Medically review by Kim Langdon
Here's a superfood that's worth the buzz: collagen!
?Yep, in its more popular form (a.k.a. gelatin), it's the secret ingredient in the rainbow of artificially flavored Jell-O products at the supermarket.
However, it is not the Frankenfood you're used to at all. In fact, it's incredibly good for you and a true nutritional powerhouse.
Collagen is the most commonly found protein in our bodies (50%), and it quite literally keeps us from falling apart; it's found in hair, skin, nails, muscles, bones and tendons.
Therefore, the health benefits of collagen, and gelatin are truly endless. Even better is that these ingredients are SO easy to use and make a part of your daily routine.
Collagen contains amino acids that our bodies already produce. While it may seem silly to supplement with, it's not.
When we are sick or experiencing chronic stress, our bodies need a boost of the stuff.
Many of the benefits of collagen are due to its content of amino acids arginine, glutamine, glycine and proline.
Collagen is derived from animal bones, skin, and tissues - all those 'odd and unappealing' bits you usually throw away.
Gelatin, on the other hand, is what collagen turns into when it's cooked.
Making bone broth is essentially a process of extruding collagen out of bones and cartilage, which turns the liquid into a gelatinous mass.
If bone broth is not your cup of tea, then collagen hydrolysate powder or gelatin powder can be used. Both contain the same amino acids but different chemical properties.
For example, collagen powder dissolves in cold water and doesn't gel, which means you can add it to your morning smoothie or a glass of water.
Gelatin, on the other hand, only dissolves in hot water and will gelatinise when cooled down.
It may go without saying that when sourcing both collagen and gelatin, it's best to use a grass-fed brand that is packaged in a BPA-free container.
One of the best collagen powder brands in our opinion is Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate, which you can find in most countries.
Collagen for anxiety
Tons of people suffer from anxiety.
The luckier bunch of us generally experience a mild anxiety, while others may rely on daily medication to tame the worst of it.
Regardless of the intensity of the anxiety we experience, it can be incredibly helpful to have natural remedies available to alleviate our symptoms.
The consumption of grass-fed gelatin has been shown to improve conditions in addition to eating foods that fight stress.
Glycine is a non-essential amino acid found in gelatin. Since it is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, it slows down the production of norepinephrine which tends to induce feelings of anxiety.
This can either decrease specific instances of anxiety, or lessen the intensity of the feelings when they do come on.
Sleep benefits of collagen
Getting a good night's rest is often at the top of our priority list, yet it tends to suffer more consistently than we'd like, especially for those who deal with serious sleep issues.
There are tons of known remedies ranging from food to supplements to prescription sleep aids, but there is no "one size fits all" solution.
Some individuals have trouble falling asleep while others have trouble staying asleep; it's just not linear.
If it seems like you've tried everything, it may be worthwhile to experiment with collagen.
Glycine - that amino acid that also alleviates anxiety - can also improve the quality of your sleep.
Who knew something deemed "non-essential" could be so beneficial?
It can help reduce the core body temperature, which is especially helpful for those who have trouble staying asleep.
In essence, glycine has the potential to improve sleep hygiene.
Lastly, one of the most positive aspects of using gelatin or collagen as a sleep-aid is the lack of side effects - no more weird dreams or groggy mornings.
Collagen for skin, hair, and nails
Let's face it, we all want to feel better, but we also want to look better! Having healthy, glowing skin, strong hair, and strong nails are added bonuses of a real food diet.
By incorporating grass-fed collagen peptides into a balanced diet, you can truly reap all the beauty benefits.
Glycine and proline - both amino acids - protect collagen. Collagen is one of the most prominent pieces to the puzzle of our skin, so consuming gelatin which is rich in both aforementioned compounds can help keep it healthy.
It can also fight the effects of sun damage and improve elasticity (less wrinkles, yay!).
Keratin will help both nails and hair grow faster and stay strong, so you'll be less prone to thinning hair and brittle nails. Check out the top ten essential nutrients for promoting healthy skin.
When we begin eating a diet comprised of real food, digestion is often the first thing we notice improve.
The nutritional protocol we use at Happy Body Formula is inherently anti-inflammatory, high in fiber from vegetables, and lower in carbohydrates, all of which tend to reduce bloating and keep us regular.
One of the most useful ways to supplement digestion outside of your overall diet and lifestyle is with gelatin and/or collagen.
Collagen is broken down by stomach acid. Gelatin is also a binding agent.
This combination means that the stomach acid will move more quickly to the food that needs to be digested, which will overall lead to a more efficient process.
In the meantime, you can expect to experience less gas, bloating, and discomfort after your meals.
Calcium is often thought to be the main attribute to better bone health, but think again!
Collagen is one of the building blocks of a super strong skeleton.
Supplementing with collagen can even drastically improve or eliminate joint pain, making this a useful addition to diet for those with chronic pain or athletes whose bones are the building block to a strong foundation.
Since the bones are made up mostly of collagen, supplementing with collagen helps to build them up.
In turn, your bones will be more dense and less prone to loss over time.
Collagen also helps manage inflammation which, in turn, helps to manage discomfort in the joints.
People who suffer from arthritis can use this supplement to reduce pain.
Our favorite ways to use collagen
How much collagen should I take daily?
If you're using something like collagen powder, we recommend 1-2 tablespoons (1 -5 grams day). To see the full benefit, it is recommended to continue for 12 weeks.
Be sure to check that the collagen supplements are screened for heavy metals and come from a safe (USP or NSF approved)
How do you use collagen and/or gelatin in your diet? Share your favorite recipes or tips with us below. If you've noticed any differences, let us know!
This article was fact checked for accuracy by Dr. Kim Langdon, MD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
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Hermanto S, Fatimah W. Differentiation of bovine and porcine gelatin based on spectroscopic and electrophoretic analysis. Journal of Food and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2013;1(3):68–73.
Zhang Z, Li G, Shi BI. Physicochemical properties of collagen, gelatin and collagen hydrolysate derived from bovine limed split wastes. Journal-Society of Leather Technologists and Chemists. 2006;90(1):23.
Kimberly Langdon M.D. is a retired University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist with 19-years of clinical experience. She delivered over 2000 babies to mothers in a suburban Midwestern community.