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Should You Take Collagen Supplements?

 You've likely seen collagen advertised in food, skin cream, pills, or powders. This nutrient has in recent years received praise as being important for a healthy, vibrant body. Though there is nothing new about collagen. You have been producing it your whole life. It is a type of protein found in your muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, organs, blood vessels, skin intestinal lining, and other connective tissues. In fact, most of the protein in your body is collagen. So, why is it that collagen is promoted on store shelves? Is it something you should be buying? Not necessarily. First, consider if your body is producing enough collagen on its own. 
collagen supplements

When collagen levels decrease

No blood test can determine or measure the amount of collagen in your body, but you can tell when your body doesn't have enough. As you age, your body naturally begins to make less collagen. The slow-down starts in your mid-to-late 20s and it causes a variety of conditions that we usually accept as part of getting older. This includes:

1. Skin loses elasticity and you begin to form wrinkles and your wounds tend to heal more slowly. 
2. Tendons and ligaments become stiff and you begin to lose your flexibility.
3. Muscle mass decreases and you become weaker.
4. Cartilage wears down and you develop joint pain or osteoarthritis.
5. Intestinal lining gets thinner and you begin to experience more digestion problems.

Besides aging, one of the main reason you do not get enough collagen is a poor diet. Your body can't make collagen if it doesn't have the necessary elements, in particular, the amino acids and the nutrients to process them. So, how does your body produce collagen? In order to make collagen, or any protein, your body must combine amino acids. You can get amino acids by eating and digesting protein-rich foods.

This includes meat, beans, and dairy products. That way, your body can repurpose the amino acids into collagen. During this process, your body uses vitamins and minerals, in particular, vitamin C, zinc and copper. These nutrients are all part of a typical and healthy diet. And you consume plenty of them naturally in the foods you eat - this includes citrus fruits, red and green peppers, tomatoes, broccoli and greens all of which supply vitamin C. Meats, shellfish, nuts, and whole grains, as well as beans are also good sources of minerals.  

However, as you age, your body may no longer absorb nutrients as well, or synthesize them as efficiently. So, to make sure that your body is getting enough ingredients to make collagen, you may need to change what you eat or take dietary supplements. 

collagen supplements

The best foods for building collagen

The best way to replenish the nutrients your body needs to make collagen is through your diet. Eating animal products, like beef, chicken, fish, and eggs will provide you with the amino acids you need, as will beans and legumes. However, one of the best foods for building collagen is bone broth which you can buy in grocery stores or make yourself. It extracts the collagen from beef, chicken, fish bones through a low, slow being process.

There are plenty of good recipes and most will involve simmering bones in water for 12 to 48 hours either on the stove or in a crockpot. As always try to minimize the residue of pesticides, antibiotics and other contaminants in your broth. Gelatin is another great food to boost your body's ability to make collagen. In fact, gelatin comes from collagen, so it naturally has what your body needs to turn it back into collagen form. 

Taking collagen supplements

Getting the nutrients you need from eating fresh, organic foods is best as it is what your body is made to consume and digest naturally. Supplements are an alternative option but still a good source if you are traveling, eating on the run, or concerned that your diet is not as nutritious as it could be. If taking a supplement, opt for the powder form. Hydrolyzed collagen, or collagen peptide, powder has no flavor and can be dissolved easily in beverages, smoothies, soups, and sauces. 

Nourishing your skin

Some skin creams claim to contain synthetic collagen to help revitalize your skin. They may work by adding a film-like layer to your skin to reduce water loss and protect your skin from environmental elements. But, because your skin is your body's largest organ, a proven way to keep your organs healthy, is with good nutrition. 

Note also that the number one cause of skin damage isn't a lack of collagen, but sun exposure. Replenishing collagen may not be able to undo years of sun damage. 

With ample stores of collagen, you are increasing your likelihood of having firmer skin, smoother-moving joints and other signs of a healthy, youthful body. And the surest way to help your body produce collagen is by feeding it enough protein and other nutrients. It can be as easy as drinking one cup a day of bone broth, or another beverage mixed with hydrolyzed collagen powder. 

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