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 into 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 so many beauty products. What many people don’t realize is collagen is so much more than just a beauty remedy. (More on that later.)
The collagen molecule is a complex protein made up of over 1,000 amino acids, the main ones being proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline (in a unique triple helix configuration of three polypeptide subunits. (Sorry, science nerd moment!)
But what does this mean on a practical level?
Why We Need Collagen
It means collagen is incredibly strong. In fact, type I collagen (a type found in the human body) is stronger than steel gram for gram. It is fundamental to healthy cell reproduction, joints, connective tissue, and more.
The particular amino acids in collagen and gelatin 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
The important thing to know is that these amino acids come from bones and cartilege (usually from cows) and are not present in muscle meats. As we trade traditional cooking methods like making homemade bone broth for modern convenience, we are getting less and less collagen and gelatin in our diets.
More in a bit on how to make up the gap, but first:
How to Boost Collagen Protein (From the Inside Out)
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.
So how to get it? There are a few ways:
Natural Sources of Gelatin
Collagen (and gelatin, its cooked counterpart) is 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 collagen naturally present in the bones and connective tissue, which becomes gelatin when cooked.
There are also gelatin powders like this that contain 6 grams of protein per tablespoon and are relatively odorless and tasteless. This makes them easy to mix into warm drinks or recipes for an extra boost of quality protein,
Natural Sources of Collagen
Collagen has many of the same properties as gelatin and is the form actually found in the body. When we lack collagen due to diet or aging, we need a way to get it from the inside out.
Collagen and gelatin 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 (another name for hydrolyzed collagen/collagen hydrolysate), which is essentially a cold-water soluble and more easily digestible form of gelatin.
Because of the unique way hydrolyzed collagen is prepared, it has higher amounts of the amino acids that support healthy cell growth and reproduction especially in connective tissues, hair, skin tissue, cartilage, ligaments and so on. It also absorbs more quickly due to a lower molecular rate.
How to Use Collagen Hydrolysate and Gelatin Powders
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) 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 not only due to its benefits but because of its ability to “gel” in recipes. It works really well in jellos, marshmallows, and other recipes for this reason.We use gelatin for making a lot of different gut-healthy recipes like:
This is the grass-fed gelatin that we use.
The one downside to gelatin powder… it only mixes into warm/hot liquids and clumps up in cold drinks because of its ability to gel. Enter collagen!
Hydrolyzed Collagen Powder Uses
Collagen powder won’t gel like regular gelatin, but it dissolves easily both in cold drinks (like smoothies) and hot drinks. I use it almost daily for protein and healthy fats added to:
Bonus: It’s not only good for you but adds a delicious creaminess and froth! We use collagen from both Bulletproof as well as Vital Proteins. While the majority of collagen comes from bovine, there is marine collagen for anyone that needs the sourcing to come from fish or other marine life.
What We Do
We still drink bone broth regularly (either homemade or this brand). I also still use regular grass-fed gelatin in anything we need to “gel.” I’ve found that everyone in our family seems to digest the collagen hydrolysate/peptides form more easily, so now we use that most of the time for a quick boost of protein.
I’m curious- have you ever tried gelatin or collagen hydrolysate? How did it work for you? Share below!
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Soerries, MD, Family Physician and Medical Director of SteadyMD. As always, this is not personal medical advice and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.
Discussion (492 Comments)
Hi, You always talk about recipes that require blending and I was wondering what type of blender / blending tools you use. I don’t usually do much with my blender becasue I don’t like cleaning it (Ninja blender). What kind of blender do you use for different blending tasks and how do you clean them? Any tips would be appreciated! Thank you.
Katie - Wellness Mama
I wrote a whole article about it here 🙂 https://wellnessmama.com/18039/blender-reviews/
Do you have to blend the collagen into drinks? Could it be stirred into coffee or tea?
The collagen blends quickly and easily in cold and warm drinks just by stirring. Its very easy to use, stir it into coffee, tea, juice, soup, etc.
I always put in my cold brew coffee, it does NOT clump. A quick shake and its entirely blended!
Is there a Vegan Callagen you would reccomend please? I don’t want bovine…Yukky to me, no judgement to those who choose that option 🙂 <3 Thankyou
You can find marine collagen. Vital Proteins is one brand that carries it.
Thanks but I’ve looked on their website and they don’t have a Vegan Collagen. Plus I’m in the UK. I’ll keep looking ?
hi i am in UK, just take a look online there are loads of vegan collagens.
I use an old fashioned milkshake blender….got it at Goodwill. Small area on counter top and removable cup easy to wash. I use it for everything to b blended….love it
I am wondering if I could do the gaps diet and instead of drinking the broth substitute it with collagen? I cant choke down bone broth and I am looking for an alternative. Also, foss your cookbook have GAPS recipes for the various stages?
To clean the Ninja..put 2-3 drops of liquid dish detergent in Ninja (blades inserted) the fill 3/4 full warm water. Run machine on highest setting for 30 seconds. Remove lid, pour out liquid, rinse.
Now you have clean Ninja and blades.
Love this kitchen system and use it daily..for everything!!
I have used a vitamix for that past at least 15 years, except for a brief time when I bought a Blendtec, as I was needing a new blender and they cost less. However, I found that the lid didn’t stay on when blending at high speed (resulted in a big mess). I contacted the company and got a replacement and it didn’t work any better. Then the blade assembly seized up. I gave up and went back to Vitamix. Well worth the higher price, in my opinion.
usually those types of blenders are self cleaning. Just add warm water and a drop of dish soap. Do not fill all the way or there will be to much suds. Run the water and soap in the blender and then pour out and rinse.
Are collagen peptides safe while breastfeeding? I can’t seem to find an answer that I trust. Thank you!
I am using both of them green one in smoothie together with raw organic whey, but I am not sre if it has that benefit as bone broth cause it is made only from cows hide unfortunatelly no bones
I have been using the green can in smoothies. Are you following an auto immune protocol now? Do you plan to do a post on this and an update on your autoimmune thyroid condition?
Katie - Wellness Mama
Yes to both questions…
I used the orange can in my smoothie, is that ok? I’m really confused about the orange & green! I have chronic constipation & lots of digestive issues. I want to make sure I use the right one. Thank You
Katie - Wellness Mama
Either one works in a smoothie, the green one just blends more easily.
Can I take collagen hydrolysis with L-Glutamine at the same time?
I have been taking collagen with l-glutamine for a while now and it seems to be just fine!
I also want to know this, but can’t find a study or explanation on why it can or can’t be combined. Does anyone actually know if we can combine glutamine with collagen powder?
Hey, just wondering if it is possible to bake/ cook with Collagen Hydrolysate? Does the collagen break down if heated too high? I would like to add it to my kids pancakes and oatmeal if possible… Thanks
I am wondering the same thing about using it in baking, did you get an answer?
THM baking blend uses collagen so yes you can bake with it.
I add to my oatmeal after it is in the bowl!
I love this stuff! I add it to my Yerba Mate every morning. I add it to my peppermint tea at night. My thinning hair is not so thin, it grows very fast. My nails are very strong and I have very few aches and pains any more. I seriously damaged my knee a few years ago and since starting the collagen it doesn’t ache all the time. I use this one because it mixes so well into many things. One can lasts quite a long time.
How long did it take to see the difference in your joint pain hair nails I’ve been on it for 2 weeks now hoping that my joint pain knee pain I have sciatic nerve damage knee damage shoulder damage and pain a lot hoping this will help me really thinning hair really thin nails just wondering how long did it take for you to see the difference in your body
Thinning hair and really ugly nails I started seeing a difference after twice a day taking it for one month! As a 37-year-old man I’m noticing that I could run better and work out stronger in the gym as well ! However I use hydrolyzed collagen !
I take hydrolyzed collagen as well, I was having issues with a sore hip when I went for walks, pain is gone after getting on the hydrolyzed collagen and have had comments that my hair is thicker. I did some research before i decided to use the collagen, I just turned 70 and feel amazing
Yes I use magnesium glycinate with no problem but cannot use the other types of magnesium
I used to use the gelatin in my coffee but switched over to the collagen because I wanted the benefits without the clumping factor. I consumed it regularly during pregnancy. I just had my baby last week and never got any stretch marks, even with a 35 lb weight gain. I am convinced it was the collagen!
How often did you take the collagen while pregnant
Is it safe to assume then that it’s okay to consume when nursing?
Yes, It’s food
I’m also wondering this. On call nurses haven’t been able to say whether it’s safe or unsafe.
How interesting! My shipment of gelatin arrived in the mail yesterday! Don’t you live it when you get confirmation you’re on the right path?
I drink 3-4 TB a day- both in smoothies and water. The biggest thing I noticed was my nails! I’ve always had thin, flimsy nails. As soon as I started my daily gelatin, they became much harder- and they’re shiny! I actually have to cut my nails now. A first. My eyelashes have also gotten longer. I can’t think of anything else I changed, so it must be the gelatin. But it’s very noticeable. Have notice subtle differences in my skin, but nothing dramatic. I won’t live without this stuff ! We’re trying to incorporate the broth more, but I feel good we at least have this to fall back on.
I use it everyday!! Just made a bunch of blueberry lemon gummies and some berry ginger electrolyte chews with the gelatin. I use the collagen in either my morning coffee or smoothie.
Ginger Electrolyte Chews?! That sounds perfect. Can you post a basic recipe?
Sounds awesome for women in labor! I’d like the recipe too, please!
Deborah, I saw your post and after looking in this article didn’t see anything, I Googled “berry ginger electrolyte chews with the gelatin” and I got a lot of options. Good luck!
Would you mind sharing those recipes? ?
I’ve been using collagen hydrolysate for a couple months – on average 1-1.5 tablespoons a day. I have some loose on the tata area from the baby! I haven’t seen any improvement yet.
I also seem to be looser in the stool compartment. I am also taking magnesium, but I switched to oil form in case this was try culprit…but it may be this? Should I reduce for a while?
Magnesium makes my stools loose. I only take it when I get constipated. Just started the Collagen Hydrolysate yesterday, hoping it will keep me off the magnesium in conjunction with a modified paleo diet. Good luck!
try magnesium glycinate, the oxide and citrate make for loose stool.
I’m not taking magnesium and I just tried the Novell super collagen powder and the keratin and biotin powder in 8 oz of water on an empty stomach. I immediately became nauseas and in about 30 minutes, onset diarrhea. Why?
I have had considerable problems with my right hip ( too much sport when younger) and following investigation and xrays the doctors tell me the collagen is gone, so bone on bone hence pain and at some time soon a hip replacement . I have been trying all the usual recommended natural foods to try and help the situation gluesomme etc and to be honest I noticed no difference .
A month ago I switched to Collagen Hydrolysate which I take in water twice a day and I really think it is making a difference , I no longer need a walking stick and I can do my shopping around the supermarket without using the trolley as a makeshift zimmer frame . I don’t think it’s me imagining it , it really appears to work . I am amazed and I will carry on with it . The Doctors told me that you cannot replace collagen once it is gone but if that is the case how is this working ?
Cartilage can regenerate. It’s in the literature but doctors either don’t know it, don’t read the research, or they may know it but downplay its significance because regeneration doesn’t happen by using surgery or drugs. Doctors tend to ignore natural self help methods that patients can pursue on their own as part of lifestyle health maintenance or self healing measures. The research is out there but “buried” or ignored.
I am unable to post a link here that is about the existing research that shows cartilage, even in bone on bone situations, can regrow and heal. If the cause of the wear and tear is eliminated and the materials for repair are abundantly available, it may take time, but the body will slowly make progress to reverse the damage.
Keep taking the collagen! It’s your raw materials for repair.
Can you just write in the name of the research and/or article your referring to about the regrow the of cartilage? Thank you
How long did it take to see the difference in your joint pain hair nails I’ve been on it for 2 weeks now hoping that my joint pain knee pain I have sciatic nerve damage knee damage shoulder damage and pain a lot hoping this will help me really thinning hair really thin nails just wondering how long did it take for you to see the difference in your body. Is this ok for my 14 year old she has knee damage also trying to loose w weight ?????? To this
Yes cartilage can regenerate…about 8 years ago I could hardly walk felt like glass was in my right knee. After my doctor told me of all the things she would do to my knee..and if those painful things didn’t work…like needles into the joints to deposit cartilage…then I would have to get a whole new knee. i left her office and never went back…even though it felt like glass was in my knee joint…instead I went to the drugstore…got protein in the form of collagen…and I have been walking fine every since.
From my experience, both borrelia and bartonella eat collagen, a favorite food, both are bacterias.. Would be interesting to check for lyme disease, although the blood tests are so inaccurate. A western blott from igenex and galaxy lab for bartonella could be conclusive.
This sounds so much like me…I just wanted to ask…not knowing if you’ll ever see this…by any chance were you made to wear a brace & corrective shoes as a young child? I had to for a couple of years…to make my feet straight. Seemed to be a fad in the 70’s. I’ve always noticed my right foot points outward more than my left now…and a few years ago, my right hip started hurting. I haven’t enjoyed walking as exercise in years…and I couldn’t figure out why. I have lost 45 pounds so that has helped…I’m eating keto…I did got get xrays and the doc says I have very little cartilage on my right hip. So I’ve been taking collagen for a few months hoping it will help. I was born in 67…and just wondered if you might have had to wear those braces too — that couldve affected your hip like it did mine?
Your comment caught my eye since I, too, wore those pigeon-toe corrective leg braces when I was a child (in the 80s). I also have foot/hip pain and am 35 yr old. I have started doing strengthening exercises for my feet and am considering trying minimalist footwear. Apparently you have to make the transition slowly though. https://www.softstarshoes.com/minimal-footwear (there are exercises/stretches linked in the article).
http://posturedirect.com/how-to-fix-flat-feet/ This has strengthening exercises.
I too have inflammation in my right knee, I do volunteer work which I have to stand for 4 hours, that knee get so stiff I have have to exercise it before moving to go on break and it is painful. It is swelling most times so I use a knee brace but after much deliberations about collagen powder and bone broth I tried the great Lakes collagen powder in the individual packs , easy for travel when you are rushed, I add it to my morning coffee have been using it now for 16 days as there are 21 packs in the box and I am feeling wonderful no knee problems to date getting better still monitoring for changes in skin and hair but will receive order and I stopped by butcher to check on beef bones . Now Now I will try making my own broth so keep doing what you’re doing it works . Thanks Wellness Mama
Look up Dr John Bergman on YouTube. He’s a corrective chiropractor & addresses hip surgery, loss of collagen, bone-on-bone (which he says is false) etc & advocates natural, safe ways to heal.
Would you recommend.a person to use a product with collegen hydrolysate in it if the person has a condition that causes the body to produce a overproduction of abnormal collagen. A type of protein fiber present in the connecto be tissue.
I have Scleroderma do you think I should take this kind of collegen
Hi, my son has a connective tissue disorder. He takes this green can of collagen every day. As he is 17, sometimes he forgets. He notices and regrets it when he forgets. He has a lot of pain in his sternum, and taking collagen has helped tremendously. We have seen doctors who specialize in connective tissue disorders, and none if them have ever heard of taking collagen! Since scleroderma is a connective tissue disorder too, I think it is worth a try!