What Is Collagen? 7 Benefits for Skin, Hair, Joints and More

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What Are Collagen Peptides?

Meanwhile, there’s been a lot of hype about collagen peptides in the health and fitness circuit lately, and for good reason. Collagen peptides contain the same exact set of amino acids and nutrients as collagen, but have undergone a process called hydrolysis to break them down into shorter chains of proteins.

Not only can hydrolyzed collagen be dissolved in both hot or cold water, but it’s also much easier for your stomach to break down and digest. It also has a high bioavailability and can be absorbed into the bloodstream more readily than regular collagen protein, giving you more bang for your buck when it comes to nutrition. Best of all, it boasts the same set of collagen peptides benefits as collagen protein, meaning it can help improve skin and hair, relieve joint pain and optimize the health of your gut.

So, do we necessarily need collagen supplements to make sure we’re getting enough collagen in our diet? In other words, do collagen supplements work? The answer to both questions is yes. Because of their shorter chain length, versatility and high bioavailability, collagen peptides are a great option if you’re looking to start supplementing with collagen in your diet. Look for terms like “collagen peptides,” “collagen hydrolysate” or “hydrolyzed collagen” on the ingredients label of your supplement to ensure you’re getting the real deal.

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 can be found typically as hydrolyzed collagen, which helps form new collagen — these may take the form of collagen protein powder or collagen pills. When you hydrolyze collagen, collagen peptides become bioavailable.
  • And lastly, 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, that we now commonly avoid or discard.

Luckily, it’s becoming easier then ever to “get back to the basics.” One of my favorite ways to increase collagen consumption is by making a homemade bone broth, like my chicken bone broth recipe, or the find some made from beef. It’s a healthy, delicious and cost-effective way to use parts of an animal that can’t be eaten directly — no waste here! Bone broth is also insanely good for you. As these inedible animal parts simmer for hours or days, they release collagen in an easy-to-absorb broth.

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Collagen supplements, like collagen protein powder, are another easy way to increase your collagen intake. Make sure that you get your powder from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows (with no antibiotics or chemicals). Collagen supplements can be mixed into smoothies, soups or even into baked goods to provide collagen’s healthy benefits without adding any taste to your favorite meals.

Do Collagen Side Effects Exist?

Fortunately, any negative collagen side effects are rare. Most people who experience negative side effects from collagen either went over recommended dosages or have pre-existing allergies.

Check the sources of collagen on the supplement bottle. If you’re allergic to fish and fish collagen is used in the product, then obviously avoid. If the supplement only lists the collagen types, then it’s important to know that type 2 collagen is usually chicken, while types 1 and 3 can be bovine, fish or egg whites. If you are allergic is any of those proteins, then steer clear.

Not really a collagen powder side effect, but one complaint some users register may be a bad aftertaste from the powder or pills. This bad taste will go away in a few minutes, but it can usually be avoided altogether by taking the powder in a smoothie, for example.

Final Thoughts

  • There are many factors that support the formation and use of collagen in the body — such as vitamin C, manganese, copper, proline and foods high in anthocyanidins (such as blueberries, cherries and blackberries).
  • In order for collagen to be activated in the body, you always want to take your collagen supplements (such as collagen pills) with a source of amino acids and vitamin C if possible, or make sure that your supplement already includes these activating nutrients to ensure absorption and usefulness.
  • Make sure to opt for hydrolyzed collagen products like collagen peptides to optimize the bioavailability and digestion of your supplement.
  • Keep in mind that while many creams and powders claim to revitalize skin by adding collagen, the molecules in these topical products are usually too large for your skin to actually absorb. Through bone broths and supplements, you’ll improve your body from the inside out. In other words, you can save your money when it comes to slathering collagen directly onto your skin.
  • Lastly, be aware that certain foods — specifically ones heavy in amino acids — promote collagen growth more than others. Animal products like eggs, poultry, fish and milk can all help boost collagen formation. But veggie lovers, fear not! You can also use collagen in recipes for your family or kids, such as homemade healthy jello or all-natural fruit snacks. 

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