The Health Benefits of Collagen & How to Add More to Your Diet
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Most of us don’t think of jello as a health food… but there’s another side to gelatin that’s worth knowing about!
Gelatin is a flavorless powder derived from the collagen found in animal bones. It’s high in protein and amino acids, and has numerous health benefits, most notably for skin, hair, digestion and joint health.
For thousands of years collagen was part of the human diet, through bone broths and animal parts we no longer eat much of (think ox tail, head cheese). Today, most people aren’t getting enough (if any) collagen in our diet.
Fortunately, as a tasteless powder, it’s easy to add into foods we’re already eating. It’s also easily available online and at natural food stores—just be sure to look for collagen sourced from sustainably and humanely raised animals.
There are a couple types of collagen products to note the difference between:
Gelatin dissolves best into a warm liquid. Also, as the liquid cools it will gel.
Collagen hydrolysate (or “collagen peptides”) dissolves into warm or cold liquids and does not cause the liquid to gel, so can be added to any recipe without changing its texture.
Both forms of collagen are essentially the same nutritionally, but collagen hydrolysate (also called “collagen peptides”) is treated with enzymes to break down the bonds between amino acids, resulting in a product that’s easier to digest, and thus even better for people with digestive problems.
Collagen’s (many!) health benefits
Here’s a closer look at some of collagen’s many health benefits throughout the body:
As a rich source of dietary collagen, both gelatin and collagen hydrolysate help build and strengthen the connective tissues that give skin its firmness and elasticity. This helps reduce wrinkles (caused by collagen depletion through aging), stretch marks and cellulite (also caused by a breakdown of collagen). Similarly, collagen strengthens nails, teeth and hair.
Not only does collagen aid digestion and promote nutrient assimilation, but it also strengthens and heals the gut lining, a key treatment for leaky gut syndrome—the culprit behind many food allergies and intolerances. Collagen also helps regulate metabolism and insulin sensitivity, which aids in weight loss (or maintaining optimum weight).
Bones & joints
Collagen has long been known to support joint health, and is often added to supplements to treat arthritis. (Over time, collagen does contribute to healing, but the immediate relief noticed is actually due to its anti-inflammatory properties.)
Our favorite sources of collagen
Since collagen is a component of animal connective tissue, it is by default non-vegan. Though most collagen products are typically sourced from beef bones, pescatarians can choose marine collagen, which is sourced from fish scales (yum!).
Vital Proteins is one of our favorite brands of collagen—their products are sourced from humanely-raised grass-fed cattle and wild-caught fish.
Marine collagen (pescatarian)
How much collagen should I eat?
The amount of collagen you should aim to supplement in your diet will vary based on your personal health goals and what else you’re eating (for example, if you eat plenty of collagen-containing animal products regularly, you wouldn’t need to supplement with as much), but most adults can reasonably aim for 10-30 grams daily. (For reference, that’s about one scoop of Vital Proteins.)
Easy & healthy collagen recipes
Here are a few of our favorite, simple ways to add more collagen into your daily diet:
Collagen peptide coffee
One of the easiest ways to add more collagen into your daily diet is to add a scoop to your morning coffee—it’s tasteless and dissolves easily, so doesn’t affect the texture or flavor.
Add a scoop of collagen peptides to a smoothie. Here are our favorite healthy (veggie-packed!) smoothie recipes.
Thicken stews with gelatin
Add a scoop or two of gelatin to a pot of stew to thicken it.
This one’s a little different, but we love it! Add a tablespoon of gelatin to a bowl of hot oatmeal and stir. The gelatin will give the oatmeal a subtle gooey texture! We also add ground flaxseed, walnuts and maple syrup.
These are basically healthier versions of jello: protein-packed whole food snacks that are easy energy boosts on-the-go. Some of our favorite combinations: strawberry lemon kombucha gummies & creamy mango mint gummies.
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