I debated using the term “protein powder” in the title of this post, because I feel that doesn’t do justice to collagen. Collagen is so much more bang for your buck without the questionable processing steps or additives of popular protein powders. But looking at collagen from the perspective of protein, it is a highly adaptable way to increase your intake of highly digestible, nutrient-dense protein.
This post is kindly sponsored by Vital Proteins. As you know, I only work with companies when I’ve had an extremely positive experience with their product, when I’ve personally spoken with the founder(s), and when I admire the integrity of the company.
What is Vital Proteins Collagen?
Vital Proteins offers two forms of collagen – one that gels (gelatin) and one that dissolves instantly and can be used as a protein powder.
Before getting into the benefits of their collagen, it’s important to understand the difference between Vital Protein’s Collagen Peptides and Vital Protein’s Collagen Protein (gelatin).
Collagen Peptides – (Blue lid) These peptides are derived from gelatin, and contain the same amino acids as gelatin. The main difference is use – the peptides dissolve instantly in hot or cold liquids without gelling for an easy nutrition boost.
Beef Gelatin – (Green lid) Think gelatin. Remember, it has the same nutritional benefits of collagen peptides because it is the same amino acids. However, collagen protein can be used to make homemade jello or gummies because it gels.
How does Vital Proteins compare to other grassfed collagen?
First, I want to address the primary question that popped into my head when I was introduced to Vital Proteins: “Why Vital Proteins over that other brand of grassfed gelatin I’ve been using and recommending?”
After discussing this question with Vital Proteins, I was impressed with their graciousness and honesty. Here’s how Vital Proteins sets themselves apart:
- Single-sourced pasture-raised bovine hide from Brazil. Unlike gelatin and collagen sourced from Argentina, where cattle are typically grain finished, Vital Proteins is sourced from cattle grazing on perennial tropical grass pasture systems. Vital Proteins also ensures the pasture size for each animal is at least 2.67 acres, the standard of the Global Animal Partnership’s 5-step Animal Welfare Rating Standards.
- Non-BPA, air-tight canisters prevent moisture. They hermetically induction seal their canisters to prevent any moisture from entering. Collagen is very hygroscopic and without this protection, the collagen will start to degrade due to bacteria. Cardboard canisters are more susceptible to moisture and contamination from odors and chemicals.
- Excellent customer service, no back orders, and free shipping on all orders.
I’m a loyal convert to Vital Proteins. Now, here are some of the unique benefits of collagen!
1. Collagen supports skin health
Vital Proteins has collected significant research showing that ingestion of collagen supports skin health and rejuvenation. According to Vital Protein’s discussion on collagen and skin health,
When collagen is digested, the peptides are attracted to cells that synthesize collagen in the human body, fibroblasts, and are the most common cells of connective tissues in the skin. Collagen peptides may bring about the production and reorganization of new collagen fibers by stimulating the fibroblasts cells. Furthermore, some studies show that collagen peptides increase the density and diameter of collagen fibrils in the dermis and may improve the strength of skin. (Sources)
I was excited but not surprised to learn that clinical studies show that daily consumption of collagen significantly improves skin elasticity and moisture. I emphasize my collagen intake during the winter, when I feel like my skin needs extra support from the dry air.
2. Collagen supports balanced hormones
The interesting research on gelatin proteins and hormones comes from controversial health researcher Dr. Ray Peat. I think Dr. Peat has many excellent points, although I also keep in mind bioindividuality when reading his more controversial work.
In one of his articles, Dr. Peat writes,
Gelatin is a protein which contains no tryptophan, and only small amounts of cysteine, methionine, and histidine. Using gelatin as a major dietary protein is an easy way to restrict the amino acids that are associated with many of the problems of aging.[…]
When only the muscle meats are eaten, the amino acid balance entering our blood stream is the same as that produced by extreme stress, when cortisol excess causes our muscles to be broken down to provide energy and material for repair. The formation of serotonin is increased by the excess tryptophan in muscle, and serotonin stimulates the formation of more cortisol, while the tryptophan itself, along with the excess muscle-derived cysteine, suppresses the thyroid function.[…]If a person eats a large serving of meat, it’s probably helpful to have 5 or 10 grams of gelatin at approximately the same time, so that the amino acids enter the blood stream in balance. (Read more)
By helping to balance the tryptophan, collagen can supports healthy thyroid function and reduces the metabolic stress of increased cortisol. Thyroid and metabolism go hand-in-hand, so gelatin may actually increase metabolism by improving thyroid function.
3. Collagen supports bone and joint health
Collagen makes up to 90% of bone mass, and several studies indicate that taking collagen internally can improve bone metabolism. When it comes to building bone density, conventional medicine often looks solely at calcium. This is a tremendous mistake, because cofactors in bone metabolism such as vitamin K2, vitamin D and magnesium are as important – if not more so – than calcium intake for bone health. I recently discussed this topic in my post, 3 Reasons Why I Avoid Calcium Supplements.
Collagen supplementation is likely another key factor in improving bone health along with other vitamin and mineral cofactors. The research Vital Proteins has collected on collagen and bone shows that the presence of collagen peptides stimulate osteoblasts, the cells responsible for bone formation.
Studies also suggest that collagen supplementation can improve joint pain. In these studies, those with the most severe joint damage benefited the most (sources).
4. Collagen supports digestion and satiety
I’m not a fan of protein powders, because they are often highly processed and not well-absorbed forms of protein. Collagen peptides, on the other hand, are one of my favorite ways to boost my protein intake and create nutrient-dense protein shakes. Collagen peptides are essentially pure protein: two scoops of Vital Proteins collagen provides 18 grams of protein!
Interestingly, studies show that collagen peptides consumed at breakfast are 40% more satiating than other proteins (such as whey or soy) and correlate to a 20% reduction of food intake at lunch. (Sources).
Additionally, the amino acids in collagen provide unique soothing and reparative properties for the digestive tract. The high concentration of the amino acid glycine stimulates stomach acid production and thereby improves digestion and nutrient assimilation. Low stomach acid is a chronic problem that leads to a cascade of symptoms in the entire body, so increasing stomach acid often alleviates a host of issues.
If I feel ill and not able to digest heavy foods, I’ll often fortify my tea with coconut oil and collagen for highly-digestible nourishment.
5. Collagen is an extremely versatile addition
Unlike Vital Protein’s grassfed gelatin, their collagen peptides do not gel when added to cold liquid. It dissolves completely, and is tasteless and odorless. The only time I detect a hint of flavor is when I take it in plain water (which works in a pinch, but I wouldn’t recommend it). Instead, suggest mixing it into your beverages.
Here are some of the various ways that I incorporate Vital Proteins Collagen into my day:
- Blended into fruit smoothies
- Stirred into anti-inflammatory Golden Milk, made with coconut milk and turmeric
- Mixed into homemade bone broth, to boost the collagen already in the bone broth
- In coffee and tea
- In homemade ice cream (stir in a spoonful or two before processing in the ice cream maker)
The Collagen Cookbook
In collaboration with Vital Proteins, I’ve compiled The Collagen Cookbook for you. This beautifully-photographed downloadable cookbook features nutrient-dense, paleo-friendly recipes. Download it here for free, and I hope you enjoy it!