What is Collagen?
You’ve probably noticed collagen in everything from baked goods to matcha lattes. But what is collagen? And is it actually good for you?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body, found in bones, muscles, blood vessels, tendons, skin, hair, and nails. It’s a structural protein that helps give our skin elasticity, protects our organs, provides support and shape to the body, helps wounds heal, and maintains healthy blood vessels.
The body produces collagen naturally, but collagen production slows down with age. Aside from aging, lifestyle factors, like a nutrient-poor diet and smoking can slow collagen production.
What Are the Health Benefits of Collagen?
While the health benefits of natural collagen production are clear, the benefits of supplemental collagen are up for debate. Here are five touted benefits of collagen.
Collagen is widely praised for its ability to prevent wrinkles and promote youthful, vibrant skin. One study found a difference in skin elasticity of middle-aged women who added a few grams of collagen to their diet every day for a couple of months (1).
Since collagen helps keep connective tissues strong and flexible, collagen production is important for healthy hair. One study suggests that supplemental collagen could be a potential therapeutic target for hair loss and other skin-related diseases (2).
Collagen is also touted for its ability to reduce joint pain. While adequate collagen production is important for healthy joints, it is not clear whether or not supplemental collagen can help reduce joint pain. One study, notably funded by a company that makes collagen supplements, found that collagen supplementation significantly enhanced the lives of subjects with osteoarthritis (3).
Another study, partially funded by a German collagen producer, showed that collagen supplementation, when combined with resistance training, can increase muscle mass (4). It is unclear whether or not this benefit is due to the collagen specifically, or simply because protein is an important macronutrient for muscle gain.
Studies have shown that patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBS) have decreased serum concentrations of collagen. Since the tissue that lines the colon and the GI tract are built from the amino acids in collagen, collagen may help treat gastrointestinal symptoms and disorders, like leaky gut syndrome, IBS, acid reflux, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (5).
How to Add Collagen to Your Diet with Food
Here at Loveleaf Co., we’re all about #realfood. The diets of our ancestors were higher in collagen because they ate whole animals by making broths, soups, and stews from animal bones. While cooking with the entire animal is less common today, it is relatively easy to consume collagen through food. Here’s how:
- Eat a diet that contains high-quality animal products. Collagen is in beef, chicken, fish, and eggs.
- Drink bone broth or use it to make soups and stews. Bone broth is also high in beneficial minerals. See our favorite bone broth brands below.
- Get adequate amounts of vitamin C. Vitamin C, specifically ascorbic acid, works as a coenzyme to convert amino acids into the collagen structure. Meaning: vitamin C is necessary for collagen production.
How to Supplement with Collagen
There are two ways to supplement with collagen: bone broth and collagen peptides. Supplementing with bone broth, as mentioned above, is a more “whole food” approach to collagen supplementation while supplementing with collagen peptides is generally more convenient since you can easily add it into smoothies, tea, or coffee.
The Best Bone Broth Brands
Here are a few of our favorite high-quality bone broth brands made from the bones of pasture-raised animals. Drink the broth on its own, or add to soups or stews for a natural collagen supplement.
The Best Collagen Brands
Here are a few of our favorite, high-quality collagen peptide brands made from pasture-raised animals. It is odorless, tasteless, and dissolves easily. Add to coffee, tea, or smoothies.
- Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides
- Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate
- Bulletproof Collagen Protein / Bulletproof Collagen Protein Bars
- Thrive Market Collagen Peptides
The Loveleaf Co. Take
Collagen is an extremely important protein in the body and adequate collagen production is required for healthy bones, muscles, blood vessels, tendons, skin, hair, and nails. Though collagen production naturally decreases with age, eating a nutrient-dense diet that is high in vitamin C and high-quality animal products, such as bone broth, can help slow this natural decrease.
While the vast array of touted benefits of supplemental collagen are debatable, the studies are compelling. In any case, high-quality collagen peptides are an easily-digestible protein source if you’re looking to get more protein into your daily diet.
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