If you've been around here for any length of time, you know I am ALL about REAL food first. Supplements are great (when properly used) but they don't take the place of real food. So I always, always recommend filling your plate with whole foods, first, before adding anything extra to your daily routine. There is one exception- and that is collagen peptides. I've been using collagen daily in my coffee and tea for around two years, now (I've mentioned it briefly here and here) but I haven't really gone into depth about WHY I love it, and what it's done for my health (and the health of dozens of my health coaching clients). Collagen is one of those things that's not just become a habit- I truly notice a different when I slip out of taking it for a week or so. It also happens to be one of the EASIEST things to add to your diet (it's a flavorless powder) with some serious impact. And I get a LOT of questions about it, almost daily, so I thought I would share more about my experience with it and why I love it.
I first learned about collagen (and gelatin) from a nutritionist I was seeing during the height of my digestive problems. I was having serious episodes of debilitating acid reflux, IBS-D and a multitude of food sensitivities and working hard at healing my gut. I had already gone from the extreme of a heavily-raw, vegan diet packed with grains and legumes, to a paleo-style grain-free eating style, adding in some fish here and there, and experimenting with a little chicken. My nutritionist was trying to tout the benefits of bone broth (which we know now, I love and incorporate into our foods on the regular) and I wasn't having it. He suggested I try starting with adding collagen powder to my tea, which honestly freaked me out quite a bit. But I agreed to try it- because I was willing to do (just about) anything to heal my gut, but I wasn't quite ready to let raw chicken bones simmer on my stove for hours on end (even though yes, I had done it in school- but at home? no way). Baby steps. Needless to say, I didn't realize it at the time, but adding collagen to my daily diet (at this point, I couldn't tolerate coffee so I was adding a scoop to my daily cup of tea) made a significant impact on my gut health. It wasn't until I stopped taking it and digestive problems started slowly creeping back in that I realized what a huge difference it had made. When I started taking it daily again, less sick, I started noticing even more changes I hadn't prior. My skin was glowing, my hair was shiny and growing like a weed and my nails were actually somewhat strong (I've always had terribly brittle nails)- and no, I wasn't pregnant at this point! I also noticed that I was recovering better after my runs, with way less soreness in my knees (the research supports this) and this was what made me realize I needed to keep this powdered gold in my diet permanently.
So what IS collagen? To simplify it as much as possible, collagen is the "good stuff" that makes bone broth so healthy (aside from the minerals, of course). Collagen is actually THE most abundant proteins in our bodies-- and it's vital to our health! Collagen is found in our skin, muscles, tendons, bone, blood vessels and digestive system. It's what makes our skin elastic (which is why it is so often promoted as anti-aging) and helps replace dead skin cells. Collagen is necessary for skin, hair and nail health. It is also rich in the amino acid glycine, which is involved in building healthy DNA. Found abundantly in the cartilage and tendons, it is, quite literally, the 'glue' that holds our joints together. Pretty important, huh?
However, we begin to lose collagen as we age-- especially after age 25-- and many lifestyle factors can cause a decrease in collagen production in our bodies, like nutritional deficiencies, a diet high in inflammatory foods (like sugar) and sun exposure. This is one of the reasons we start to develop wrinkles (sometimes earlier than we'd like), increased top layer fat deposits (cellulite), and experience joint pain or achiness-- things commonly blamed on 'aging'.
In addition, it is incredibly important for gut health- it actually helps increase stomach acid production, something many of us are low on and can contribute to a slew of digestive-related conditions including Acid Reflux, IBS and IBD. In the case of leaky gut, it helps to 'heal and seal' the gut lining, preventing further toxins from entering the bloodstream and causing inflammation.
Collagen peptides are found in the bones and hides of animals (typically beef or chicken) as well as marine sources and eggs. Though it is not a 'complete' protein, it contains 19/20 amino acids, so it can be used as a quality protein source, in a smoothie or otherwise.
For more information on the specific benefits of collagen (including a ton of cited research), check out Dr. Axe's overview.
So why supplement with collagen?
While you can get collagen from animal foods, we rarely eat the part of animal that contains the most collagen (i.e. bones, feet-- you get the gist). Homemade bone broth is a fantastic source of collagen, however unless you're drinking multiple mugs daily, more concentrated benefits of collagen might not be seen (but keep drinking it-- it's more than just collagen!).
My favorite way to get in collagen daily is adding a scoop (it's a flavorless, easily dissolvable powder) to my daily boosted coffee or tea. Most typically, it's my coffee- because I drink it every morning! It also adds a wonderful creaminess to the coffee that just can't be beat (if that's your thing!).
The nice thing about collagen powder being flavorless is it can be added to many different recipes- like these delicious cashew cream bars I'll be sharing on Friday.
As collagen DOES come from animal sources, sourcing is important. As you eat what the animal eats, it's always important to look for quality. I highly respect Further Food for their excellent sourcing (grass-fed and pasture raised bovine collagen and wild caught marine collagen). They are a small company that truly cares about giving back- every purchase gives back to fund chronic illness initiatives. I love them so much, I've teamed up with Further Food to give you a discount: use the code MAMAKRIS to get 10% off your order.
Hear about collagen and gelatin being related and wondering why collagen doesn't gel?
Gelatin is derived from collagen. It is what is formed after collagen is broken down (as with cooking bone broth). It's just as beneficial for our health- but it does gel (making it great for making homemade gummies, not so much for adding to a mug of tea).
Collagen peptides are made by breaking down the long full length chains of collagen molecules through a process called hydrolysis. “Collagen Peptides” are exactly the same thing as “Hydrolyzed Collagen.” Collagen peptides contain the same amino acids as collagen but with different structural properties. Collagen peptides are better absorbed (more bioavailable) than pure collagen because collagen peptides are made up of shorter chains of amino acids. (source) How to enjoy collagen peptides: -add to your blended coffee
-stir into your cup of tea
-blend into your smoothie as a quality protein source -add to muffins and other baked goods
-mix in with your homemade salad dressing
-add to power balls Do you use collagen? If so, how do you use it?