Is this your first attempt of getting acquainted with collagen? Or a refresher maybe?
You probably heard or read about it somewhere, or maybe a doctor or a friend has advised you to look it up. Whatever your reasons are, you should know that you are doing the right thing. If you’re particularly looking to add more into your menu of daily supplements, or even just about to start taking them, you can be guided on the basics here.
You might have already known about this, and if you don’t, here’s the shortest and most effective motivator on why you need to start taking collagen – it keeps and makes you look young, that and more.
What is Collagen?
In knowing the nature of collagen, let’s first wear our science hats and talk about what scientists call the extracellular matrix. It is mainly responsible in helping cells to bind together, regulating a number of functions such as adhesion and migration. Simply, it maintains the skin structure by retaining water which in turn makes the skin firm, smooth and strong. Now, you may be already wondering, where does collagen fit into all of this?
Collagen is the most abundant component of the extracellular matrix, the decisive protein that determines skin physiology. And not just skin, collagen literally and figuratively holds our body together, like what glue does. Interestingly enough, the word “collagen” is derived from the Greek word “kolla”, which means glue. It is described as the major component of connective tissues of the body such as ligaments, tendons, and muscles.
Naturally, our body already produces collagen. It’s already in us – in our bones, blood, and muscles. It comprises three quarters of our skin, and a third of the total protein in our body. The reason we’re having this conversation, and probably the reason you’re reading this article, is that as we grow older and wither away in the process we call “aging”, the existing collagen in our body breaks down and it gets harder for our body to produce more. Hence, we turn to food sources and supplements.
Types of Collagen
You will be surprised to know that there are at least 28 types of collagen in existence. But will you read about all of them in this article? That’s a no. There are only three types with the most presence in the body, uses and benefits.
Type I. It is the strongest type among all of them and is the top choice if you’re looking to support your skin’s health. This collagen type is described as the skin’s building block. More than that, Type I forms 90% of our bones’ organic mass and is the dominant type of collagen in our tendons, ligaments, cornea and many connective tissues.
Type II. It is the major collagen found in the cartilage – a connective tissue responsible for the protection of the ends of long bones and joints – and accounts to 80% of the collagen content in the area.
Type III. It is very similar to Type I and can be found in the same locations except in bones. It is described as an important component of reticular fibers found in our lungs, liver, spleen, dermis, and blood vessels. Like type I, it also abundant in our elastic tissues.
So, have you decided which one is most suitable for your needs? The good news is – and lucky for you, you don’t have to choose! Collagen dietary supplements usually are already a combination of the three.
Sources of Collagen
The obvious and easy choice where to get your collagen is supplementation. There are a lot of collagen supplements available in the market – be it pills, tablets, powders, even drinks. They are market as collagen peptides. You just have to choose which collagen supplement form you can easily incorporate in your daily busy schedule because supplementation is also a commitment.
But if you want to have it the more natural way, you can still get your daily collagen needs in your diet. Take a look at the following food groups that can help your body produce more collagen, or what are described as “collagen boosters”.
- Beans. This food group is high in protein and contain amino acids that are essential for collagen synthesis. More than that, beans are also rich in copper which is important for collagen production.
- Bell peppers. Red bell peppers have high vitamin C content and contain capsaicin, a compound that is said to combat the aging process because of its anti-inflammatory properties.
- Berries. Also having high vitamin C content, berries surprisingly provide more vitamin C than oranges. This food group includes strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries. They are said to have high levels of antioxidants which protects our skin from external damage.
- Bone broth. The most popular food source for collagen by word of mouth, there are actually no studies that support this. However, experts have noted that since bone broth is made of bones and connective tissue, it contains amino acids, collagen, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, glucosamine, chondroitin and other nutrients.
- Cashews. This kind of nuts contain copper and zinc, both have the capacity to boost our body’s ability to create collagen.
- Chicken. Some collagen supplements are actually derived from chicken since its white meat contains hefty amounts of the nutrient, particularly the connective tissues. More than that, many studies have used chicken cartilage and neck as collagen source for arthritis treatment.
- Citrus fruits. Getting enough vitamin C is crucial since it plays a vital role in the body’s collagen production. Citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, limes, and lemons are the rich source and must be incorporated in your diet.
- Egg whites. Unlike other animal products, egg whites don’t contain connective tissues. However, egg whites have high amounts of proline – one of the essential amino acids for collagen production.
- Fish and shellfish. Like most animals, fish and shellfish have ligaments and bones that are made of collagen hence many experts have claimed that marine collagen is easily absorbed by our body. However, dieticians have noted that we don’t tend to eat the parts with the highest collagen content. We should start eating the head, scales or eyeballs – parts where we get most of the fish collagen.
- Garlic. Containing high amount of sulfur – a mineral essential for synthesizing and preventing the breakdown of collagen, garlic may be useful as an addition to your diet. However, consuming a lot may cause heartburn and upset stomach, among others.
- Leafy greens. Salad greens such as kale, spinach, and Swiss chard has chlorophyll – a natural pigment responsible for their color. Chlorophyll is known for its antioxidant properties which also increases collagen in the skin when consumed.
- Tomatoes. Another rich source of vitamin C, a medium tomato can provide 30 percent of the vitamin for collagen. It also contains high amounts of lycopene, another powerful antioxidant for skin support.
- Tropical fruits. More than their vitamin C content, tropical fruits like mango, kiwi, pineapple and guava can be incorporated in your daily fruit cups. Guava, in particular, also have a small amount of zinc – another important nutrient for collagen production.
Benefits of Collagen Supplements
We might not notice but there are things that we repeatedly do – habits, that is – and some that we let happen to us that does our body damage. These habits bring about the depletion of our body’s natural collagen levels – smoking, high sugar consumption, and exposing ourselves to sunlight. If all of them rings a bell, then this is a sign to actually incorporate collagen boosters or supplements in our diet. In doing so, we can reap some science-backed pleasing benefits.
- Collagen can improve skin health. Many studies have shown that collagen supplementation or collagen peptides helps in slowing the aging process of our skin by the reduction of wrinkles and dryness. Separate studies found that women taking supplement containing 2.5-5 grams of collagen in an 8-week period experienced less skin dryness and a remarkable increase in skin elasticity, while women that mixed their beverage with collagen daily for 12 weeks saw increased skin hydration and significant wrinkle depth reduction.
- Collagen helps relieve joint pain. As we already know, collagen is essential in maintaining the integrity of our cartilage – the rubber-like tissue responsible for protecting our joints. Studies show that collagen supplements help in the improvement of osteoarthritis symptoms and reduction of joint pain. In a study wherein 73 athletes who consumed 10 grams of collagen daily in a 24-week period experienced a very significant decrease in joint pain while walking. Researchers have noted that the decrease can lead to lower inflammation, better joint support and pain reduction.
- Collagen prevents bone loss. As we age, the collagen in our body deteriorates – this is also the case for our bone mass. Hence the existence of osteoporosis. Studies have shown that taking collagen supplements help inhibit bone breakdown – the leading cause of osteoporosis. Women who combined their calcium and collagen supplements saw an increase of up to 7% in their bone mineral density. For those who work out, bone density is impacted whenever we lift them weights. Read more about that here.
- Collagen promotes healthy heart. Without enough collagen, our arteries weaken and may become fragile. Arteries are responsible in carrying blood from our heart to the rest of our body. Collagen is responsible for the healthy structure of our arteries. A study wherein 31 healthy adults took collagen supplement of 16 grams daily in 6 months saw a significant reduction in artery stiffness and increased good cholesterol levels – an important factor in the heart condition.
- Other health benefits include: (a) increase in hair and nails strength, (b) treatment of intestinal permeability, (c) improves brain health and reduces symptoms of anxiety, and (d) promotes weight loss.
Effects on Bodybuilding
One major benefit of collagen supplements is the boosting of our muscle mass. Since 1-10% or our muscle tissue is composed of collagen, this abundant protein is essential and very important in keeping our muscles strong and functioning properly.
In one study conducted wherein 27 frail men were administered to take 15 grams of collagen and at the same time participate in an exercise program daily for 12 weeks, researchers found that they gained more muscle mass and strength significantly. Hence, researchers have suggested that taking collagen supplements can promote the synthesis of muscle proteins like creatine, and significantly stimulate muscle growth every after exercise. To know more about creatine, you can read about it here.
Another study published in the British Journal of Nutrition that subjected men over 65 years old to collagen peptides and resistance training daily for 3 months resulted in more muscle growth compared to subjects that only took placebos. A similar study in Japan with similar instrumentation and framework found that muscles fused faster and muscle tissues grew larger as a direct result of supplementation.
Now that we have established the benefits of collagen to our overall health, we can start doing some minor adjustments in our daily habits to incorporate the natural food sources or collagen supplementation into our diet plans.
- Start your daily collagen supplementation.
- Include berries, citrus and tropical fruits in your fruit cup.
- Toss some tomatoes and bell peppers into your leafy green salad.
- Collect recipes for chicken breasts, fish and shellfish.
- Limit your direct exposure to sunlight.
- Exercise slows down the aging process so do it regularly.
- Avoid smoking or secondhand smoke.
- Control your stress as high stress levels aid in the depletion of our body’s collagen.
- Eat less carbs and sugar. You can be guided on how to do that here.
- Snack nuts and beans.
Isn’t it fun to be in control of our body? Watching what we eat and how we treat ourselves make us feel more powerful and motivated in making a change. Being our best self all the time by being healthy certainly have a lot of benefits and unlimited possibilities. We already have the things we need; all we have to do now is make that leap.
Because putting our needs first over everything else is always the best gift we can give ourselves.