I firmly believe that 50 is the new 30! And there are a few smart, easy habits that anyone can use to stay youthful and healthy.
Adding collagen to your diet is one of them.
You may have noticed collagen powders popping up in your local health food or grocery store. While most people know that collagen is important for firm skin, the amazing benefits of this important protein are much more than skin deep!
Time to get the scoop on the collagen craze and find out what it is, some surprising reasons why you need it, and how much to use for real results…
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most common form of protein in your body.1 It’s in your skin, hair, nails, bones, ligaments, tendons, muscle tissue – even in your arteries!
Collagen is commonly referred to as the “glue” that holds your body together, like the walls of a building. This vital protein literally holds the structure of your body together, allowing you to stay strong, flexible, and resilient so you can bend and stretch effortlessly.
In fact, about 75% of the protein in your skin is made up of collagen, so a deficiency often shows up most noticeably as facial wrinkles.2 Decreases in your collagen levels as you age can also lead to joint pain and an increased likelihood of soft tissue injuries. (More on that later…)
As you can imagine, a healthy supply of collagen is essential to keep your body looking, feeling, and performing at its best!
How much collagen do you need?
Everyone needs collagen to stay healthy, but sometimes you may need an extra boost. Here are a few times when extra collagen can help, plus the recommended supplemental doses:
Signs of aging
Anyone who wants to fight wrinkles and age spots should consider getting more collagen!
Here’s why: As soon as we reach age 20, our collagen production begins to decrease by about 1% each year.3 That’s a 25% collagen loss by age 45! (It’s no wonder that fine lines and sagging begin to appear around the same time…)
After age 20, adding 5g of collagen daily is a great way to maintain optimal collagen levels. Add 10g or more per day to smooth out wrinkles and sagging after they’ve started.
Joint stiffness & loss of mobility
Stiff and achy joints are typically dismissed as inevitable signs of aging, but they can often be improved by adding collagen to your diet.
That’s partly because losing collagen causes the breakdown of the cartilage you need to protect your joints. The loss of that cartilage cushion between your joints can cause chronic pain, osteoarthritis, and inflammation.4
Supplementing with collagen can help address those issues and reduce joint pain and stiffness. That’s because, when you eat collagen, it triggers your body to repair the structure of your joints.
In fact, studies show that increasing your collagen intake can actually improve mobility, so you can stay flexible well past midlife!5
To get the joint repair benefits of collagen, add 10g or more per day.
Are brittle bones an issue? Collagen might just be your new bestie if you’re experiencing bone loss!
It makes sense because 90-95% of your bone mass is made up of collagen, which keeps your bones strong, flexible, and less likely to break.6 Increasing the collagen in your diet has been shown to prevent bone loss, while also improving bone density.7 Yes, please!
Research shows that adding just 5g of collagen to your daily diet can begin to increase bone mass and decrease the rate of fractures.
Supporting Heart Health
If you’re worried about hardening of the arteries, it’s important to remember that collagen has the same effect on your arteries as it does on your skin, ligaments, and tendons.
Collagen helps your arteries maintain their integrity and prevents them from getting brittle. That means they stay smooth and supple, keeping atherosclerosis at bay.8
Impressively, studies show that adding 16g of collagen daily for six months can help arteries regain flexibility, and even increase good cholesterol (HDL) levels!
Muscle growth and recovery
Since up to 10% of your muscle mass is made up of collagen, it makes sense that supplementing can prevent age-related muscle loss, and even improve muscle growth and strength.
Taking collagen before exercise stimulates muscle growth, so it’s a great addition to your pre-workout coffee or smoothie! Collagen’s ability to boost muscle growth and improve recovery also means it’s a good idea to increase your intake when you need to heal from an injury or surgery.9
Studies prove that an additional 15g of collagen daily can improve muscle mass and strength noticeably over 12 weeks, especially with regular exercise.
Healing an inflamed gut
Collagen contains amino acids that heal and smooth the lining of your digestive tract. That protects it from becoming too permeable, a condition known as “leaky gut syndrome.”10,11
When the gut lining is strong, it reduces inflammation and boosts the immune system. (Get all the details here: What Is Leaky Gut? How to Understand and Repair the Damage)
10-15g of collagen taken consistently each day can help soothe and heal the gut, reduce inflammation, and improve digestion.
How do you get more collagen?
With all of collagen’s amazing benefits, it’s time to find out how you can easily add more to your diet!
Bone broth is an amazing source of collagen!
This savory comfort food is best slow-cooked for 12-14 hours so that you can extract all of the healing nutrients and minerals from the bones. Quality is important, so look for clean, organic sources of bones from beef, chicken, pork, or fish.
Interested in trying bone broth to boost your collagen levels? This simple recipe will get you started! (You can also skip the hassle of making it yourself and get a quality pre-made brand like Flavor Chef.)
Gelatin is packed with collagen.
However, unlike the familiar jiggly dessert with added food coloring, artificial flavors, chemicals, and low-quality animal protein, real gelatin from a clean, grass-fed source is actually good for you!
Gelatin is basically cooked collagen – it’s the part that turns jelly-like when you refrigerate bone broth. You can get it in powder form at your local health food store to add to soups, sauces, or desserts.
Spirulina doesn’t actually have collagen in it, but it does have glycine and proline, which are the main amino acids that make up collagen. The rich antioxidant content of spirulina is also definitely a bonus!
If you eat a plant-based diet, this microalgae is your best bet. It’s available in a convenient powder form for adding to smoothies and drinks. The only downside is that it has a strong, earthy seaweed flavor that isn’t to everyone’s taste.
Collagen powder is the simplest way to add collagen to your diet, especially if your schedule is busy or you’re traveling. Collagen powder is also easy to measure, so you know you’re getting the dose you need.
Since collagen powder is flavorless and not cold- or heat-sensitive, it’s easy to add a scoop to protein shakes, savory soups, or even coffee for an extra boost of creaminess.
If you want an irresistible way to find out how versatile collagen powder can be, try our super popular Gluten-Free Collagen Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe!
Now that you know about all of the awesome ways collagen can help, how much you need, and how easy it is to add to your busy routine, you’re on track to looking and feeling your best, no matter what your age!
Thanks so much for reading this post! If you’re interested in finding out more about how to dial in your diet and health, please check out our 60-second quiz to find the perfect next step for your personal goals and health needs.