COLLAGEN: Why You Need It & How to Get It

Have your heard about COLLAGEN? Maybe when you hear the word "collagen" you think about cosmetic procedures such as "collagen injections" or collagen boosting creams and such. But it's CRUCIAL to understand that collagen is so much more than that - it's everywhere in your body and it's essential to your health, for both your inner and outer beauty. And this applies to men, too!

Collagen is a super important protein in our body that makes up about 75% of our skin composition, and 30% of our bodies overall. Unfortunately, we are losing our collagen every day - not only as we age, but also due to hormonal changes, processed foods, sugar and alcohol, hydrogenated oils, radiation, excess sun, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, stress, and more! And most of us are not getting enough collagen in our modern diets. Therefore, boosting our intake of collagen is ESSENTIAL, as is minimizing those factors that decrease our collagen!

BENEFITS OF COLLAGEN

Collagen benefits us in a number of ways, including:

  • Supports Skin, Hair and Nails: Collagen is mostly known for its ability to give us tight, plump skin. That’s because the middle layer of our skin (that nourishes and strengthens that gorgeous outer layer you see) is primarily made up of collagen. Collagen is anti-ageing, helps heal wounds, strenthens your hair and nails, and more!
  • Strengthens Muscles
  • Acts as a lubricant for our Joints and Bones; helps treat arthritis /osteoarthritis / osteoporosis
  • Helps improve Gut function; can boost low stomach acid (helps with nutrient absorption and IBS), heal permeability and strengthen the walls of our intestines

NOTE: While many people associate collagen with unnaturally plumped skin, here I'm sharing NATURAL ways to boost your collagen that will give you real LASTING benefits (without spending a ton of $). Plus they’ll help prevent further breakdown of collagen, from the inside out.

HOW TO BOOST YOUR COLLAGEN

Supplementing with collagen in your diet works LONG-TERM by slowing collagen loss and rebuilding collagen. Below I share the 2 best sources of collagen, as well as plant-based foods that help your body's ability to produce more collagen.

And just as important as increasing your collagen intake, is decreasing those bad habits that promote LOSS of collagen and lead to ageing, such as: eating a diet with lots of processed foods, sugar, alcohol, smoking, stress, UV damage, and all free-radical overload. Instead, start increasing your intake of anti-inflammatory foods, and of course, those foods that I mention below.

BEST SOURCES OF COLLAGEN

1)     Bone Broth - Broth made from cooking the bones of meat over many hours is filled with collagen and one of the best ways to nourish your body. Additionally, the gelatin derived from the collagen you get in bone broth heals your digestive tract, and is key to preventing inflammation and aging skin. If you have the time, I highly suggest making at home. Otherwise, for those that live in the US, you can now find prepared bone broth online and at health stores.

  image from epicurious

image from epicurious

2)     Protein Powders made of Gelatin or Collagen peptides (essentially a cold-water soluble and more easily digestible form of gelatin), generally sourced from grass-fed red meat (bovine) or pork (porcine). If you prefer to avoid meat, I suggest Marine collagen peptides that come from wild-caught fish. Plus, studies show that fish collagen peptides have the best absorption and bioavailability due to their smaller particle sizes compared to other animal collagens. 

Not sure how to use these powders? Collagen Peptides are super easy to use. The one I buy from Vital Proteins is unflavored, and I personally add a scoop to my breakfast smoothie every day. Its also great to add to oatmeal, yogurt, soups and even scrambled eggs.

The Beef Gelatin gets a jelly-like consistency when mixed with liquid, so is great to thicken soups/stews, or to make homemade jello, custards and gummies!

  image from Vital Proteins

image from Vital Proteins

Boosting your collagen intake (via collagen peptides and/or bone broth) will give you beautiful skin (primarily by increasing your skin’s hydration), as well as improving your skin elasticity and diminishing your cellulite. And as mentioned above, it also helps your joints, muscles, bones, and digestion.

Therefore, I suggest having BONE BROTH (made with bones of grass-fed beef or organic chicken) and/or supplementing with powdered collagen peptides at least once a week.

PLANT NUTRITION TO BOOST COLLAGEN

Sadly, collagen does not exist in plants, so it’s difficult for vegans to get direct sources of collagen. However, there are a ton of foods that vegans (and everyone!) can eat in order to boost their collagen production – basically, whole foods that have lots of “collagen-building” nutrients.

Here are 9 plant-based foods that promote the body's natural production of collagen:

  • Pumpkin Seeds: Extremely rich in Zinc which is one of the primary nutrients required for collagen production.
  • Berries: Apart from being delicious, berries (and most red/purple fruits) are rich in antioxidants that ward off free radicals, and phytonutrients that support collagen production. 
  • Citrus fruits: Oranges, grapefruits, lemons and limes are very high in vitamin C, and help the amino acids lysine and proline convert to collagen. Lemons and limes in particular are super alkalizing and are a great addition to salad dressings, marinating protein, drizzling on veggies and fruits, and in a glass of warm water in the morning
  • Garlic: Sulfur is crucial to our natural production of collagen, and garlic is one of the best sources of sulfur. Garlic also provides taurine and lipoic acid which assist in repairing damaged collagen fibers. (And it adds amazing flavor to almost anything, so start cooking your veggies, soups, and protein with some minced garlic if you're not already!)
  • Broccoli & Brussels sprouts: These have double benefit of Vitamin C (like citrus fruits) and sulfur (like garlic) so are some of the best foods to boost your collagen.
  • Avocados: Oh my favorite. Apart from being deliciously creamy and satisfying, avocados are rich in omega-3 and vitamin E which fight free radicals. Avocados are a great way to support skin health, while providing sustained energy throughout the day. And if you haven't tried my chocolate avocado mousse yet, you must!
  • Dark leafy greens: Leafy greens provide vitamins A and C for collagen (and immune) support, and are also a major source of fiber, iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K (and more!). A great way to make sure you get your greens in each day is to start your day with a green smoothie
  • Flax and Chia seeds: Flax and Chia are both powerful plant-based sources of omega-3, which keeps your skin youthful and elastic. Plus, both Flax and Chia seeds provide a ton of fiber, protein and magnesium, as well as a ton of other vitamins and minerals. Flax "eggs" are a great binder when eliminating eggs, and generally great for any vegan baking. Chia seeds are great to thicken any recipe, and personally,“chia pudding” is one of my favorite snacks.

Whether you’re vegan or not, eating more of these “collagen-boosting” foods will have a profound effect on your body and skin!

SO MY SUGGESTION IS: Eat as many plant-based collagen-boosting foods EVERY DAY, and then make sure to supplement with collagen (if you’re not vegan) at least once a week.  That will leave you with plump, youthful looking skin in no-time!