Written by Jordan Pie, Nutritionist & GAPS Practitioner.
Two of the trendiest gut healing foods right now are gelatin and collagen. If you’ve been following me for a while, you may know that I often use them in lots of the recipes i share. And for good reason! They’re both packed with amino acids that provide a tonne of different health benefits.
When it comes to the health benefits of gelatin and collagen, they’re actually identical. That’s because gelatin is the cooked form of collagen (the cooking gives it a very different texture and is what gives them different uses, more on that below!). Collagen is the most important and abundant structural protein in your body. Collagen is kind of like the ‘glue’ that holds your body together. Our skin, gut barrier, bones, connective tissue, cartilage, and joints all depend on collagen to be healthy, strong and flexible. You actually have more collagen in your body than any other type of protein, and gram for gram it’s stronger than steel!
WHAT ARE THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF COLLAGEN & GELATIN?
- The amino acids in collagen heal damaged cells and build new tissue in the intestinal wall, as well as coating, protecting and soothing the lining of the gut wall. This aids in healing and repairing a leaky gut
- Strengthen hair, skin and nails
- Can help prevent joint pain
- Supports weight management
- Promotes cardiovascular health
- Supports bone repair
- Improves liver function
- Shorter recovery is needed after injury or exercise
- Improves sleep quality
- Highly bioavailable protein source
- Aids digestion
- Aids with hormonal balance
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Reduces stretch marks, cellulite and wrinkles
- Boosts metabolism
OK so now we know their incredible health benefits, let’s divide the facts to see what the difference between them and how to best use them.
WHAT IS COLLAGEN?
Collagen hydrolysate has been heated to high temperatures and treated with enzymes. The bonds between the amino acids are broken, although the amino acids themselves are left intact. Because the amino acid bonds are broken down, it is absorbed by the body faster, is easy to digest, and is wonderful for anyone experiencing digestive issues. There are 2 different types of collagen: Marine and Peptides. Marine collagen is derived from fish, while peptides are derived from grass-fed beef. Collagen contains over 90% easy digestible protein and is easily assimilated by the body. I actually use it as my protein powder in smoothies and smoothie bowls.
Collagen doesn't gel, it’s completely flavourless and can be added to any liquid or mixed into foods. This is why you can add it into pretty much anything, such as;
WHAT IS GELATIN?
Ok, so gelatin is derived from collagen — when collagen breaks down, it becomes gelatin. For example bone broth; the bones are loaded with collagen, and as the bones simmer in water which creates broth during the cooking process, the collagen slowly breaks down into gelatin.
To turn gelatin into a powder, it is simply dried. When the gelatin powder gets mixed with water, it turns back into that gel again. The main difference between collagen and gelatin is that gelatin contains “gelling” or ‘setting’ properties and collagen does not. This is why gelatin is used to make;
- panna cotta’s
- However, it also dissolves in hot liquids so it can be used for thickening gravies, soups, hot chocolate, matcha latte and bulletproof coffee.
In other words, gelatin is full of the same good stuff as collagen, just in a different form.
CHOOSE A HIGH QUALITY COLLAGEN & GELATIN
When it comes to getting the most health benefits, it’s important to choose a high-quality product. It’s important to understand that not all brands of gelatin and collagen are created equal. The chemically-treated packs of gelatin you can find at your supermarket won’t provide you with the same health benefits of a quality grass-fed or organic gelatin or collagen powder. Look for a collagen product that uses pasture-raised, grass-fed or organic raised animals that have not been given steroids, antibiotics etc. Avoid products that are mixed with additives, preservatives, guar gums, maltodextrin or other unnecessary ingredients.
HAS COLLAGEN & GELATIN HELPED YOU?
They have definitely improved the health of my hair, skin, and nails. My nails and hair grow so incredibly fast and they’re so much stronger + my hair is shinier and I have way less hair breakage. I'd also say that collagen has helped me balance my hormones and re-gain a steady and regular menstrual cycle. But, most importantly, I think collagen and gelatin have helped rebuild my gut lining so that I can now tolerate more foods and I experience way less bloating and digestive discomfort.
HOW SOON DID YOU NOTICE CHANGES AFTER TAKING COLLAGEN?
It took a month or two for me to see any changes. But the first thing I noticed was that my hair was stronger, shinier and generally just healthier and my nails were growing so fast + they were much stronger.
MY GELATIN MAKES MY DRINKS (OR RECIPES) GO CLUMPY. WHAT DID I DO WRONG?
This is because you need to ‘bloom’ the gelatin first. So what you do is mix gelatin into room temperature water. For example you could mix 1 Tbsp of gelatin with 2 Tbsp of water and set it aside for 2 mins and the gelatin will soak up and absorb the liquid. This is called 'blooming'. If it’s not bloomed, or if you add it into recipes cold it will not dissolve properly and cause recipes to go clumpy.
IS IT IMPORTANT TO 'BLOOM' AND DISSOLVE THE GELATIN FIRST BEFORE USING IT?
Yes it is. If you add gelatin powder straight into your hot drink and blend immediately, I often find that the gelatin doesn't dissolve properly and it can stick to the sides of the blender making it a big pain in the butt to clean later on.
MY COLLAGEN POWDER WHEN CLUMPY WHEN I ADDED IT TO MY JUICE. WHAT DID I DO WRONG?
I find collagen powder is best added to empty glass or cup, then pour your desired juice or drink over the collagen and mix, it will be easier to dissolve. Or you can simply blend it in your blender to make sure it’s perfectly mixed through.
HOW SHOULD I CONSUME COLLAGEN IF I DO NOT DRINK SMOOTHIES, BULLETPROOF COFFEE OR MATCHA LATTES?
No latte, no problem. You can add collagen into a hot herbal tea, you can also mix it into any fresh pressed juice, smoothie or smoothie bowl. I also add collagen into these recipes; my Vanilla Keto Cookie Dough, Lime & Matcha Chu Chu's, Low Carb Choc Chip Cookies, mix into homemade dips, Chocolate Coconut Rough or Chocolate & Raspberry Muffins. You could even get your collagen fix by sipping on a steaming cup of warming bone broth. Yum!
CAN I TAKE COLLAGEN & GELATIN WHILE PREGNANT OR BREASTFEEDING?
Yes you can, however if this is something new for you, it's best to talk to your chosen health care practitioner before incorporating any new supplements.
IS COLLAGEN AND GELATIN VEGAN?
No they’re not vegan. Both marine (fish) and peptides (beef) collagen and (bovine or beef) gelatin are derived from animal products.
DO YOU RECOMMEND DR. AXE’S BONE BROTH PROTEIN POWDER?
No I don’t recommend the flavoured Bone Broth Protein Powders because they contain ‘natural vanilla or chocolate flavour and guar gum’ as I don’t recommend consuming them if you have gut issues. P.S a 'flavour' can be made of up to 48 different chemical ingredients.
WHICH COLLAGEN IS BEST ABSORBED AND UTILISED BY THE BODY- MARINE, BOVINE OR PORCINE COLLAGEN?
Fish collagen is absorbed up to 1.5x more efficiently into the body and has superior bioavailability over bovine or porcine collagens.
WHAT CAN COLLAGEN BE DERIVED FROM?
- Bovine (cow or beef) collagen: contains a rich supply of 2 amino acids called glycine and proline, and therefore useful for building muscle and also helping the body make its own collagen.
- Chicken collagen: is beneficial for joint health, especially since this source also provides chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine sulfate — both of which have anti-aging effects.
- Fish collagen: is sourced from the scales, skin, bones and fins of fresh or saltwater fish. It has been found to be the easiest to absorb, consuming more fish collagen has been associated with benefits for the joints, skin, vital organs, blood vessels, digestion and bones.
- Marine Collagen: Fish collagen is different from marine collagen as some marine collagen products are sourced from shellfish and jellyfish
Egg shell membrane collagen: provides glucosamine sulfate and various amino acids that have benefits for building connective tissue, wound healing, building muscle mass and reducing pain/stiffness.
WHAT CAN GELATIN BE DERIVED FROM?
- Bovine (cow or beef)
- Porcine (pig)
DOES FISH OR MARINE COLLAGEN SMELL OR TASTE FISHY?
There are many fish and marine collagen products on the market today that are tasteless and odourless or have a neutral, non-fishy taste. If you consume fish collagen and have a mild allergic reaction then please discontinue use. If you have a serious allergic reaction, seek medical attention immediately.
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF COLLAGEN?
Did you know that there are at least 16 different types of collagen within the human body. These include collagen types 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10. However, between 80-90% actually consists of types 1, 2, and 3. You can read more information about each individual type of collagen in Dr. Axes blog post here.
HOW DO YOU STORE THEM?
I transfer them both to glass jars and keep them in my pantry. Do not refrigerate them.
I’VE REACTED TO COLLAGEN OR GELATIN IN THE PAST, SHOULD I STILL CONSUME IT?
From my experience with clients, I have found that gelatin and collagen are extremely healing on the gut. However, everyone is still an individual and no food is right for everyone so it is very important to test it out in your own body and see how you feel. I always recommend to see a good Kinesiologist for muscle testing so you can see how your individual body reacts to it.
IF I ADD GELATIN OR COLLAGEN TO MY MORNING BULLETPROOF COFFEE OR MATCHA LATTE, WILL THAT BREAK MY FAST?
As much as I love and recommend adding in either collagen or gelatin to your morning bulletproof coffee or matcha, it is pure protein so it will break the fast. According to Mark’s Daily Apple, protein inhibits autophagy. This means that collagen/ gelatin in your coffee during a fast is probably fine for fat-burning (and may suppress appetite, helping you fast for longer) but it will reduce the benefits of autophagy which plays a key role in your body’s ability to detoxify, repair, regenerate itself, dampen inflammation, slow down the aging process + more - the easiest way to do activate autophagy is by practicing intermittent fasting.
WILL THE PROTEIN IN COLLAGEN/ GELATIN DENATURE IF I HEAT IT?
According to this article collagen protein is heat stable. Collagen peptides can withstand heat up to 572°F/ 300°C, making collagen one of the few protein powders that’s good for cooking and baking. This is especially great news for those of you that add collagen powder to your morning coffee for extra amino acids that support shining hair and younger looking skin.
DO COLLAGEN & GELATIN PROVIDE THE SAME RESULTS (AKA FROTHINESS) IN HOT DRINKS?
In my experience no. As you can see in the below photo, the bulletproof coffee on the left contains hardly any froth because it doesn't contain any gelatin or collagen (just grass-fed butter and brain octane oil). The coffee in the middle with a small amount of froth contains collagen and the coffee on the right contains gelatin, it has the most froth. So if you like lots of froth and creaminess in your bulletproof coffees or hot drinks, just add 1-2 Tbsp of bloomed gelatin to your hot coffee/ drink and blend it up to get the below results. However if you don't like frothy/ super creamy drinks, you can omit collagen/ gelatin entirely.
IS BONE BROTH FULL OF COLLAGEN?
Yes, it sure is.
DOES ADDING GELATIN TO YOUR MORNING BULLETPROOF COFFEE CHANGE THE CONSISTENCY?
Yes it does. As you can see in the above photo, the coffee on the far left has no froth because it has absolutely no collagen or gelatin. Whereas the coffee on the far right contains 1 Tbsp bloomed gelatin, which when it's blended with hot coffee it dissolves and creates a beautiful, froth/ creamy coffee. Have a look at the picture below to see how creamy your coffee gets when you add in gelatin.
Click here for my Bulletproof Coffee Recipe
CAN GELATIN OR COLLAGEN CAUSE CONSTIPATION?
I have never personally experienced any digestive changes from consuming bone broth, collagen or gelatin, nor have my clients. However, if this is happening to you, I would suggest you talk to your chosen health care practitioner to find out what the root cause of the constipation is. However, eating too much of anything too quickly can overwhelm your body, and do more harm than good. So make sure you start with a small serving 1/2 Tbsp per day and slowly increase your dose every few weeks as tolerated.
WHAT ARE COLLAGEN PEPTIDES?
Collagen peptides contain the same exact set of amino acids and nutrients as collagen, but have undergone a process called hydrolysis to break them down into shorter chains of proteins. This means it’s much easier for your stomach to break down and digest. It also has a high bioavailability and can be absorbed into the bloodstream more readily than regular collagen protein, giving you more bang for your buck when it comes to nutrition.
WHATS IS A GOOD SERVING SUGGESTION FOR A SMOOTHIE?
I personally usually add 2 Tbsp per person. But you may only need 1 Tbsp, or some people like to add more. As always listen to your bodies needs.
CAN YOU HAVE TOO MUCH COLLAGEN OR GELATIN IN ONE DAY? FOR EXAMPLE I'LL OFTEN DRINK 1 CUP OF BONE BROTH, BUT THEN I'M NOT SURE IF I SHOULD HAVE JELLY OR PANNA COTTA LATER ON IN THE SAME DAY. IS THAT TOO MUCH?
Again, it's very important to listen to your body. For me personally, i'll often use bone broth in my slow cooked meats + I'll often add in some collagen to my smoothies + I may snack on jelly or panna cotta as well. But then there are some days where I don't have any collagen or gelatin because I don't feel like it, or it's just not in the snacks I've made for that day.
CAN CHILDREN CONSUME COLLAGEN AND GELATIN?
Yes they sure can. In fact I recommend you make your kids jellies or gummies to get some gut healing gelatin goodness into them.
I HAVE HISTAMINE ISSUES, CAN I CONSUME GELATIN AND COLLAGEN?
Please Note - According to Chris Kresser “One population who may need to be careful about consuming gelatin or collagen powders are those with histamine intolerance; some people report a histamine reactions to them, so they may not be appropriate for those with severe intolerances”. If this is you, I would highly recommend you work with your chosen health care practitioner to get individualised advice.
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