If you’ve seen the “behind the scenes” of my morning coffee or smoothie routines on Instagram, you may have noticed that I regularly add collagen peptides into the mix. I’ve been adding a tablespoon or two of this white, powdery substance to my diet for a few years now and have gotten a few common questions when I share.
What is collagen, anyway? Why do you add it to your food? How does it taste and how do you incorporate it into your diet?
With these and other common questions in mind, I figured an all-in-one resource would be helpful! So here’s a brief overview of everything I know about collagen to bring you up to speed.
NOTE: I’m not a doctor or nutritionist and am only sharing what I’ve learned from my own research. Before adding any supplements to your diet, it’s wise to check in with your doctor and/or medical professional.
What Is Collagen?
Okay, let’s start with the basics. Collagen is a naturally occurring protein in humans and animals. It’s actually the most abundant protein in our bodies and is a major component in our skin, bones, cartilage, blood and connective tissues.
In short, collagen holds things together and provides both structure and elasticity throughout our bodies.
Why Supplement with Collagen?
As we age and are exposed to sun, the collagen in our bodies (especially in our skin) breaks down and weakens. Hence, our skin starts to wrinkle. So while our bodies create collagen naturally, there’s evidence that ingesting collagen supplements gives our body the building blocks to create more. You can almost think of it as an anti-aging boost.
Various studies have linked collagen supplements to increased skin hydration, reduced joint pain, and stronger hair and nails. Many people also believe it can reduce inflammation and promotes gut health.
I’ve always had strong nails and, up until recently, my hair was loc’ed for nearly a decade so I couldn’t tell if the supplements made any difference in those areas. But I absolutely feel a difference in my skin when I take collagen. And aside from water and my daily moisturizer/SPF combo, collagen is the single best beauty product I use these days! And for that reason alone, I highly recommend giving it a trying.
That being said, I’m back with a disclaimer that some people have said ingestible collagen has little-to-no impact on their skin at all. As always, I encourage you to conduct your own research and try collagen yourself before drawing a conclusion.
How Can I Get More Collagen In My System?
There are quite a few ways to take collagen.
Topical Collagen Products
If you’re a skin care buff, you’ve likely seen Collagen cream and serum products from major brands. But it’s generally accepted that these products won’t have much, if any, impact on your skin. While these creams can moisturize your skin when applied, they aren’t a great way to boost collagen (collagen’s molecules are too big to penetrate the epidermis).
Cosmetic Collagen Procedures
While collagen is frequently used as a tool in burn units and dental procedures, it’s also popular in cosmetic procedures. Plastic surgeons, dermatologists and aestheticians can give their patients minimally invasive collagen injections (also called “fillers”), to minimize wrinkles, plump lips, etc. These procedures are semi-permanent and may require touch-ups every three to 12 months.
Remember, collagen is found in the bones and skin of animals, which aren’t always incorporated into our meals. An easy (and perhaps, tasty?) way to ingest collagen? Bone broth. This gelatin-rich liquid can be sipped hot or cold and, in addition to collagen building amino acids, is said to be rich in vitamins and nutrients.
An alternative to bone broth is collagen peptide (the version that I use). Hydrolyzed collagen, or collagen peptide, is collagen that’s been broken down to form an amino acid that’s easier to dissolve in hot or cold liquids. If you take daily vitamins or supplements, collagen tablets like these may be an easy to integrate into your daily routine. Or consider collagen in the powder form, which is my personal favorite! I add a scoop or two of collagen to my coffee and smoothies but, in this powder form, you can add collagen to almost anything.
NOTE: Despite the marketing around these products, I’ve generally found dissolving in cold liquids to be a lot tougher than in warm water. If you do want to add it to your iced coffee, I’d recommend mixing into your milk or creamer first. Otherwise, be prepared to blend, shake, or stir generously.
What else should I know?
A few other things to consider…
- Generally speaking, the supplement industry is not very heavily regulated and it can be difficult to tell where brands source their collagen and which are the “best” quality. Why’s this important? These days, animals can be raised in pretty terrible conditions, which can impact what’s found in their skin and bones. I’ve been reading up on what quality looks like in this space and which brands are “best” and I may switch brands as I learn more.
- Sorry vegans, this option just isn’t for you. As I’ve mentioned, collagen is an animal derived product (typically from cows or fish).
- There is very little research about the effects of collagen during pregnancy (as is the case with many other things). For obvious reasons, we shy away from experimenting on pregnant women, so there isn’t really conclusive data out there. When I spoke to my GYN last, she suggested I avoid supplementing when I get pregnant, “just in case.”
Have other questions? Let me know!
Leave a comment or shoot me a DM. I’d love to hear from you.