Collagen, specifically type 1 collagen, is the most plentiful protein in our entire body. It’s not only needed for muscle building and repair but it’s also used for building and maintaining healthy elastic skin, joints, ligaments, and bones. Fortunately, our body can create it by using two amino acids: glycine and proline in combination with vitamin C. The amino acid glycine is found abundantly in animal foods such as meat, dairy, seafood, and eggs. Proline can be found in both animal and plant foods such as mushrooms, asparagus, and eggs. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables including strawberries, oranges, kiwis, brussels sprouts, and bell peppers. Food that contains collagen itself includes animal foods like chicken skin, bone broth, fish skin, eggs, and meat. So now that you’re aware of how your body can make it or consume it, why is it so important?
1. Collagen keeps our joints and ligaments strong – When collagen is low in the body, ligaments, and joints become more stressed because collagen serves as the “glue” that keeps everything smoothly attached and moving. Collagen serves as a gel-like cushion to prevent inflammation in these areas. Injuries like tendonitis in the Achilles could indicate an issue with collagen production/availability in the body.
2. Collagen improves our skin health – Collagen is what is responsible for keeping our skin smooth, elastic, and clear. Smoking decreases the body’s ability to create collagen and it is clearly evident that those who chronically smoke have more rugged and unhealthy skin. A recent study revealed the benefits that collagen supplementation had on skin elasticity after just four weeks!
3. Collagen enhances gut health – A chronic illness known as the leaky gut is becoming more and more prevalent in our western societies. The leaky gut is the result of a weakened and damaged gut lining from plant compounds such as gluten, phytic acid, sugar, and other inflammatory foods. Once the gut lining is damaged enough, the bloodstream can become intoxicated from what was supposed to stay in your gut but because it is weakened can escape into the bloodstream. Collagen essentially lubricates and strengthens the interior of the gut which is critical for good gut health. Issues like depression can stem from a weakened gut.
4. Collagen builds strong hair and nails – Both our hair and nails are strengthened from the foundation of high-quality proteins, specifically collagen. Without appropriate levels of collagen and amino acids in the diet, hair and nails become weak and brittle.
Conclusion – Protein is often only given credit for its positive effects on muscle repair and growth but there is so much more to it than just that. Without adequate protein, the body decays quicker, bones become more brittle, hair becomes weaker, nails become brittle, and our tendons and ligaments suffer. Collagen specifically plays a huge role in our outward appearances such as hair health, skin health, and nails.