The Truth About Collagen Supplements

The Truth About Collagen Supplements

Collagen supplements are all the rage right now. Celebrities, bloggers and probably your co-workers are stirring collagen powder into their green smoothies and bulletproof coffee, touting it as an anti-aging miracle. It makes sense, since collagen is a protein found prominently in our bodies. It keeps our muscles, tendons, and skin strong and elastic, features that fade as we age and our collagen production decreases…hello, sagging skin and wrinkles. So giving your body more collagen to work with means wrinkles and achy joints aren’t coming your way, right?

Well, maybe. But let’s not all gulp down a collagen slurry so fast – the research is still a little cloudy.

What are Collagen Supplements?

Collagen is a fibrous protein found all throughout our bodies. It makes up our connective tissue, gives our skin strength and elasticity, and is the main building block of tendons, cartilage, hair, nails, bones, and joints. Collagen is made primarily of two amino acids, proline and glycine, which are the non-essential type (meaning our body produces them naturally, rather than requiring that you consume them through food). The idea behind collagen supplements is that they provide “extra” of these amino acids, hydrolyzed for better absorption, so that your body can use them to produce more collagen.

Collagen supplements are made from parts of animals that contain a lot of connective tissue, and therefore plenty of collagen. Most collagen supplements are made from the bones, hides, and cartilage of cows, although fish, egg, and chicken collagen supplements are on the market, too.

Benefits of Collagen Supplements

There’s some good research showing that collagen supplementation has beneficial effects on joint pain and stiffness in athletes and osteoarthritis patients. There’s also been statistically significant evidence that collagen supplementation can improve skin elasticity and reduce wrinkles in women (yay!).  Some popular collagen supplements claims that it improves bone density as well, and studies are looking favorable for that claim, especially since there’s little safety risk in taking collagen supplements (no severe side effects have been noted).

Should You Supplement with Collagen?

While there is evidence out there that collagen supplementation can be beneficial in several ways, several studies have come up short, not finding any significant effects from collagen supplementation or suggesting that we wait for more conclusive research before calling collagen a miracle.

Let’s remember that our bodies are pretty complex, just like eating fat doesn’t directly translate to body fat, eating collagen doesn’t directly translate to more collagen in your skin and bones. Collagen supplements may provide the building blocks of collagen, but those amino acids don’t come with a sticky note saying “send me right to the wrinkles and joint pain, please!” Collagen is digested and absorbed as individual amino acids, and those amino acids can be used for numerous body processes, not just skin health. As long as your diet contains enough essential amino acids to carry out its normal functions, it can produce as much glycine and proline (and therefore collagen) as it needs. Vitamin C is also a necessary factor in your body’s natural production of collagen, and it’s another nutrient you can get pretty easily with a healthy diet.

What’s the Final Word?

If you’re looking for a boost in collagen production, collagen supplements have some scientific backing, but they likely aren’t doing more than a well-balanced diet would do. Eating a variety of protein sources along with sufficient fruit and veggies will provides you all the vitamin C and amino acids you need to produce adequate amounts of collagen.

That being said, if you like to put protein powder in your smoothie, I don’t think a high quality collagen powder can hurt — and it just might help!

 

3 Ways to Upgrade Your Plate

Sharing a few easy ways you can upgrade your plate! Whether you’re a seasoned healthy eater or just beginning your journey, making a few smart swaps and additions can help you get the most out of your meals.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while you know I believe eating healthy doesn’t have to be complicated. I also believe you’re probably doing a lot of things right already. In fact, many of my clients make the mistake of thinking they have to do a complete overhaul of their diet to have any kind of real impact on their health, and it’s just not true. Sometimes it takes just a few little tweeks to get you on the right track.

Today I’m sharing a few easy ways you can upgrade what you’re already doing. Whether you’re a seasoned healthy eater or just beginning your journey, making a few smart swaps and additions can help you get the most out of your meals.

Add Greens

Don’t get me wrong, adding any veggie is a great start to making your meal healthier. What’s great about adding more greens to your plate is not only that they’re nutrient rich, but they also add a ton of volume, without a lot of calories. Raw greens like spinach, lettuce, kale, and arugula boosts the fiber and nutrient content of pretty much anything — from sandwiches to quinoa salad, pasta to pies — even popcorn!

Less-sturdy greens like spinach and arugula are easily stirred into pasta sauces, soups, and stews while they’re heating up or in the last few minutes of cooking. The greens will wilt into the hot liquid in just a minute or two, boosting your meal without any extra effort. I use this trick with frozen greens, too. Speaking of frozen greens, here are 12 ways you can use frozen kale. Keep frozen spinach and kale on hand to toss into any hot dish. As the kale defrosts it helps wilt the greens, so even heartier greens like kale cook in a minute or two. Added benefit: you never have to worry about your veggies going bad before you can use them. It’s a win-win for upgrading your plate!

Plant-Based Fats

Adding plant-based fats to your meals is a great way to make sure you’re getting in enough healthy fats, while adding staying power (and flavor!) to your meals. Plant-based fat sources include avocado, nuts/nut butters, seeds, and olive oil. These foods are high in monounsaturated fats and chock-full of vitamins and minerals, so you’re getting an extra boost of nutrition when you use them in place of saturated fats like butter or sour cream.

Adding plant-based fats (and all the vitamins and minerals that come along with them) is as easy as tossing your green salad with an olive oil vinaigrette (rather than Ranch) and sprinkling on some chopped almonds (rather than cheese). Avocado is one of the most versatile plant based fat sources: mash it up and spread it on toast like butter or top off your baked potato with guacamole rather than sour cream.

Herbs & Spices

Adding herbs and spices is the most flavorful way you can upgrade your plate. Herbs and spices add a ton of flavor and a multitude of health benefits, without adding calories. When you add more spices, you can cut back on the salt. For most of us, that’s a good thing.

I love using herb and spice blends to spice up all my meals. They are such an easy way to change the flavor profile so you don’t get bored making the exact same chicken or salmon every week, and you don’t have to plan in advance or buy a ton of ingredients. Look for spice blends without salt so you can control the amount of sodium you’re eating while still loading up on flavor.

You don’t have to stick to just dried herbs and spices, either – adding fresh herbs brings a pop of color and bright flavor to meals, instantly making it feel more fancy. Fresh parsley adds flavor and brightness to my Sauteed Asparagus with Zucchini Noodles and Spinach Pesto. Bonus: throwing spinach and pistachios into the pesto is a double upgrade!

Curious about the health benefits of herbs and spices? Did you know certain spices can help you control blood sugar? I’ve got the scoop on that over here.

I could create a post about every herb’s medicinal benefits, but until I get around to it, know that you’re boosting your plate with a host of healthy advantages every time you sprinkle on some seasoning.

 

guilt free, fat free potato corn chowder

Heart Healthy Idaho Potatoes (Twitter Chat Recap)

Last week I hosted a twitter chat with the Idaho Potato Commission all about heart health and potatoes! Even if you missed it, you can check out the chat on Twitter by looking up the chat hashtag: #HealthySpud.

February is Heart Health Month and I loved chatting with everyone about how potatoes are a great heart-healthy food!

Fun fact: Did you know that one potato has about as much potassium as two bananas? That fact surprised a lot of people, but it’s part of what makes potatoes so good for your heart. Potassium helps keep your muscles moving normally – and your heart is the strongest muscle in your body! Like plenty of the chat participants, I love eating potatoes, avocados, spinach, white beans, and bananas to get my daily potassium intake.

We also chatted about our favorite heart-healthy ways to eat potatoes. My friends over at Idaho Potatoes love them baked, mashed with garlic, and as baked fries (me, too!). Another favorite way I enjoy potatoes is in my Creamy Potato Corn Chowder, which uses a blended “corn cream” instead of heavy cream for richness and helps keep the dish a heart-healthy option.

guilt free, fat free potato corn chowder

Our participants had some great ideas, too – like rubbing whole potatoes with olive oil and a spice blend before baking for a super flavorful and crunchy skin. Topping baked potatoes with sliced avocado and making colorful smashed potatoes with purple potatoes are now on my list to try, too.

Thanks to the Idaho Potato Commission we were able to give away some awesome prizes during the Twitter chat. If you missed out on those I’d still love to hear your answers to our chat questions!

  • How do you take care of your heart?
  • What cooking tips and tricks do you use to make meals healthy?
  • When I say Idaho Potato, what’s the first word that comes to mind?
  • Which foods do you eat to get in your daily potassium?
  • And my favorite – what’s your favorite way to eat Idaho Potatoes?