Are you savvy to the benefits of collagen in your diet? This is a straight forward read from Food Renegade to help educate you.
Many people are now looking for natural sources of collagen so they can reap its benefits and the benefits are many! As the most abundant protein in our body, collagen is important for:
- Fighting signs of aging like wrinkles
- Improving joint health
- Healing Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Boosting metabolism
- Improving mental health
- Reducing the appearance of cellulite
- Strengthening hair and nails (see this gelatin hair mask recipe)
WHAT IS COLLAGEN?
In the body, collagen is mostly found in the skin, bones, and joints. It also is found in the lining of the gut. We now know that gut health is incredibly important for overall health!
Collagen in the body is made up of amino acids which wrap together to make a triple-helix structure. The helix structure is why collagen is so strong.
The amino acids which make up collagen are:
- Glycine: Makes up about 33% of collagen
- Proline: Makes up about 10% of collagen
- Hydroxyproline: Makes up about 10% of collagen
- Hydroxylysine: Makes up about 1% of collagen (1, 2)
WHY YOU NEED COLLAGEN
Our bodies are able to make collagen out of amino acids we consume through food. However, as we age, our bodies aren’t able to produce collagen as well. Thus, around the age of 30, collagen production begins to diminish by about 1% to 2% yearly. By the age of 40, we have lost 10% to 20% of our collagen! (3)
Don’t forget that our bodies first need to have amino acids to produce collagen. If you are eating a diet which is lacking in those crucial amino acids, your body won’t be able to produce enough collagen!
To make things worse, naturally-occurring enzymes in our bodies also break down collagen. Environmental factors like pollution, free radicals, and the sun can also break down collagen.(4)
THE #1 SOURCE OF COLLAGEN: GELATIN
When it comes to sources of collagen, you won’t find anything better than gelatin. Why? Because gelatin IS collagen.
Gelatin is basically a cooked form of collagen. It is usually made by boiling down the connective tissues of cows or pigs. The collagen is released, extracted, and dried.
The great thing about gelatin is that it is easy for the body to digest and absorb. A lot of people report quick results by consuming gelatin. Don’t expect your wrinkles or joint pain to disappear overnight, but a scoop-per-day of gelatin could do miracles for your health!
Quality matters when buying gelatin! The stuff you find in the supermarket is so highly-processed that it isn’t likely to deliver any benefits. Instead, choose pasture-raised, grass-fed gelatin. You can read How to Choose a Gelatin Brand.
#2: BONE BROTH
Bone broth is made by boiling down the bones and connective tissues of animals. When these tissues are boiled, the collagen is released into water. That is why bone broth will gel.
Making bone broth is very easy and cheap! I like to sip on a hot mug of bone broth each morning.
Just be warned that if you are following a Low FODMAPs diet for IBS or SIBO, some of the carbs in bone broth might bother you. In this case, it is better to opt for gelatin powder, which is FODMAPs-safe.
#3: EGG WHITES
Egg whites are very rich in the amino acids glycine and proline, which are the main components of collagen. By eating egg whites, you’ll give your body the amino acids it needs to build collagen.
Spirulina is a type of blue-green algae which is really popular as a health supplement. In addition to containing lots of iron, a single teaspoon of spirulina contains more glycine and proline than a large egg white.
Spirulina is also a good source of copper, and copper is one of the minerals important for forming collagen.(5)
The only downside is that spirulina supplements can be a bit pricey, and they don’t exactly taste very good. I personally stick to gelatin instead.
Cod, as well as other types of white fish, are loaded with glycine and proline. Even if you aren’t worried about getting more natural sources of collagen into your life, you should still be eating more cod. It has a great Omega 3:6 ratio – something important for reducing inflammation in the body.
I personally take fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) as a supplement every day. It’s the only supplement that I take and is a great source of vitamin D plus it’s a natural sleep aid.
#6: CITRUS FRUITS
While citrus fruits like grapefruits and lemons don’t contain glycine or proline, they do contain high amounts of vitamin C.
Our bodies need vitamin C to produce collagen. According to dermatologist Dr. Dimitry Palceski, the antioxidant properties of vitamin C also prevent enzymes and free-radicals from breaking down collagen.(6)
#7: SULFUR FOODS
Sulfur is a trace mineral which is important for collagen synthesis. Studies have shown that animals fed a sulfur-deficient diet produced less collagen. The scary thing is that many people are likely deficient in sulfur, yet the mineral gets hardly any attention.(7)
Animal foods like beef, eggs, poultry, and dairy are all good sources of sulfur for collagen production. However, it is also important to eat vegetable sources of sulfur too. As Mark Sisson notes, vegetable sources of sulfur contain potent organosulfur which animal foods do not.(8)
Good vegetable sources of sulfur include:
- Garlic (which is also contains allicin – a potent natural antibacterial)
- Brussels sprouts