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Have you heard of collagen, collagen hydrolysate, or collagen peptides before?
Maybe you recognize the word “collagen” in the context of the beauty industry, from a product or ingredient that claimed to “boost your skin’s natural collagen production”. But did you know? Edible, ingestible forms of collagen can benefit not only your skin, but also your hair, nails, joints, and gut.
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body.
While in previous generations we’d have gotten plenty of collagen in our diet through eating nose-to-tail (including consumption of connective tissues and homemade bone broths, and the soups and stews made from them), in recent times, we don’t get nearly as much as we used to.
Enter: supplemental collagen, better known as either collagen peptides or collagen hydrolysate. This single ingredient protein powder, made from the bones and connective tissues of mammals or marine life, can help support our bodies ability to make its own collagen. Similar to gelatin in amino acid content, one key difference between the two is that collagen peptides dissolve easily in either hot or cold beverages, without gelling, as gelatin does.
Which brand do you use, and what benefits have you experienced?
One of my favorite benefits to taking collagen has been the difference I’ve seen in my hair and nails. My hair is stronger, and has grown longer than it ever has before – and much more quickly. My nails rarely break, which is a big deal for me.
Years ago, in my pre-collagen days, I struggled with brittle nails that would easily split, chip, or crack. Today, I only deal with more brittle nails once or twice a year, in the few weeks immediately following removal of a gel manicure. This process can definitely cause some strain on our natural nails! Although, knowing how much my nails have improved, it’s possible things could be a lot worse post-gel *without* consistently including collagen as part of my routine.
Additionally, one of the major gut-health benefits of collagen is how rich it is in the amino acid, glycine. It aids in digestion of fatty acids, and helps to maintain appropriate levels of acidity in the digestive tract. Glycine is also involved in the body’s ability to make serotonin, a key hormone and neurotransmitter for healthy mood and sleep.
How can I use it?
My favorite way to incorporate collagen into my routine is to blend 12g-worth (depending on the brand, that’ll be either one scoop or two) into hot coffee. For a great recipe, check out my Almond Joy Blended Coffee.
This form of collagen is odorless, tasteless, and as mentioned before, dissolves easily in hot or cold beverages. You can even add a few scoops to your favorite baked good recipes to up their protein content a bit.
Adding collagen protein to your smoothies can increase satiety, so you can more easily get from breakfast to lunch without feeling ravenous. The additional protein also creates a better macronutrient balance to a blend that can oftentimes only includes fruit and veggies (carbohydrates), and maybe a little nut butter (healthy fat).
Another reason I prefer collagen over other protein powders, is that there are many folks today that deal with sensitivities to eggs or dairy – the basis for many protein powders on the market. While each type of protein powder offers a unique blend of amino acids, if you’re someone who has a sensitivity to dairy or eggs, collagen could be something to try, as it is free of both.
What should I look for when I buy?
When purchasing a collagen protein powder, quality DOES matter. Look for grass-fed or pastured cattle sources, which can help you avoid possible environmental toxins. If you can, find a brand that offers a combination of Type 1 and Type III collagen.
It also doesn't hurt to Google a brand you're considering to see if anything negative comes up, either with the FDA, the Better Business Bureau, or Consumer Reports. I know this can be tricky, and we're all doing our best here. Just remember, the supplement industry isn't particularly well-regulated, which can lead to shoddy or contaminated products hitting the market – and why it's also always best to check with your doctor or practitioner before starting any new supplement.
Ready to learn more?
What I’ve provided above is a brief overview to get you started if you’ve been “collagen curious”. That said, it’s also incredibly important to do your own research, and find what works for you.
Again, when it comes to any type of supplementation, it’s always best to check with your doctor or practitioner first. They are a member of your health care team, and together you can figure out what’s best for you and your unique needs.
Below you’ll find additional resources I’ve rounded up to offer even more information on collagen and its benefits. Check out these articles, and share them with your doc or practitioner.
Recipes from this blog that use collagen:
As always, thanks for joining me here on the blog, and feel free to leave any collagen questions below. If I don’t have the answer, I’ll do a little research, and share a link with what I find!
Originally published March 22, 2019