Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the body and it makes up a large part of our skin, hair and nails. It’s found in skin, ligaments, cartilage, tendons, muscles, bone tissue, blood vessels, intervertebral discs, gastrointestinal tract, and even in the cornea of the eye.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies. It’s found in our muscles, bones, skin and tendons. It’s the “glue” that helps hold the body together. It gives our skin strength and elasticity, and helps replace dead skin cells.
Collagen & gelatin often get used interchangeably, but they are slightly different. Gelatin is derived from collagen — when collagen breaks down, it becomes gelatin. A great example of this is found in bone broth: The bones are loaded with collagen and, as the broth cooks, it breaks down into gelatin. So, gelatin carries all the same benefits, just in a different form.
Benefits of Collagen
While collagen is beneficial to the entire body, it is most noticeably beneficial to the skin. This is because as a person ages, the epidermic (outer layer of skin) thins and loses elasticity in a process known as elastosis. As this happens, a person tends to show more signs of aging and acquire more wrinkles.
Our body’s productive of collagen tends to slow as we age, which causes the tell-tale signs of aging like wrinkles, sagging skin and weaker cartilage in your joints. Aging’s not the only thing that will hamper collagen production. Lifestyle factors like diets high in sugar, smoking and sun exposure, also contribute to depleting collagen levels.
In other words, plenty of collagen = younger looking skin.
It’s not just awesome for your skin, it is also beneficial for:
- Gut health: Collagen soothes and heals the digestive tract and helps repair the mucous lining. It also helps break down the protein and fat from foods, making them easier for the body to digest. If you suffer from leaky gut syndrome, the addition of collagen will really help heal your gut lining.
- Muscle recovery: The specific amino acids, primarily glycine and proline help repair tissue, lessen inflammation, shortens recovery after exercise and helps with sports related injuries. Supplementation with collagen peptides showed a reduction of risk for injuries on muscle, tendons, and ligaments in athletes.
- Bone & Joint health: Collagen makes up to 90% of bone mass, and several studies indicate that taking collagen internally can improve bone metabolism. When it comes to building bone density, conventional medicine often looks solely at calcium. 
Collagen in beauty products
There’s a massive skincare myth going around that the topical application of collagen will benefit your skin. This myth is perpetrated by cosmetics companies hoping to flog off anti-aging products. Sorry to say, but this is a big, fat lie.
Topical application of collagen won’t help reverse that process because collagen molecules are simply too large to penetrate the upper layer of the skin. 
Sources of Collagen
You may have also heard of collagen when it comes to cosmetic enhancements/plastic surgery. In this case, the collagen is injected directly to the skin in the areas with depressions created by wrinkles. The collagen plumps up the wrinkles making them less noticeable. The results last for about 6 months.
Of course, you could pump your body with fillers made up of collagen & who-knows-what, or you could pump your body full of the natural stuff. Benefits of going al naturale include:
- No nasty side effects
- Can boast truthfully of your great genes
- Smugly deny all accusations of having work done
- Add great, beneficial foods to your diet that not only benefit your skin but your entire body.
Where to get this superfood? Collagen can come from your food sources.
- Bone broth: often touted as the paleo superfood. It really is awesome for your body. If you don’t like bone broth, make a meaty stew from any meat with bones. The longer you cook it for the more goodness will be extracted.
- Roasts with lots of connective tissue (think chuck roast and similar cuts) will also produce meat and broth full of gelatin if you cook them long and slow, thanks to the breakdown of collagen in the meat.  I really love slow cooked meats, which ticks all the right boxes for me: flavour & beauty. They also tend to be the cheaper cuts so it’s one of the more affordable beauty products.
- Red fruits and vegetables also are excellent sources to up the collagen content of foods in the diet. The presence of lycopenesl in these types of foods helps to act as antioxidants, which in turn increases collagen production. Try tomatoes, beetroots & berries for a beauty boost.
- Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale offer antioxidants that protect against the free radicals that breakdown collagen. 
For something a little more concentrated:
- I consume gelatin daily in the form of Great Lakes Gelatin Collagen Hydrolysate ($39). The Great Lakes Gelatine Company’s cattle are grass fed so they’re naturally a great source of collagen. Beef Hydrolyzed Collagen is the unique combination of amino acids in concentrated levels that promotes rapid re-production of blood cells for healing and conditioning over other proteins especially for bone and joint health care. I like this form as it dissolves instantly into my coffee and has no after-taste. I really should write up a post exclusively about this product – it seriously is great. Meanwhile, you can check out this post for some great info.
- Vital Proteins also makes collagen & gelatin products which are said to be pretty amazing. I personally haven’t tried them (I think they’re only in the US), but would love to hear any feedback if you have tried them.
- The Beauty Chef Collagen Inner Beauty Boost ($39.95). You knew I was going to say it didn’t you? I’ve made no secret of my love affair with this stuff. Made with antioxidant rich Certified Organic acai berry, macqui berry, goji berry, papaya, blueberries and pomegranate, it is also formulated to reduce the formation of fine lines and free radical damage and increase firmness.
- If your keen to experiment with gelatin, check out the Wellness Mama‘s guide to gelatin products. She has some great recipes, tips & tricks.
Note: The gelatin you buy at the supermarket is not the kind we’re talking about! Technically, yes they’re the same, but the supermarket stuff is from unknown sources so it could be from feed-lot cattle. Feed-lot cattle are notoriously unhealthy and won’t be packed full of goodness like the stuff above.