Still lost when it comes to the health benefits of collagen? Here’s a primer on what exactly collagen is, why you need it, and how to get it in your diet.
Collagen: It’s a word you’ve probably heard numerous times throughout your life, but if you’re not sure exactly what it is and why you need it, you’re not alone. Collagen has been used as a buzzword in beauty creams, supplements and even face masks, but there are very real differences between collagen’s applications in all of these products. So what is collagen, what does it do, and how does it benefit your health?
The Body’s Most Abundant Protein
The short answer is that collagen is a protein. But it’s different from the proteins you often find in protein powders or even in chicken breast. Collagen is the central component of connective tissue, which means that it’s most prevalent in cartilage, bone and skin. It’s not found in high quantities in skinless muscle meats, and doesn’t exist in plant-based proteins.
What Collagen Does
So, why do you need collagen, as opposed to the types of protein found in muscle meats and plant sources? Because of its role in connective tissue, collagen is extremely important for the health of your skin, nails, bones, joints, cartilage and other connective tissues.
All proteins are comprised of amino acids, and these amino acids are what differentiate certain proteins from others. Collagen is rich in amino acids that other proteins lack, and is particularly high in glycine, proline and hydroxyproline.
Collagen’s unique amino acid profile is beneficial for the connective tissues, which is why collagen is so nourishing for the skin, bones, joints and nails. Collagen also nourishes the “inner skin,” which includes the gut lining. This makes collagen essential for a healthy gut.
Why You Need Collagen
Collagen is naturally occurring in the body, but after about age 25 or so, collagen production begins to decline. This is one of the reasons why people notice sagging skin, a loss of skin elasticity, joint pain and bone weakness as they age.
Including collagen and its unique amino acids in your diet is a great way to get more protein into your diet and support the health of your hair, skin, nails, bones and joints.
How to Get Collagen in Your Diet
Looking for a pure source of collagen that comes from grass-fed, pasture-raised sources, like Vital Proteins’ Collagen Peptides, is important for ensuring you’re only consuming the highest quality sources of collagen. Vital Proteins’ entire line of collagen products are sourced from New Zealand and Brazilian pasture-raised bovine hides and Hawaiian wild-caught red snapper scales. In addition to supplements like those Vital Proteins offers, you can also get collagen in your diet by consuming collagen-rich foods like homemade bone broth, cartilage tissues and organ meats.