Consuming collagen from nutrient rich food sources is the best way to ensure that your body has everything it needs to build new collagen internally.
In this article we will clear up a few of the myths surrounding collagen, provide a list of the 7 best sources of collagen, and help you decide if supplementing collagen is worth considering.
Table of Contents
Collagen is Digested Before it is Used
Does eating collagen contribute to increased collagen in our bodies? Well…yes, but not directly.
Collagen is simply a chain of amino acids bound together into structures called fibrils, and the length and components of these structures vary depending on where in the body they are formed.
To date 28 different types of collagen have been identified, however types 1-5 are the most common, and 90% of the collagen in the human body is type 1.
A common misconception used in marketing is that by eating certain types collagen we can strategically boost the collagen in target areas such as our hair, skin or nails, but that’s not how it works.
When we consume collagen, it is broken down into individual amino acids before it can enter the bloodstream. Consuming foods rich in collagen ensures that our bodies are getting all of the amino acids necessary, in the proper proportions, to build new collagen internally.
But...collagen is an incomplete protein, can't I just eat more complete proteins to help boost my collagen? Yes & No
While collagen is often listed as an inferior protein because it only includes 8 of the 9 essential amino acids, it contains an abundance of the amino acid hydroxyproline, which is only present in small amounts or even absent in other protein sources.
If hydroxyproline is absent or in short supply, your body will not be able to produce collagen.
7 Natural Sources of Collagen
Nutrients such as vitamin C and copper also help support collagen production, so consuming nutrient rich foods high in collagen is generally the best way to boost internal collagen.
1) Eggs are a great complete protein source and the membrane that lines the inside of the eggshell is pure collagen. When you boil your eggs, be sure to consume this membrane.
2) Red meat is also a complete protein that contains all 9 essential amino acids, and the gristle and connective tissue is made of collagen.
3) Bone broth is loaded with collagen and other essential nutrients. It is quite easy to make bone broth at home, but there are some high quality premade options on the market including Kettle & Fire (also available on Amazon) for your convenience.
4) Oysters and shrimp provide all of the amino acids you need to produce collagen, and are also high in zinc and copper.
5) Poultry is another fantastic complete protein source, and the skin, tendons, and cartilage are rich in collagen.
6) Wild caught fish is high in amino acids and essential nutrients that support collagen production. Sardines and anchovies, with the skin and bones included, are the gold standard when it comes to collagen supporting foods.
7) Hot dogs. Yep, you read that right. When sourced and prepared properly, hot dogs can be quite healthy, and since they often contain connective tissue, they are also high in collagen.
Many of our favorite online meat delivery services also offer high quality hotdogs from grass-fed pasture raised meats that are free of antibiotics, nitrates, and nitrites.
When to Consider Supplementing Collagen
If the above mentioned foods don’t currently make up a large portion of your diet, or if you have difficulty digesting protein, a high quality collagen supplement may be worth considering.
Most collagen supplements contain hydrolyzed collagen, which is simply collagen that has been broken down into peptide fragments through the use of enzymes.
These collagen peptides may be more easily absorbed and readily used to support collagen production in those that have difficulty digesting proteins.
Selecting the Best Collagen Supplement
Even though I consume most of the foods listed above regularly, I like to utilize a collagen supplement from time to time, primarily for convenience. I enjoy it in my keto coffee and/or keto hot cocoa, and it makes it easy for me to increase my protein intake while limiting calories.
When it comes to selecting a good collagen powder, the quality of the collagen source is the most important factor.
For example, a bovine sourced collagen should come from grass-fed pasture raised cows, an egg sourced collagen should come from pasture raised eggs, and a fish sourced collagen should come from wild fish captured in deep waters far from human populated areas.
What's the difference between Hydrolyzed Collagen & Collagen Peptides?
There is no difference. Collagen peptides are produced as a result of hydrolyzing collagen.
Is there any advantage to consuming a multi-collagen?
Ultimately no. As noted above, collagen is digested and broken down into individual amino acids to be utilized in the production of new collagen within the body.
Each type of collagen contains the same amino acids in similar proportions, they are just structured differently. When one type of collagen is digested, the amino acids can be used to produce other types of collagen depending where it is needed within the body.
That being said, there has been some research suggesting that collagen sourced from fish may be more bioavailable than from other sources, namely porcine skin.
This was however, a very small study that didn’t include the assessment of bovine or egg sourced hydrolyzed collagen, but it does still seem worth noting.
Vital Proteins Collagen Peptides is the most popular and best selling collagen supplement currently on the market. I do use this collagen powder as well, when I catch it on sale at Costco, but it is otherwise priced a little on the high side compared to other quality options.
How many of our top 7 collagen foods do you consume regularly? Do you have a favorite collagen supplement? Please consider sharing your experience by commenting below to help support others navigating a healthy keto lifestyle.
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