Why You Need Collagen in Your Life

By Jessica Hamlin

Collagen may conjure up images of a celebrity or “real housewife” who’s had a little too much injected in their face. But collagen is actually really important for your body (plus it has beauty benefits). You may have seen health sites and bloggers share recipes with collagen in them, but here's what you really need to know.

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the animal kingdom. It is hard, insoluble, and fibrous—and it makes up one-third of the proteins in our bodies, according to Medical News Today.

There are several types of collagen, but most collagen in our bodies is Type I. This type is found in skin, tendons, ligaments, organs, and it mostly makes up bone tissue.

What’s All That Collagen Doing?

In short, a lot. Collagen helps replace and restore dead skin cells and helps our skin stretch.

It’s found in connective tissue in bone, cartilage, blood, and fat. Cartilage (Type II collagen) is a big one since it covers the ends of the bones in your joints to let your joints move smoothly and so the bones don’t grind against each other. Ouch. If you’ve ever seen a person with pain or discomfort in their knees (or maybe that’s you) it may be due to a breakdown of cartilage.

Collagen can also help heal gut lining when leaky gut or other issues happen. It turns out that gut health plays an important role in various illnesses as well as mental and emotional issues. Collagen can also help strengthen teeth and nails and—beauty bonus—improve the health of hair and skin.

Get Some

Our bodies naturally produce collagen, but it can be depleted due to exposure to UV light from the sun, smoking, and consumption of too much sugar. Our body also produces less collagen as we age, which is part of the reason wrinkles show up. Now, here’s how to get more collagen:

Food

Bone broth: Either make your own by boiling bones or find a quality one in the frozen section like Bonafide Provisions or Osso Good bone broth (who also makes amazing bone broth and veggie soups). These products have a gelatin texture when defrosted, so you know they’re the good stuff.

These foods are rich in the proteins that help build collagen: meat, fish, beans, cabbage, cauliflower, eggs, mushrooms, and wheat germ.

Vitamin C-rich foods like kiwi, kale, citrus, and bell pepper also help with collagen production.

Supplements

Collagen supplements from cows, chicken, and fish are aplenty in pills and powders. Whether they work well or not is still up for debate. Some people swear by them for beauty and athletic benefits; others, not so much.

What to look for in a collagen supplement:

  • That they're colorless and tasteless
  • You shouldn’t need a lot, and it shouldn’t make you feel weird or cause gut problems
  • Choose one that’s backed by science

I’ve tried Insta-famous Vital Proteins collagen peptides from grass-fed cows. It’s a white, tasteless powder that dissolves in water, smoothies, or warm drinks like coffee or a turmeric collagen latte. I’ve also mixed it into oats for extra protein. After using a large tub, I didn’t notice any differences in my hair, skin, nails, or body—but everyone is different and these things don’t happen overnight. Hence, I’m on my second tub and seeing what happens. They also sell matcha collagen, collagen creamers, and collagen “beauty waters” in fruit and herb flavors.