Collagen: What is it, what is it good for, and how to increase your intake

Did you know that collagen is the most abundant protein in your body? It is one of the major building blocks of bones, skin, muscles, and connective tissue. Collagen is also found in many other body parts, including blood vessels, corneas and teeth. But as we age, collagen diminishes which leads to us looking and feeling older. Sagging skin, aching joints, and loss of muscle mass are a few examples of the result of the loss of collagen. So it’s no wonder collagen supplements are all the rage right now. Replenishing collagen should mean looking and feeling better, right? Well, the research on the side effects and potential benefits of collagen supplements is ongoing, but here are some potential benefits you may find from increasing your collagen intake.

The Potential Benefits

Studies have shown osteoarthritis symptoms improve when using collagen supplements because the collagen likely reduces inflammation in the joints, easing the pain of OA sufferers. There is also research that has linked some collagen peptides to healthier skin, hair, and nails. I have definitely noticed improvement in both joint pain and in my skin and hair since using collagen peptides for over a year (that’s not a scientific study, of course. But it is my experience). There is also some evidence that certain amino acids found in collagen peptides can aid digestion and reduce gut inflammation. If you have ever researched ‘leaky gut’ you have probably heard that collagen is one way to help heal your gut.

Is There a Downside?

As is the case with any supplement, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration does not monitor collagen powders for safety or efficacy unless a manufacturer claims its supplement can cure disease, or something goes wrong and people get sick. For this reason, it’s important to do a little research before you start a collagen supplement. You may also wish to consult your doctor.

How to Increase Your Collagen Intake?

So let’s say you decide to increase your collagen intake — where can you find collagen and what type should you use? First, you could increase your intake of foods that naturally contain higher amounts of collagen, like bone broth. You can find bone broth at most supermarkets these days, but be sure to read your ingredients to make sure you are only getting the ingredients you want and nothing added that you don’t.

You can also use a collagen supplement. Two types supplements are gaining popularity: hydrolyzed collagen (collagen hydrolysate) and gelatin. Gelatin is created when collagen is cooked. These have already broken the large protein down into smaller peptides, which are more easily absorbed in the body. Collagen peptides comes in a powder that can be easily mixed into foods, and this form of collagen doesn’t gel so you can mix it into smoothies, soups or baked goods without affecting the texture. Many people also put it into their morning coffee.

What To Look for in a Collagen Supplement

When considering supplements, you should look for a high-quality source. Choose ones with as few ingredients as possible. Collagen protein powder should just be collagen protein isolate (listed as collagen hydrolysate, hydrolyzed collagen, or collagen peptides.) And given the lack of FDA regulation, any time you’re choosing a dietary supplement, check if a credible group like the NSF, UL, or USP has tested it for safety before.

If you are interested in trying a collagen peptide supplement, the one I’ve found I like the best is from Vital Proteins. This version is unflavored and NSF certified. I like to mix it into smoothies, but have also added it to baked goods and my coffee. And after searching at most stores (including Costco) I’ve found the best value on Amazon (subscribe and save makes it even more affordable!)

Have you tried collagen supplements? What did you think?

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