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What Is Collagen? And Why You Should Add It To Your Diet

Most of us know that collagen has something to do with our skin, but not many of us know what it is and if it’s essential to include it in our diets. The truth is: we should be adding collagen to our diets.

The body is held together by collagen, a sticky protein. Besides our skin, collagen is in our bones, ligaments, cartilage, tendons, blood vessels, walls of arteries, teeth, intervertebral disks, and even our corneas. There are three amino acids in collagen protein. The three stands work together to form a triple helix, which strengthens the tissue. Glycine is the most abundant in collagen. Our bodies produce it, but not enough for optimal health and metabolic functions.

Learn about some functions of collagen, as well as some tips for consuming more collagen.

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Collagen Makes Your Skin Look Younger & Can Improve Joint Health

Our bodies produce fewer collagen fibers as we age, which contributes to wrinkles and loose skin. Adding collagen to our diet may promote youthful, glowing skin. Healthy skin can be a sign of health and vitality, and collagen may even be the key to youth.

Collagen may be a key player in treating joint pain, stiffness, or disease impacting the joints. One randomized controlled trial tested whether acetaminophen alone or with type II collagen for three months was more effective in treating knee osteoarthritis. Study results showed that those taking type II collagen experienced significant improvements in joint pain compared to those taking pain-relieving medications alone.

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Collagen Can Improves Digestion and May Increase Your Lifespan

Our intestines contain a barrier that keeps out allergens, toxins, and pathogens. It has been shown that the disruption of the gut barrier may lead to health complications, including autoimmune diseases. Glycine is an anti-inflammatory and may also serve as a protective agent.

Eating only muscle meat from animals and skipping glycine-rich portions of the animal, like organ meats, may stress our bodies and affect our longevity. Muscle meat is high in methionine, an amino acid associated with a shortened lifespan. It appears that red meat consumption, particularly in a low-glycine environment, can have detrimental effects on the body.

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Collagen May Increase Muscle Mass & Improve Mood & Sleep

Leucine is essential for muscle growth and collagen contains a low level of it. Even though collagen is unlikely to improve muscle mass over simply increasing protein consumption, it’s good to know that collagen can boost body composition and strength.

As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, glycine can enhance mental clarity, induce feelings of calmness, reduce anxiety, and reduce headaches. Glycine has also been found to improve sleep and reduce daytime sleepiness and fatigue caused by sleep deprivation.

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Collagen-based wound dressings have been used to speed the recovery of wounds because of their stickiness. Collagen essentially acts as the glue to hold wounds together during the healing process.

Photo: Shutterstock/Irina BG

How To Incorporate Collagen Into Your Diet

It’s important to make sure we are doing our part to support our body’s production of collagen. Here are some tips to incorporate extra collagen into your body through your diet.

Meat

Animals’ skin is rich in collagen, like ours, so eating it has collagen benefits. Other than the skin, ribs, oxtails, and feet are great sources of collagen.

Gelatin

Your body can utilize gelatin as a building block for creating new collagen when you ingest it. Gelatin is relatively easy to digest as the protein is already broken down into free amino acids. Additionally, gelatin powder can be used in many recipes.

Bone Broth

Boil bones to extract the collagen. After the broth cools to room temperature, it should form a jelly-like substance.

Collagen Powder

Aside from eating meat, you can take a supplement called hydrolyzed collagen powder. There are different blends of hydrolyzed collagen powders to strengthen different areas.

Vitamin C

Hydroxyproline is an amino acid found in high concentrations of collagen. Vitamin C is necessary for this process to occur.

Adding collagen to your diet can assist your body’s natural production of collagen. There are many health benefits of having more collagen production in our bodies.

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