments, which we now often avoid or discard. Luckily, it’s becoming easier than ever to get back to the basics thanks to supplementation.
Collagen supplements, like collagen protein powder, are an easy way to increase your collagen intake. Make sure your powder comes from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows and doesn’t contain antibiotics or chemicals. Collagen supplements can be mixed into smoothies, soups or even baked goods to provide collagen’s healthy benefits without altering the taste of your favorite meals.
Visit your neighborhood Better Health Market (thebetterhealthstore.com) for a collagen solution that may be right for you and to connect with in-store experts.
Members of the editorial and news staff of The Detroit News were not involved in the creation of this content.