Maybe you’ve seen collagen advertised in food, skin cream, pills, or powders. The word is spreading about this nutrient important for a healthy, vibrant body.
But collagen isn’t anything new. You’ve been making it your whole life. Collagen is a type of protein found in your muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, organs, blood vessels, skin, intestinal lining, and other connective tissues. Most of the protein in your body is collagen.
So, why the need to promote collagen on store shelves? Is it something you should be buying? Not necessarily. First, consider if your body is already making enough collagen on its own.
When Your Collagen Levels Decrease
There is no blood test or another way to measure the amount of collagen in your body, but you can tell when your body doesn’t have enough.
As you age, your body naturally makes less collagen. The slow-down can start in your mid-to-late 20s. That causes a variety of conditions that we usually accept as part of getting older:
- Skin loses elasticity. You form wrinkles and your wounds heal more slowly.
- Tendons and ligaments are stiffer. You lose flexibility.
- Muscle mass decreases. You become weaker.
- Cartilage wears down. You develop joint pain or osteoarthritis.
- The intestinal lining gets thinner. You may have more digestion problems.
Aside from aging, however, the top reason people don’t have enough collagen is a poor diet. Your body can’t make collagen if it doesn’t have the necessary elements, namely amino acids and the nutrients to process them. To make sure your body has enough ingredients to make collagen, you may need to change what you eat or take dietary supplements.
The Best Foods For Building Collagen
The best way to replenish the nutrients your body needs to make collagen is through your diet. Eating animal products, like beef, chicken, fish, and eggs will provide amino acids. So will beans and legumes, but one of the best foods for building collagen is bone broth. You can buy it in grocery stores or make it yourself.
Bone broth extracts the collagen from beef, chicken, or fish bones through a low, slow brewing process. Good recipes are plentiful. Most will involve simmering bones in water for 12 to 48 hours either on the stove or in a crockpot.
Gelatin is another great food to boost your body’s ability to make collagen. Gelatin comes from collagen, so it naturally has what your body needs to turn it back into collagen form.
When to Take Collagen Supplements
Getting nutrients from eating fresh, organic foods is best. It’s what your body is made to consume and digest naturally. But collagen supplements are second best and still a good source if you’re traveling, eating on the run, or otherwise concerned that your diet isn’t as nutritious as it could be.
If you want to take a collagen supplement, opt for the capsule. Hydrolyzed collagen (or “collagen peptide”) capsule usually has no flavor and easily consumed.