I’ve been a big fan of gelatin since our family went on the GAPS diet and it helped my son be able to tolerate dairy again. I’ve also seen huge benefits with my skin, hair and nails since I started incorporating more gelatin and collagen in to my diet.
What is Collagen?
In short, collagen is an insoluble protein that accounts for 1/3 of the protein in our bodies and 70% of the protein in our skin. Many people are familiar with its role in the skin, which is why it is in many beauty products, but collagen is so much more!
Collagen is a distinct molecule made up of over 1,000 amino acids in a unique triple helix configuration of three polypeptide subunits. On a practical level, while there are 16 types of collagen, most in the human body is Type I-III. Type I collagen is incredibly strong… in fact, it is stronger than steel (gram for gram).
It is a complex protein, made up of many different amino acids, but most commonly proline, glycine and hydroxyproline. The important thing to know is that these amino acids are not present in muscle meats and many of us do not get enough of these with our modern diets.
The Many Reasons Collagen is Awesome
Here’s the thing… all of those beauty products that contain collagen won’t do much for your skin. This is because collagen molecules are too big to be absorbed through the skin. That doesn’t mean collagen isn’t really beneficial though, just that we have to get it from the inside out.
Collagen (and gelatin) are naturally found in high quality broth and in cuts of meat that contain skin or bone. If you’ve ever made bone broth and had it “gel” when it cooled, this is due to the gelatin and collagen naturally present in the bones.
The particular amino acids in collagen are said to be especially beneficial in the body for:
- Supporting hair, skin and nails
- For joint health
- To encourage skin elasticity and reduce the signs of aging
- Improving digestion
- As a protein source
Gelatin and collagen contain 6 grams of protein per tablespoon and are relatively odorless and tasteless, making them easy to mix into warm drinks, smoothies, or recipes.
Ways We Consume Gelatin & Collagen
My absolute favorite source of gelatin and collagen is homemade bone broth (or a high quality grass-fed bone broth like this one), but it isn’t always possible to have access to homemade broth.
As much as I love broth, there are also times (like a scorching August in Kentucky) when a cup of hot broth is not very appealing, so I prefer a different option instead.
Gelatin powder and collagen powder are great options that we use often instead of broth.
Gelatin Powder Uses:
Gelatin is great because of its ability to “gel” in recipes. It works really well in jellos, marshmallows and other recipes for this reason. This is the grass-fed gelatin that we use.
The one downside to gelatin powder… it is hard to mix into drinks because of its ability to gel, so we use collagen in these ways instead:
Collagen Powder Uses:
Collagen has many of the same properties as gelatin and is the form actually found in the body.
So what is the difference?
The short answer is that they aren’t interchangeable, but they both do have their advantages. Some people, especially those with severe digestive issues won’t handle pure gelatin protein well until they address their digestive problems. Bone broth is a great option in this case, but another good option is Collagen Peptides, which is essentially a cold-water soluble and more easily digestible form of gelatin.
As one company explains:
Hydrolyzed Collagen is unique in its amino acid structure because of its high amounts of glycine, lysine and proline, which are found in lower amounts in other protein food supplements. These particular amino acids are found to generate cell growth much quicker because the natural ability to produce supporting amounts of connective tissue diminishes after the age of 25. Hydrolyzed Collagen is more easily digested because of its low molecular weight and is absorbed within 30 minutes. All of the amino acids collectively are beneficial to cell reproduction, but it is the distinctive spectrum of this product that impacts the metabolic pathways to healthy tissue.
Hydrolyzed Collagen is beneficial in replacing the synovial fluids between the joints and secondly, to repair and build cartilage weakened by overuse through impact and stress. Our bodies are made up of 30% collagen of which 70% of these proteins are connective tissue made of collagen.
Hydrolyzed Collagen is the missing link in supplying amino acids like glycine, proline and lysine that are required by the body to build connective tissue to regulate cell growth. It will benefit hair, skin tissue, muscle, cartilage, ligaments and blood cell growth. Some doctors are referring to this product as the new anti-aging product of the century.
I’ve found that it is absolutely perfect for blending healthy fats into a hot drink since it gives a delicious froth and creaminess. Various forms of butter coffee (especially Bulletproof Coffee) have become increasingly popular lately, and I prefer to add gelatin in collagen hydrolysate form for extra protein to these recipes. I’ve also tried similar recipes by adding grass fed butter, coconut oil, and grass fed collagen hydrolysate to herbal teas like dandelion root tea with similar results.
How Much Protein
Gelatin and collagen hydrolysate are also sources of protein, with 6-7 grams per tablespoon.
I’ve found that everyone in our family seems to digest the collagen hydrolysate form more easily, so we use that most of the time. I also still use regular grass fed gelatin in anything we need to “gel” and both of these options are good for an easy source of extra protein.
What We Do
I worked up slowly to consuming that much gelatin, but have found that my skin is smoother and heals much more quickly since I started this routine. Also, along with my autoimmune diet, I’ve noticed great results in managing my autoimmune disease.
To use collagen hydrolysate, I mix in cool or hot drinks. Most often, I blend in to organic coffee or herbal tea in the morning along with some grass fed butter and coconut oil.
I’m curious- have you ever tried gelatin or collagen hydrolysate? How did it work for you? Share below!