The big C word in the health and wellness game, but not sure what all the hype is about? Let me break it down for you...
What is it?
Collagen is the largest and most abundant protein in the body and is naturally found in our bones, joints, cartilages and skin. Commonly referred to as ‘the glue that holds the body together', it's the connective tissue for many structures in the body including muscles, arteries, hair, skin, nails, etc. Collagen is made up of four amino acids: glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and arginine. Glycine helps build muscle and reduces degeneration of muscle. Proline is required for our body to make tissue repairs. Glycine, proline and hydroxyproline are the three amino acids your body requires to make its own collagen, so unless you are eating lots of organ meats and connective tissue, you are not likely getting a sufficient amount. You see, as we age the natural production of collagen decreases. In fact, every 10 years our collagen production decreases by approximately 7%!
What are the benefits?
Supplementing with collagen is great for repairing the gut, improving wound healing, immunity, building muscle, bone health, hormonal health and so much more!
Skin health: there are special cells in your skin and connective tissue called Fibroblasts that actually make collagen. But in order to do this they need adequate amounts of glycine, proline and hydroxyproline (found in collagen). Supplementing with collagen increases fibroblast density, improves skin elasticity, decreases skin cracking, improves/reduces wrinkles, and increases skin moisture.
Stronger joints: studies have shown that hydrolyzed collagen increases the density of your cartilage making joints more flexible and more resilient to injury and pain.
Improved sleep: consuming collagen before bed may help you sleep and improve the quality of your sleep, likely due to its glycine content. Studies have shown that people taking glycine before bed fell asleep faster, got into deeper sleep faster, reported less daytime sleepiness the next day and did better on a memory test (another indicator of being more rested).
Gelatinous meats: While the most common cuts of meat contain little collagen, organ meats contain large amounts. If you’re adventurous opt for shanks, ribs, oxtails, etc. Don’t be afraid to clean the bones and eat the skin too - it’s where you’ll find highly concentrated amounts of collagen.
Bone broth: I want to make it clear, I do not mean your average soup stock (which can be loaded with preservatives, fillers, salt and MSG). Made from bones, marrow, skin, etc., bone broth allows you to get a concentrated, sippable, collagen boost. If you don’t have the time or ingredients to make your own there are a lot of bone broths out there - check the refrigerated/freezer section of your local health food store.
Collagen Hydrolysate/Peptides: Definitely the easiest and least intimidating way to incorporate collagen in your diet. Collagen is a great protein powder and has the highest Net Protein Utilization, which is the digestibility of the protein and how efficiently the absorbed amino acids are used. Most collagen is flavourless and heat stable so it can be mixed in with hot or cold liquids. Like with anything, not all collagen powders are created equal so make sure you look for grass-fed collagen peptides/hydrolysate, do your research and read ingredients (look out for unnecessary preservatives and sugars).
Having followed a strict vegan diet for years, collagen was something entirely foreign to me - COMPLETELY off my radar. When I decided to re-evaluate and make some changes to my diet (you can read more about my journey here), collagen was one of the first animal proteins I incorporated. I did a lot of research into collagen before I was ready to take the plunge and try it. I’d always been opposed to red meat, so the thought of supplementing with a beef product was really unappealing (to put it mildly). But I couldn’t ignore my symptoms and what the research was telling me - collagen could help them ALL. Leaky gut and IBS issues, hormonal imbalances, joint pain, skin issues, weak hair and nails - collagen checked all those boxes.
I wasn’t ready to chomp into some organ meat just yet, so I opted for some high-quality grass-fed beef collagen peptides. I started adding 1-2 scoops into my coffee or matcha in the morning or smoothies later on in the day. I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of smell and taste and impressed by the kind of creaminess and frothiness it added to my drinks.
I can’t say that I noticed any miraculous changes in my health overnight - but I didn’t expect I would. With most supplements and holisitic treatments, healing takes time. Thankfully I liked the product enough (and what it did to my drinks) and continued taking it - and I’m so glad I did. My GI issues have greatly improved. My eczema has improved, and my skin is more hydrated and plumper than before. My hair is healthier and stronger and my knee pain has decreased. I can’t say that all of this is due to collagen alone, but I definitely think it has played a part in improving my health.
My favourite way to supplement with collagen is by adding it to my coffee or matcha in the mornings. Below is my go-to matcha brew (it's what I make practically every day on instagram). If you have any questions about collagen or this recipe, don't hesitate to reach out!
MORNING MATCHA TONIC
1 1/2 tsp matcha powder
1-2 tbsp coconut butter
2 scoops collagen peptides
1/2 tsp ashwagandha, moringa, maca (adaptogens are optional)
1/4 tsp Ceylon cinnamon
2 cups hot water
Boil water and allow to cool slightly. Put everything in a blender and blend on high for 1 minute. Enjoy!