What is Collagen? Plus 3 Ways to Eat More of It


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What is collagen? It’s an abundant protein found naturally in our bodies. The benefits of collagen are profound, so sneak more of it into your diet with a supplement of collagen peptides. Here’s three sneaky ways to do it.

What is collagen? It's an abundant protein found naturally in our bodies. The benefits of collagen are profound, so sneak more of it into your diet.

I haven’t written a wellness-related post in a while (I’m all over recipes and videos at the moment), but I wanted to share with you a simple little habit that has had a profound impact on my health. What is it? Sneaking collagen into my diet. That is, eating more of it in ways that couldn’t be easier. But before we jump into the “how’s” let’s talk about the “what’s” – meaning, what exactly is collagen?

What is collagen?

Collagen is an insoluble and fibrous protein that’s naturally found in our bodies. In fact, it’s the most abundant protein in our bodies and comprises 25%-35% of our total protein content. You might know of collagen from beauty creams and wrinkle “fixing” solutions…and as something that reduces with age. And that’s true (says the gal who just turned 40), but collagen is also important for healthy skin, teeth, nails, tendons, joints, cartilage, muscles and my favorite topic for wellness and managing autoimmune conditions, gut health!

Think of collagen as a form of glue and supportive structure in our bodies that keeps everything together. When we’re young, our bodies produce a lot of collagen. But as we age, collagen production declines (noticeably around age 40), with a dramatic reduction after menopause. This is why our skin becomes more fragile, less elastic and wrinkles start to set in as we get older.

Collagen damage and how to reverse it

Unfortunately, in addition to natural aging, there’s a few other things that damage collagen: high sugar consumption, smoking, sunlight, stress and autoimmune disorders. Thankfully, I’ve never smoked, but the sugar-monster diet I had up until 5 years ago, California suntanning (with baby oil in the 80’s – yikes), unmanaged stress and undiagnosed autoimmune diseases didn’t do my body any favors.

But here’s a positive thing that comes with age – we get smarter! Today, I wear sunscreen to prevent additional skin damage, I manage my type-A stress through yoga and meditation and I manage my autoimmune diseases through diet and lifestyle. I also supplement my body’s naturally declining collagen production with collagen-boosting foods like salmon, tuna, green leafy vegetables, citrus, berries, eggs and avocados. Foods naturally high in omega-3’s, vitamins, nutrients and antioxidants.

And spoiler-alert, I also sneak a little extra collagen into my diet.

What is collagen? It's an abundant protein found naturally in our bodies. The benefits of collagen are profound, so sneak more of it into your diet.

Supplementing with collagen protein powder

Adding a little collagen protein powder to drinks and foods I’m already eating is how I boost my collagen intake. It’s easy and the powder is flavorless. It’s also not gritty and doesn’t change the texture of the food, which is really important.

I use Vital Proteins collagen peptides and marine collagen…and before I go any further I do want to mention that this is a sponsored post. But I also want to mention that I reached out to Vital Proteins, asking if I could write this post, not the other way around. I love the quality of their products and have been using them myself for about a year, so figured why not share this info with you!

Here’s what I love about Vital Proteins:

  • The collagen peptides protein powder is derived from pasture-raised, grass-fed cattle in Brazil. Cattle that graze on lush grass, receive plenty of open space and sunshine, and are not given any steroids, hormones or antibiotics.
  • The marine collagen protein powder is derived from fresh, non-GMO, wild-caught snapper in the Pacific Ocean near Hawaii, using sustainable harvesting. The marine collagen is a great alternative for those who are pescatarian.
  • The cartilage collagen with natural chondroitin sulfate I use less frequently, simply because I dislike swallowing pills, but the product is the same high quality as the other two protein powders. In fact, this product is derived from pasture-raised, grass-fed cattle from New Zealand (my motherland!).

Vital Proteins has two other collagen products: Collagen Whey and Collagen Beauty Greens. I haven’t used the whey product, so can’t comment on it and I have purposely steered-clear of the Collagen Beauty Greens as it contains organic wheat grass and organic barley grass. Now, I’m aware that these grasses are technically (and tested to be) gluten-free, but as a celiac I personally don’t feel great when I eat these grasses, so I avoid them.

3 ways to eat more collagen

After you pick your favorite collagen protein powder, here’s how you can easily sneak it into your diet. Remember, unlike gelatin (which I also love), collagen is water soluble so it doesn’t gel or firm up….it just blends right in:

  1. Add it to your coffee: Just add 1-2 scoops to your morning coffee. Whether you add dairy, dairy-free milk or drink your coffee black, I can assure you that you can’t taste the powder, smell it or see it.
  2. Add it to your smoothie: If you’re making a post workout green smoothie, a chocolate smoothie (or any other smoothie or smoothie bowl), just add 1-2 scoops.
  3. Add it to your gluten-free oatmeal or porridge: Stir the protein powder in right before serving and boost your breakfast nutrition.

And that’s how I do it. But you could just as easily add it to soups, sauces, dips and more.

Thank you to Vital Proteins for sponsoring this post. I’m happy to share with this community more information about collagen peptides, a product that I use and love. All thoughts and opinions are my own. 

Have you tried collagen protein powder? What would you mix it in? Share in the comments below!

About the author

Lisa Bryan

Lisa is a bestselling cookbook author, recipe developer, and YouTuber (with over 2.5 million subscribers) living in sunny Southern California. She started Downshiftology in 2014, and is passionate about making healthy food with fresh, simple and seasonal ingredients.

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  1. The Marine Collagen is out of stock :( I did buy the other one. No I have found the marine collagen :)

  2. Like any other protein, collagen will just be broken down into amino acids in the gut before absorption. So fine for getting more dietary protein, but no special benefits of collagen protein.

  3. HI! Is store-bought bone broth as good a source for collagen as the Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides that you’re speaking of?

  4. Hi Lisa! Just made my first marine and bovine collagen purchase from this brand. Could I ask, from your personal experience – does either dissolve better in hot vs. cold beverages, or vice versa, and how long does it usually take to feel the benefits (I really feel my muscles have gotten weak and I need to build them back up)? Thanks!

  5. since migrating to the UK some 20 years age I have developed all sorts of food intolerance, in so much ways and so many different medication from the doctors, till I eventually had surgery to remove my gall bladder. This helped for a very short time and the digestive problems continued. I stumbled onto your YouTube videos and OMG. I went to Amazon and made some shopping and the very first morning I had my oats chai and pineapple drink, with tears in my eyes I began telling my co worker about it. No pains , no burning, no digestive cramps. Amen. I have since made lots of shopping and lots of different smoothies. I’ve always drank green juice, but this is the best. I prepare my breakfast and lunches using the recipes and I m feeling great! I m not sure if I’m celiac or not but the ease I have now I’m so thankful to you, tomorrow I’m getting my collagen. Thanks Lisa.

    1. Hi Victoria – I’m happy to hear you stumbled upon Downshiftology and are now able to make foods and drinks that work for your body!

  6. Hi my name is Maribel. I love all your videos. I have a question on the collagen. Do I have to buy all 3 collagen peptides, Cartilage and the marine? Or I just need to use on of them on the daily basic? thank you

  7. Hi I came across your you tube videos a few years ago and was very interested, I then became very ill and have only just emerged from that hell. I turned to you again, firstly you look much better and bright eyed, congratulations.I have numerous autoimmune diseases and I think I have celiac disease although british doctors think its a fad and because of the pandemic won’t test for it . Your food is so salivating, it’s so artistic I can’ wait to get started.I’m 80 and can’t wait to feel good and get back to the gym. Jane

    1. Hi Jane- I’m so glad you discovered Downshiftology! Happy to hear I can provide guidance when it comes to your celiac and autoimmune diseases.

  8. Hi – I’ve just discovered your site and I love it! Plenty of recipes to get me started. 

    One question though, I’m vegetarian so the collagen recommended is not suitable. Do you have any suggestions for vegetarians on how to increase their collagen?

    Thank you!

    1. Hi Jane – all collagen comes from animals, so there’s no vegetarian form of collagen. You can get a marine collagen though, from fish.

  9. Thank you for recommending Vital Proteins! I was really nervous about being able to taste it in my coffee (I have another well known brand vanilla powder and it’s really gross and takes like 15 minutes to dissolve), so I only added one scoop. I couldn’t believe it! It dissolved instantly. I couldn’t taste it at all and I drink my coffee black. I’ll try two scoops tomorrow!! 

    1. Hi Sasha – The taste of the powder doesn’t really come through in beverages, which is why I love their powders so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it and now you can use it on a weekly basis.

  10. Hi Lisa thank you for this post because collagen has been something on my mind lately. It is the craze and I don’t want to be misled, as you said as we age we get more clever lol. I am 47 and, eating a very clean healthy diet I’m feeling great but my skin has thinned and as I’ve lost weight, a little saggy on my upper arms although I’m toning with exercise. I have researched that collagen is lacking in amino acids and that you need all the amino acids for it to work. So your body will use whatever is needed where it is needed, that it won’t magically go to the skin. That a protein powder with all the amino acids might be better. There are also 5 kinds of collagen and that we need all of them to work, is this true? Perhaps Vital Proteins can clarify. Thank you for everything you do, love it and would love to learn more about collagen’s effectiveness. 😊

  11. Lisa, I recently discovered Vital Proteins collagen peptides and have been using it for about 5 days.  I drink 2 scoops in my coffee each morning.  Keep up the encouragement for all of us!  I am thankful for you and the excellent information you share.

    1. Hi Gayla – I’m happy you’re loving the collagen peptides. Adding it to your coffee is a great way to enjoy it. :)

  12. I accidentally found your website today and I now know my prayers have been answered. A few years ago  I lost my husband whom I was married to for fifty years and I now find myself cooking for one. I’ve always been a gardener and your individual recipes are just what I needed. You’re such an inspiration to all ages. Keep it going, young lady.This old teenager is so grateful.5 stars

    1. Hi Gloria – I am so sorry to hear about your husband. But I am happy to hear you are keeping your head up and continuing to live a happy and healthy lifestyle. I hope my posts and recipes will help along the way!

    1. 2 scoops is the serving size. Though sometimes I’ll just take one and sometimes I’ll skip days. It’s all up to each person individually. :)

  13. Never thought about adding collagen to my meals. I thought it was naturally taken in when eating meats.
    Does it produces any secondary, “adverse”, effects when you take it?
    Does heat or hot meals change or damage the benefits?

    1. We don’t actually get collagen from foods (unless you were to gnaw on bones and tendons), but we can get gelatin from great sources like bone broth and chuck roasts (cooked low and slow). We can also get glycine and proline from things like egg whites and spirulina – and these in turn help our body to produce collagen. I’ve personally found no adverse effects from supplementing with collagen and I have a super sensitive gut. But of course, everyone is different. As for heat, collagen protein is actually very heat stable to over 550F, so it can definitely be used in hot liquids and soups. Hope that helps! :)