Collagen – What Is It + Benefits + How to Use

Collagen is so trendy right now. But, is it actually for good reason? Drum roll please… I believe YES! Collagen is incredibly multi-beneficial and is really easy to incorporate. In this post I’ll be explaining what collagen actually is, what the benefits are (there are lots) and easy ways to incorporate it into your diet!

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein found in our bodies. It is found in our muscles, bones, skin, tendons and digestive system. It is found within the spaces between our cells and is basically the “glue” that holds us together! Collagen protein makes up about 30%-40% of our bodies and up to 70% of the protein in our skin. It’s what gives our skin elasticity and contains 19 different amino acids.

Amino acids are incredibly important because they are the building blocks of our bodies and help to maintain functions on a daily basis. Collagen contains a mix of nonessential amino acids (produced by the body) and essential amino acids (our bodies do not produce them and we need to get them from external sources) our bodies amino acids – including important ones like glycine, proline and hydroxyproline, which make up over 50% of the amino acid content.

There are actually 16 different types of collagen in the human body but typically we only deal with Types 1-5 (Type I – Type V). Type 1 can make up to almost 90% of the collagen found in our bodies.

Collagen can also come in different sources. Hydrolyzed collagen is considered to be the most absorbable by our bodies because it is already partially broken down. Dr. Bitz, a functional medicine doctor (FMD) says that “Hydrolyzed collagen really is just a more processed form of collagen,” Dr. Bitz says. The more broken down the protein is, the easier it is for your body to digest and use (more here).” Other forms, like gelatin, will only dissolve in warm or hot water and will gel as it cools. Use gelatin to make gummies or drink while still hot!

What Are the Benefits of Collagen?

The amino acid glycine is essential to the body because of its ability to transform glucose into energy that muscles can use to help form muscle tissue. This is critical as you age because muscle mass helps posture, bone health and can burn more calories. Glycine can also help to slow the aging process by improving the body’s use of antioxidants and can also be used in the process of building healthy cells (more here). Along with being beneficial to the digestive system, cardiovascular system and reducing joint pain glycine can also help to improve sleep quality.

Proline and hydroxyproline boast the same benefits but also can help with wound healing and fight inflammation. Dr. Sarah Ballantyne from The Paleo Mom states that “supplementing with collagen is helpful because it provides us with the raw materials to make collagen in our bodies.” I like that last quote because it really hits home how important it is to give our bodies the resources it needs to have strong building blocks and a strong foundation.

Our bodies naturally produce less collagen as we age (noooo!) and can lifestyle factors like stress, leaky gut and poor diet can affect our ability to produce collagen. Luckily though since collagen makes up so much of our skin, hair and nail structure, supplementing with it can help to strengthen and reverse the aging process! Most notably, collagen helps with the skin’s elasticity and can keep wrinkles at bay.

To recap collagen can help with:

  • building muscle tissue
  • burning fat
  • improving immunity
  • digestive health
  • cardiovascular health
  • reducing joint pain
  • sleep quality
  • fighting inflammation
  • skin, hair and nails

Now if that’s not an incredibly convincing list from one little supplement, I don’t know what is!

How to Use Collagen

My all-time favorite use for collagen is in my daily matcha latte! I use this recipe from Diane Sanfilippo over at Balanced Bites. I usually also add in some ashwagandha and he shou wu for added adaptogenic benefits.

Honestly any hot beverage is the perfect vessel for collagen! I love to blend it into tea lattes (with coconut milk), plain tea or mushroom elixirs! Whenever I make a smoothie, it is my go-to protein powder of choice. I love to mix it up and use bone broth protein sometimes too! Don’t worry, you can’t taste it 😉

I am also a big fan of using it in my Post-Workout Sweet Potato Chia Pudding. Since the collagen is flavorless, it is really easy to use in most all chia pudding recipes and even desserts! Try this delicious cookie recipe from Unbound Wellness. Or this divine looking carob bread!

My absolute favorite brands are Great Lakes – I especially love the Hydrolyzed Collagen from them! Another brand I really love is Vital Proteins. They have so many different ways to get your collagen in! From coffee creamers (sugar and dairy free!) to beauty elixirs specifically designed to help skin glow and get hair and nails super strong.

Last but not least I love and trust Further Food! They have an AMAZING marine collagen protein (bonus it doesn’t taste like fish!) and also offer turmeric elixirs to help reduce inflammation! If you would like to order from Further Food with a discount code to save 10% use the code FROMMOUNTAINSWELLNESS10 to save on your first order!

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