We all know the bones and joints of the body are super important when it comes to enjoying our favorite activities but did you know how important collagen for bones really is?
Healthy joints and bones allow for comfortable, precise and powerful movement. This is true whether we’re at home or out enjoying a round of frisbee golf; a walk or jog around the neighborhood; a weekend bike trip; or a long hike through a beautiful forest.
One of the very best ways to nourish and support your body’s connective tissue—i.e., tendons, ligaments, bones, cartilage, skin and muscles—is with a collagen-rich diet.
A collagen-rich diet helps keep your joints and bones healthy—hence decreasing the likelihood and severity of injury; and speeding recovery from any injuries that might occur.
Read on for the full lowdown on collagen, including tips on how to increase your daily intake in order to keep your muscles, bones and joints as healthy as possible—by providing them optimal nutrition.
What Is Collagen & Why Is It Important?
So, what exactly is collagen, and why is it so important to the health or our bones and joints? The short answer is that collagen is vital to the health of our bones and joints because it is the primary biological building-block of these physical structures!
Collagen is what is known as a “structural protein.” You’ve probably heard about protein mostly as a nutritional category that includes things like meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, legumes and dairy products.
But here we’re referring to proteins at their molecular level—whose overall function in the human body is to build and repair tissues. There are a number of different types of proteins that can be fun to learn about. But here we’ll focus on structural proteins, which are responsible for strengthening our cells, tissues and organs.
Collagen is one of these structural proteins, and it is the most abundant type of protein in the human body—comprising a full 25% of all the body’s protein!
Collagen for Bones: Collagen Is The Glue That Holds The Body Together
As a structural protein, collagen is the main building-block of our connective tissue. It’s literally what our bones, cartilage, muscles, tendons, ligaments, blood vessels, skin, and gut lining are made of.
Collagen gives strength to our bones. It provides elasticity and structure to our skin, and integrity to our joints. In short, collagen is like the “glue” that holds the human body together!
Collagen Is Made Of Amino Acids
There are many varieties of collagen: at least 29 known types! However, the human body produces mostly just three of these, aptly named Type-I, Type-II, and Type-III:
- Type I collagen exists primarily in skin, tendons, bones, vasculature, and organs.
- Type II collagen is found in cartilage.
- Type III collagen is in reticular fibers within connective tissue.
Your body produces these three kinds of collagen from organic compounds called amino acids. The amino acids wrap together in a braided triple-helix structure—which is what accounts for the strength and flexibility of collagen.
The Nutritional Importance of Collagen—Especially as We Age
Our body is able to produce collagen from amino acids that we consume through the food that we eat. This is one reason that amino acids are such a vital component of our diet.
As the body ages, however, it becomes less efficient at transforming amino acids into collagen. At around age 30, collagen production drops by 1%-2% yearly. And by age 40, the average human body has lost 10%-20% of its naturally produced collagen.
As internal collagen production decreases, this results in:
- Wrinkles and sagging skin.
- A thinning of cartilage in our joints.
- Bones that are not as strong as they used to be.
- Ligaments and tendons losing strength and flexibility.
The bottom line is that for anyone thirty years or older, it makes great sense to increase intake of collagen—and foods rich in amino-acids—as much as possible.
This compensates for the body’s decreasing capacity to create its own collagen internally. This means less collagen for bones, skin, and joints.
While changes such as these are a natural part of the aging process, there are things we can do to slow it down and keep our levels of collagen relatively high—and our bones and joints healthy, for many years to come!
A Healthy Lifestyle To Support Collagen Production
Luckily, there are lifestyle choices that will help keep your collagen levels high—and, hence, your connective tissue healthy. Some of the best ones include:
- Keeping refined sugar and flour intake at a minimum;
- Being moderate with (or eliminating altogether) alcohol consumption; and
- Not smoking cigarettes.
But what kinds of things should you be adding to your diet, in order to boost your body’s collagen production? In upcoming sections, we provide specific diet and nutrition recommendations to best answer this question. But first, let’s look more closely at the benefits of a collagen-rich diet …
Benefits of a Collagen-Rich Diet
We’ve mentioned already some of the benefits of increasing your collagen intake. The effects of this kind of nutritional adjustment can be truly wide-ranging. For instance, a collagen-rich diet can help you:
- Build stronger muscles
- Promote bone health
- Nourish tendons and ligaments
- Strengthen your immune system
- Support healthy and beautiful skin
- Improve your heart health
- Increase antioxidant levels
- Improve detoxification
- Restore sexual and hormone health
- Increase longevity
Collagen-Rich Foods to Include in Your Diet
What should you be including in your diet, to boost collagen production?
While there aren’t a lot of foods that provide a direct dietary source of collagen, two excellent ones are (1) eggs and (2) bone broth. Let’s look at each of these, in turn:
* Both the shell membranes and the yolk of chicken eggs include collagen—so you can scramble, poach, hard-boil, fry or over-easy your way to some excellent collagen support in this way. Deviled eggs, omelets and quiches can all contribute valuable collagen to your diet.
* The most powerful source of food-based collagen is bone broth, which you can either purchase from a natural grocers, or make your own—from chicken, turkey, beef or fish bones. Helpful tip: authentic bone broth will always be gelatinous at room temperature—so don’t be fooled by the imitations!
Vegetarian Food Sources of Collagen & Amino Acids
One commonly asked question is: Are there vegan or vegetarian sources of collagen? And the short answer is: not directly, because collagen itself doesn’t naturally exist in plants. Collagen proteins are found only in animals.
There are, however, plant-based foods that can help increase collagen production by supporting production of the key amino acids that your body needs to build new collagen. Some of these food sources of collagen-related amino acids include:
- Citrus fruits
- Red and yellow vegetables
- White tea
- Leafy greens
- Bell peppers
When you consume these foods, you’re providing your body with amino acids that can be used to create collagen.
Along with bone broth, eggs, and amino-acid-rich fruits and veggies, another excellent option is to supplement with a collagen protein powder.
Collagen Protein Powder Supplements
Since there are relatively few direct dietary sources of collagen, adding a quality collagen supplement to your diet can be a very intelligent strategy, to keep your muscles, bones and joints functioning at their optimal level; and your skin radiantly healthy.
Simply add a scoop of your favorite collagen protein powder to a glass of water, or mix it into your morning tea or smoothie. It’s that simple!
The Bottom Line: Collagen Supports Health & Fitness
As you go about increasing your collagen intake, your muscles, bones, tendons and ligaments will thank you! Your joints will almost certainly become more comfortable; your bones stronger and more resilient.
Aa a BONUS, you’ll find you skin, hair and nails becoming more healthy and beautiful. Click here for delicious recipes that keep collagen for bones, skin, hair, and joints and the rest of these goals in mind! https://ostego.com/nutrition