What is Collagen? Plus 3 Ways to Eat More of It
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.
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:
- 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.
- Add it to your smoothie: If you’re making a post workout green smoothie (or any other smoothie or smoothie bowl), just add 1-2 scoops.
- Add it to your gluten-free oatmeal or porridge: Stir the protein powder in right before serving and boost your breakfast nutrition.
Have you tried collagen protein powder? What would you mix it in? Share in the comments below!