Mad About Collagen and Bone Broth
Bone Broth and Collagen. It might sound weird but we can’t get enough of them. In Paleo circles, they top the list of our favorite topics, our favorite foods and our favorite supplements. And for good reason. Collagen is essential for all the cells and systems of our body and it’s found in large quantities in a good, gelatinous Bone Broth.
The word “collagen” comes from the Greek kolla, which means glue. Collagen is the glue that holds all the bits of the body together. It’s the main structural protein: bones, skin, connective tissues, the lining of the digestive tract, muscles and tendons all depend on it. It gives our tissues and skin their elasticity. It allows us to recover quickly after exercise and to heal effectively after injury.
There are no vegetarian sources of collagen. Collagen is only found in the skin, bones and connective tissues of animals and fish. For this reason, we promote the regular consumption of Bone Broth and good quality collagen supplements. “Good quality” means that Marine Collagen is sourced from wild caught fish, and Bovine Collagen is sourced from pasture raised and grass fed cattle.
What Is Collagen, Exactly?
Collagen consists of three amino acids: glycine, proline and hydroxyproline.
- Glycine is the primary amino acid in collagen, which represents about 33%.
- Proline is essential for its formation.
- Hydroxyproline is the precursor of proline. They work together with Vitamin C and lysine to build the body and keep it strong.
Glycine is the smallest and simplest of the 22 essential amino acids. We need at least 10 grams of glycine a day – even more if you manage a disease that disrupts glycine synthesis like rheumatoid arthritis or connective tissue disease. Since only about 3 grams can be synthesized, we have to consume the other 7 grams from the diet.
It plays a fundamental role for many systems and functions of the body and it’s importance can’t be overstated.
Why is the Glycine in Collagen So Important for Our Health?
This is a non-exhaustive list of how the glycine found in collagen impacts upon our physical and mental health.
- Digestive System: It helps to break down fat through the regulation of bile acids. It helps transport glycogen into cells to be used for energy. It helps to rebuild the tissues that line the walls of the intestine, and for this reason it’s essential for people who suffer from Leaky Gut, IBS and other digestive disorders.
- Circulatory System: A key component of emolglobin, it’s is necessary for the biosynthesis of heme. Hemoglobin ensures healthy red blood cells that carry oxygen to all parts of the body.
- Central Nervous System: Glycine works with taurine and gamma-amino butyric acid (GABA) as an inhibitory neurotransmitter, which means that it calms an excessively excited nervous system (hyperactivity, schizophrenia, bipolar, epilepsy). It helps protect the body from shock and promotes sleep.
- Glycemia: It helps regulate blood sugar by converting glucose into energy.
- Muscles: Glycine is necessary for creatine biosynthesis, which provides muscles with a direct energy source. It helps build muscle tissue and strength. In the absence of collagen, damaged tissues can’t heal.
- Anti-age: Glycine is necessary to keep connective tissues and skin firm and flexible. It helps prevent free radical formation.
- Hormones. Glycine can be methylated into dimethylglycine (DMG), which is necessary for the biosynthesis of estrogen and androgen hormones. It helps stimulate the secretion of human growth hormone.
What’s the Difference Between Gelatin, Collagen and Glycine
Collagen and gelatin are more or less the same thing.
Gelatin is the protein that’s released when the skin, bones and connective tissues of animals are cooked. When we make Bone Broth, it’s the gelatin that causes the broth to turn into a semi-solid mass once it has cooled. It’s fair to assume that, unless you regularly consume Bone Broth, your collagen intake is likely to be low.
Collagen is simply a protein peptide derived from gelatin. Peptides are a compound comprising two or more amino acids. They’re small protein structures, and are thus digested and metabolised by the body more readily than large protein molecules.
To isolate collagen, the skin, bones and connective tissues of animals undergo more intensive processing so that the large protein molecules of the gelatin are broken down into smaller collagen peptides. Both contain the same amino acids. Our digestive acids break them down in the intestine, regardless of whether they come from gelatin or collagen. Since collagen is already broken down into smaller protein structures, it may be easier to digest and assimilate. This might be a good thing for people who have digestive problems.
Glycine, as mentioned above, is the primary amino acid of collagen.
Which is Best? Gelatin, Bone Broth or Collagen Powder?
Gelatin must be dissolved in hot water and, when cold, it makes liquids gel. This means you can drink it hot as a broth, or you can buy gelatin powder or sheets and turn them into desserts such as jelly and pannacotta.
Bone broth, as a source of collagen, is brilliant. It’s excellent at the beginning of a meal or as a snack. A cup before going to bed will help you sleep. Use it during cooking for rich and sumptuous flavours. With an Instant Pot, it’s super easy to make Bone Broth at home. It’s cheap – all you need are a few bones, celery, carrot, herbs and salt. And it’s ecologically sound because it means you’re using more parts of the animal than you would if you only consume the meat. Find my recipe here.
Collagen Powder is great because sometimes you don’t want to drink bone broth. Collagen dissolves in cold water and doesn’t cause gelling, which means you can mix it with any type of drink, hot or cold. During the warm months, when you’re less inclined to drink broth, a smoothie with a spoonful of collagen is fantastic. A spoonful can also be added to energy bars and muffins.
Bone broth, gelatin and collagen all have their place. The important thing is to take it so that you’re meeting your daily requirements of glycine.
Should I Take a Collagen Supplement?
Collagen supplements are good for everyone, especially if you’re not consuming a lot of gelatinous Bone Broth. Remember, we need at least 10 grams a day, and only 3 grams can be synthesized by the body. We need to get the other 7 grams from the diet.
Collagen Powder can be especially useful if
- you suffer from chronic fatigue syndrome, anemia or hypoglycemia
- you need to increase energy levels and well-being
- you’re an athlete
- you have connective tissue injuries
- you want to improve the appearance of your skin, hair and nails
- you suffer from joint and muscle pain
- you have an autoimmune disease
Remember, collagen synthesis requires Vitamin C. Add a handful of blueberries to your collagen-enriched smoothie!
This last series of posts has concentrated on the foods that we avoid when following the ancestral health model: Cereals and grains in all derivatives and forms, legumes, industrialised seed and vegetables oils, trans fats, sugars and sweeteners, alcohol and dairy (Links to posts below). Trust me, when you get into the swing of it, most of these things you won’t miss at all. Others you might be able to consume in moderation. You’ll work it out. As you continue to practice this new dietary model, you’ll find that you’ll feel and look so much better than before that you’ll be reluctant to go back to your old habits.
But before diving in there’s something else to consider with regards to food. It’s not just what we eat that impacts our health. How we eat is also a key factor, and this we’ll explore in upcoming posts.
Activate Your Intentions! Start Now for free with the 5 Day Body/Mind Reset Workbook, the Quick Guide and PDF Printables.
Read more about why we avoid certain foods.
- Cereals and Grains: The Dirty Secrets
- What’s Wrong with Beans and Legumes? – 4 Things to Know
- Say No to Industrialised Seed and Vegetable Oils and Trans Fats
- The Problem with Sugars and Sweeteners, Natural and Non
- Alcohol and Excess Weight: It’s Not About the Calories
- Milk and Dairy: Are They Good for Our Health?
Don’t forget my recipe: How to Make a Great Homemade Bone Broth