Collagen and your nutrition
Collagen: superfood or just another trend?
With the growing wellness market, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish between what is actually beneficial from just another marketing ploy. Lately it seems as though the benefits of supplementing with collagen powder or collagen peptides have been everywhere.
So what exactly is collagen? Collagen is a naturally occurring protein found in our bodies. It is found in our muscles, bones, skin, blood vessels, digestive system and tendons. It is responsible for giving our skin strength and elasticity, helping our hair to grow long, making our nails strong and may even help to reduce cellulite! It also promotes digestive health and helps our bodies build muscle while burning fat.
All sounds pretty great, right? Unfortunately, as we begin to age, the body’s collagen production begins to diminish. This inevitably leads to all of the classic signs of ageing such as wrinkles, sagging skin and joint pains due to weaker or decreased cartilage. For some, things we would rather avoid. Lifestyle factors, like a diet high in sugar, smoking and stress further deplete collagen levels.
Enter supplementation! The collagen powders and peptides you see for sale in your health food stores are generally derived from beef bones. They can be quite expensive and it is often difficult to ensure they are from a guaranteed grass fed, organic source (especially important as toxins are stored in the bones).
So what’s a vegetarian (or all of us on a budget) supposed to do? Not to worry! Since our bodies already produce collagen naturally, there are plenty of ways we can simply promote our own collagen production through plant based, whole food sources.
1 – Up your Vitamin C intake
Vitamin C is necessary for our bodies to produce collagen. Without adequate amounts of dietary vitamin C, the body can’t actually form or store collagen. This makes vitamin C a mandatory co-factor for the body’s natural collagen synthesis. Consuming foods high in vitamin C such as citrus fruits, berries and leafy greens can protect the skin from damage and slow aging.
2 – Think Zinc
Zinc is an essential trace mineral that is vital for our bodies to function optimally and is needed for collagen to work properly. Zinc works to ‘activate’ the proteins that are responsible for collagen production, making it another necessary co-factor in collagen production. Zinc deficiency is actually incredibly common, so we recommend upping your intake of foods high in this important mineral such as walnuts, hemp hearts and legumes.
3 – Get Your Amino Acids In
Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are essential in the production of collagen. Especially vital are the amino acids proline and glycine. Both are considered “conditional” amino acids, which means if conditions are ideal, our bodies are able to create them internally. However, more commonly, conditions are not ideal due to our fast paced, high stress, and sleepless society. This means more often than not we must get these amino acids from the foods we eat. Vegan sources include bananas, beans, cabbage and cauliflower.
Here’s to eating our way to optimal health and happy skin.
Shannon Gilchrist, R.H.N