What is collagen and its benefits for health?

Collagen is something many of us relate to beauty products, or you might have read about it as a beneficial supplement. But what is collagen and why do we need it?


If you didn't know, collagen is the most abundant protein in your body. It is found in your muscles, bones, skin, tendons, digestive system and blood vessels. Collagen is what gives your skin the elasticity and strength. Collagen is the glue that helps hold your body together.


As we age our collagen production starts to slow down- we feel it in our joints, we see it on our skin (wrinkles). Also, if you consume too much sugar, sunbath too much, smoke- this also affect the production of collagen.


Below I will cover in more detail the importance of collagen, different types of collagen and also how can you incorporate more collagen into your diet.


Collagen contains 19 different amino acids, including glycine, glutamine, arginine and proline. Proline and glycine are two very important amino acids, but they are not abundant in animal meats. So if we don't consume for example animal organ meats, our bodies are not getting enough of these amino acids.


Benefits of collagen

  • Supports healthy skin and hair

  • Strengthens your nails and teeth

  • Recuses stretch marks and cellulite

  • Reduces joint stiffness and pain

  • Helps healing leaky gut

  • Improves energy

  • Improves muscle mass

  • Boosts metabolism

  • Improves liver health

  • Protects your cardiovascular health


Different types of collagen


We have around 16 different types of collagen in our bodies. Type 1 (type I) collagen is the most abundant in our bodies, which constitutes around 90% of total collagen.


  • Type 1 (type I)- this collagen helps to form our tendons, ligaments, organs, skin, bones and is also found in our digestive tract. Crucial for wound healing, giving our skin the elastic and stretchy feeling

  • Type 2 (type II)- helps build cartilage found in connective tissues. Helps with joint pain

  • Type 3 (type III)- makes up our skin, organs and forms blood vessels and tissue within your heart

  • Type 4 (type IV)- forms basal lamina- needed for nerve and blood vessel functions. Basal lamina line also our respiratory surfaces, digestive organs and is found in between your top layer and deepest layer of skin.

  • Type 5 (type V)- needed to make surface of your cells, tissue in woman's placenta, hair strands, removes waste, provides nutrients and oxygen to the growing baby

  • Type 10 (type X)- helps with bone formation- important for bone fracture healing.


Sources of collagen


It's important to get collagen from different sources to help to get the different types of collagens into your body. Your body is also producing collagen itself.

  • Chicken collagen- type 2. Most supplements contain chicken collagen

  • Beef collagen- type 1 and 3. Great for creatine production, building muscle and it also helps body to make it's own collagen

  • Fish collagen- type 1

  • Egg shell membrane- found in the egg whites and egg shells. It contains the most type 1, but also type 3, 4 and 10 collagen


How to get collagen from your diet?


The best way to get more collagen into your diet is to consume bone broth. You can also use bone broth protein and add it into smoothies.


Bone broth


Bone broth is more superior than collagen peptides. You are getting more collagen from a scoop of bone broth than from collagen. Bone broth also contains glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid- all critical for our gut and for our joints. Our joints are made of 90% collagen and 10% of glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid. Also your gut lining is made up of collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid.


Hyaluronic acid helps with tissue regeneration for joints and is great for sports injuries.

Chondroitin is a vital part of cartilage, giving it elasticity by helping it retain water. Glucosamine is a compound found in cartilage that surrounds your joints, in your ligaments, tendons and in your gut lining. All of these are vital for your health.


You can buy bone broth from store or you can easily make it at home. Here you can find instructions how to make it.


Other foods that boost collagen

Other food sources that boost the body's ability to make collagen are:

  • Fish and shellfish

  • Chicken

  • Egg whites

  • Berries

  • Citrus fruits

  • Tropical fruits (mango, kiwi, guava, pineapple)

  • Red and yellow vegetables, like bell peppers

  • Garlic

  • Leafy greens (kale, spinach etc)

  • Beans

  • Avocados

  • Tomatoes


Hydrolysed collagen peptides


You can take collagen supplements, add hydrolysed collagen protein powder to your smoothies or other drinks (like fresh juices) and mix collagen powder into other healthy meals.


Collagen peptides contain the same set of amino acids and nutrients as collagen, but have undergone a process called hydrolysis to break them down. Collagen peptides are typically taken from the skin, bones and hooves of animals. Hydrolysed collagen powder can be mixed both in cold and hot water and is easy for the stomach to digest and break down. It also absorbs better into bloodstream than regular collagen protein. When you are supplementing with collagen in your diet, look for names hydrolysed collagen, collagen peptides or collagen hydrolysate.


Collagen vs. gelatine


Gelatine is derived from collagen and full of the same goodness. As bones are simmering in the broth, the collagen in the bones is slowly breaking down into gelatine. Gelatine is very good if you have allergies or food sensitivities, as it helps to heal your gut lining same as collagen.


I have been making gut-loving gummies from gelatine, which the whole family absolutely loves.


As well as consuming collagen rich foods, it's important to support the collagen usage in the body and also to make sure you don't loose te collagen you have. Consume lot's of antioxidant rich foods such as turmeric, rosemary, blueberries, goji berries, camu camu berries and vitamin C rich vegetables and fruits like broccoli, Acerola cherries, kiwis, sea buckthorn berries.


Though there are many topical collagen products out there like creams and serums, I do believe, it's always better to start with health from the inside, to make sure you consume collagen through your diet- therefore supporting your whole body from your bones, organs, ligaments, tendons, to your gut, nails, hair and skin.


It's also important to note here, that too much sugar and refined carbohydrates cause inflammation in the body and damage collagen.


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