You may be hearing a lot about collagen and gelatin right now, but it’s not a new nutrient, in fact our ancestors grew up consuming it.
Collagen is found in the connective tissues—our bones, skin, ligaments, and tendons. It’s are packed with beneficial amino acids and are a complete protein, which is why people often rave about the benefits when it comes to strengthening their skin, hair, and nails.
It is also an amazing way to restore gut health. For the same reasons collagen and gelatin help repair and grow muscle tissue, it serves as an excellent nutrient source for rebuilding the rapidly dividing cells that line the interior of the gut.
Here’s an explanation of what collagen and gelatin are, the difference between them, and why they’re important, plus simple ways to get more of them into your diet!
COLLAGEN + GELATIN
Gelatin actually starts with a protein called collagen. Collagen is the most important protein in connective tissue, skin, and bones; you actually have more collagen in your body than any other type of protein! Degradation of collagen can cause many problems from wrinkles to osteoporosis.
In food, collagen is found mostly in the tougher cuts of beef that contain a lot of connective tissue and chicken feet. You know, the parts of the animals that our ancestors ate, but we typically throw away!
Gelatin comes into this because people rarely eat skin and tendons raw; they cook them. And cooking the collagen transforms it into gelatin. Gelatin is the cooked form of collagen – it’s the way we can eat the beneficial amino acids in the collagen without having to sit down to a lovely plate of raw tendons.
So far, so simple. Cooking collagen extracts gelatin, but if more intensive processing, can also create a slightly different product called collagen hydrolysate.
Collagen hydrolysate (also called hydrolyzed collagen) is not exactly the same thing as gelatin. In the hydrolyzed form, the collagen is processed more intensively, which actually breaks up the proteins into smaller pieces. They both have the same amino acids, but different chemical properties.
|Source||Bones, skin, and scales of animals.|
|Amino acid profile||Exactly the same; collagen just has the proteins in smaller pieces.|
|Dissolves in cold water?||No; true gelatin dissolves only in hot water.||Yes.|
|Causes liquids to gel?||Yes||No|
The benefits of collagen are mostly from the amino acids, and you break down both gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen into the same amino acids in your digestive system anyway, so in terms of health benefits, hydrolyzed collagen and gelatin are roughly equivalent. But they do have culinary differences in terms of how you’ll use them.
Collagen is important for skin and bone health – supplements are sold for everything from wrinkles to osteoporosis. As well as supplying the important amino acids for collagen stores in your body, gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen also have gut-healing benefits that might be even outweigh all of the other benefits!
- The amino acids feed the lining of the gut, acting as an anti-inflammatory.
- Helps build stronger muscles and inhibits your body from breaking down muscle after exercise. Think of it as food medicine for your muscles, joints, and ligaments.
- Improves digestion. Collagen supports hydrochloric acid production in our stomach, which makes it easier to digest foods. Collagen could also help to repair the sensitive lining and infrastructure of our stomach and both small and large intestines.
Supports restful sleep. 20 to 30 percent of collagen is made up of a small, nonessential amino acid called glycine. Studies have found glycine to be effective in calming the nervous system, which can improve sleep quality and efficacy.
ADDING COLLAGEN + GELATIN TO YOUR DIET
Nobody eats raw collagen – theoretically you could, but you’d have to sit around gnawing on raw animal tendons and bones. But you can add more gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen to your diet quite easily.
- Bone Broth- Healthy, delicious, full of minerals and collagen. Making a big batch can save time as some of these recipes need 24-48 hours on the stove! Your bone broth can also be stored in jars or as ice cubes in the freezer for later use in cooking, or simply on its own in a mug (so good!) whenever you feel like it. Learn how to make bone broth yourself here. If you don’t feel like making it yourself, my second favorite option is purchasing it from Kettle and Fire.
- Supplements- If cooking’s not your thing there are powders that make it easier to increase your daily intake. When opting for a collagen powder, you want to make sure that you are getting it from grass-fed pasture raised cows, with no antibiotics or chemicals. I love Vital Proteins. Their gelatin is great to use for sauces, homemade-gummies, puddings and natural marshmallows! But honestly, you can use the collagen everyday in your smoothie or add it to some oatmeal!
- Dark Leafy Greens- Spinach, cabbage and kale are packed with an antioxidant called lutein and are high in collagen producing agents. Rich in vitamin C, regular consumption of kale, spinach, collards, and asparagus help to strengthen the body’s ability to manufacture collagen and to utilize the protein effectively.It is possible to provide everything your body needs to produce collagen by eating a balanced diet. By including some of the foods mentioned here, you will soon begin to see a difference in the quality of your skin tone, as well as have an improved sense of overall health.
Add collagen and/or gelatin into your diet and notice how your skin and digestion improve!