What one food supplement can give you better skin, hair, and nails, balance your hormones, and improve your bones, joints, and digestion? Sounds too good to be true, but collagen protein (sometimes called gelatin) is a powerhouse supplement for beauty and anti-aging.
What is collagen?
Collagen is a type of protein that makes up 1/3 of the total protein in our bodies and more than 2/3 of the protein in our skin. It is made up of amino acids (mostly glycine and proline). (1) Many people know about collagen’s benefits for the skin, which is why it’s in so many beauty products, but it has so many other health benefits as well.
What is Gelatin?
Gelatin is also made up of amino acids and is derived from collagen. Gelatin is commonly known as the main ingredient in jelly, but it has many health benefits too. The amino acids in collagen and gelatin are necessary for growing healthy skin, hair, and nails, as well as proper immune function and hormonal regulation. Yes, there is a reason that jelly has a reputation as a hospital food – it’s very good for healing! (2)
Benefits of collagen and gelatin
- Helps grow healthy skin, hair and nails (3,4)
- Excellent for joints and bone health (5)
- Aids muscle recovery (6)
- Reduces wrinkles and other signs of aging (7)
- Helps heal musculoskeletal injuries (8)
- Assists thyroid function (9)
- Reduces inflammation (10)
- Promotes restful sleep (11)
- Balances hormones, especially estrogen (12)
- Reduces risk of insulin resistance (13)
- Heals the digestive system (14)
Where can we find collagen and gelatin?
Collagen and gelatin are contained in the bones, fibrous tissues, and organs of animals. Modern people don’t consume enough collagen or gelatin because we mostly eat muscle meats (like steak and chicken breast).
Prior to modern food production, people consumed far more collagen and gelatin because all parts of the animal were eaten. People ate the organs and meats with skin, and used the bones for broths and stews. Some health experts believe our overconsumption of muscle meats may be contributing to disease. (15)
Our own collagen stores decline as we age, so it’s important to make sure you get enough of them from your diet. Luckily it’s easy to add powdered collagen or gelatin to your cooking, or as a supplement.
Many skin care products use collagen as a selling point, but topical application isn’t that beneficial because collagen molecules are too big to be absorbed by the skin. It’s better to get collagen internally from your diet or supplements. (16)
Where to get collagen and gelatin supplements
Collagen and gelatin are very similar and can be used interchangeably in terms of their health benefits. However, as supplements their properties are very different.
- Collagen Hydrolysate Powder is the hydrolyzed form of gelatin, meaning the proteins are broken down into individual peptide chains. It dissolves in any liquid, and is easier to digest. As a supplement, it easily mixes into most hot and cold drinks and is tasteless, but it won’t gel and is not good in recipes that require gelatin. You can’t make jello or mousse with it. This is the brand I use; the green can is the kind that dissolves easily. Here is another excellent option.
- Gelatin Powder is often used for its ability to coat the digestive tract. It may be harder to digest for very sensitive people (for most people there should not be an issue). This is the kind that “gels” and is used for recipes like gummies, jelly, and pudding. Gelatin is created when you make bone broth, as the heat of cooking breaks down the natural collagen found in the bones. That’s why bone broth often thickens and gels in the fridge. This is the brand I use; the orange can is the kind that gels.
Take 1-2 tablespoons per day of either form.
- Collagen powder: stir into any liquid or hot drink. Try the warming hot cocoa drink below!
- Gelatin powder: works well in smoothies, or add to soups or stews, or try your hand at homemade jello.
Recipe for Healthy Warming Hot Cocoa
Bring ½ liter of water, almond milk, or coconut milk to boil. Meanwhile add the following to your blender:
- 1 tablespoon collagen hydrolysate powder
- ½ tablespoon maca powder
- 1 tablespoon cacao powder
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon raw honey, or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- dash of cloves
- dash of powdered cayenne pepper (optional)
Add the hot water to the blender and blend all ingredients together. Enjoy immediately while it’s hot!
Have you tried collagen or gelatin supplements? Have you noticed a difference in your skin, hair or nails when you use them? Let us know in the comments!