Until recently, collagen was not commonly discussed in the context of mainstream nutritional terms. Perhaps some had heard of it in the context of skin health, but little else. The popularity of the paleo diet has made the importance of collagen in terms of health and wellness come more into center stage. Yet even as people begin to better understand the importance of collagen, a critical component of collagen synthesis remains under recognized. In order to properly synthesize collagen, the body must have vitamin C. Let’s take a closer look at vitamin C and collagen
What Is Vitamin C?
Though most people could quickly list vitamin C if they were asked to name a list of key vitamins, it can be harder for people to name all that this vital vitamin is and does. Vitamin C is a water-soluble nutrient that our bodies cannot produce on their own. It is this inability to produce vitamin C innately that led researchers such as Linus Pauling to advise that all people take vitamin C supplements on a daily basis (1).
Roles and Benefits of Vitamin C:
Vitamin C plays numerous key roles in the body. This antioxidant is known for the benefit of strengthening the immune system, but this crucial vitamin’s jobs extend far beyond its role with the immune system.
- iron absorption
- protects vitamins A and E from the harsh effects of oxidation
- offers protection against heart disease
- aids in proper blood flow
- prevents and cures scurvy
- plays a critical role in collagen synthesis (2)
Optimal Sources of Vitamin C:
Vitamin C can be obtained through dietary sources or high quality supplements. Top food sources for vitamin C include citrus fruits, berries, broccoli, bell peppers, and more (6). It should be noted that due to vitamin C’s delicate nature, it can be easily destroyed by things such as cooking. For this reason it can be challenging to get enough vitamin C each and every day. A high quality, real food supplement can be one of the best ways to assure that the body has enough vitamin C to aid in the production of collagen as well as its other jobs. We suggest Catie’s Whole Food Vitamin C Plus or Ramiel Nagel’s Organic High Vitamin C Powder. Choosing a real whole food supplement gives the body the full benefits of all factors of vitamin C, rather than one isolated element as is found in synthetic ascorbic acid vitamin C supplements (7). For more information on why real vitamin C is better, read our last blog post.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is one of 14 proteins the human body contains. It is so abundant that it is found in the body in greater quantities than all the other proteins combined. As a significant component of connective tissue, collagen is found throughout the body. It is in bones, teeth, skin, hair, eyes, and other organs (1). Though the body can create collagen, consuming collagen helps the body to have more of this important substance. The body first takes in collagen through dietary sources, then breaks it down to rebuild it in order to use it in the body. This continual process requires both the intake of collagen as well as vitamin C (4).
Roles and Benefits of Collagen:
Not only is collagen abundant, it is also a critical protein. Collagen serves to strengthen the walls of blood vessels, keep organs in their appropriate places, and more. Like glue binds objects together, collagen acts as a sort of binding agent within the body (3). When the body lacks sufficient collagen, muscle tissue and bone density will begin to decline. Additionally, blood vessels are weakened, increasing the risk for heart disease (5).
Collagen is also acclaimed for its ability to heal the gut. When the gut becomes inflamed, it is difficult to impossible for nutrients to be fully absorbed. Nutritional deficiencies can then develop. This inflammation can also lead to what is known as Leaky Gut Syndrome, an autoimmune problem where tiny particles of food can escape from the gut and be treated as invaders by the immune system. Collagen can serve to heal the gut, reducing inflammation and healing the tiny holes that allow Leaky Gut Syndrome to develop (8).
Optimal Sources of Collagen:
Dietary sources of collagen come from animal bones and connective tissue. Oftentimes people will use animal bones to make broths and stocks in order to get the collagen from the bones. Because it can be difficult to get enough dietary collagen through these sources, it is wise to consider taking a collagen supplement. Various collagen supplements are available, but it is important to look for a hydrolyzed collagen powder, the most easily absorbed and utilized by the body (5). Supplements such as Perfect Hydrolyzed Collagen have already been broken down into the smaller peptides that the body can readily absorb and use. We recommend Perfect Hydrolyzed Collagen because it comes from grass-fed, pasture raised cattle living happily in Brazil. Adding a whole foods vitamin C supplement along with the hydrolyzed collagen supplement assures that not only is the body getting the collagen it needs, but that it will be able to properly use it.
The Crucial Relationship
It is easy to see that both vitamin C and collagen are necessary for a healthy life, but what is often not talked about as frequently is the fact that vitamin C and collagen actually work very closely together, forming an interdependent relationship. Without vitamin C, collagen production is disrupted and cannot be completed. Vitamin C is used to add hydrogen and oxygen to the amino acids to create a substance called procollagen, a necessary substance to the creation of collagen (3). When collagen production is disrupted, people suffer significant negative consequences. For this reason, it is prudent to take a real food vitamin C supplement like Catie’s Whole Food Vitamin C or Traditional Foods Market’s Organic High Vitamin C Powder along with a high quality, grass-fed collagen supplement like Perfect Hydrolyzed Collagen.
The Best Protein Shake
This is one of my favorite recipes for a quick breakfast or snack. I love the Perfect Hydrolyzed Collagen – my nails have never looked better! I mix it with Catie’s Whole Food Vitamin C Plus and Catie’s Organic Greens or Catie’s Gluten Free Organic Greens. This combination is my meal replacement combo. I almost always have coconut milk on hand, so that is my normal base, then I add 100% organic juice, whatever is in the house, and YUM!
I make my own prepared coconut milk from canned coconut milk because I don’t like all the additives in milk alternative coconut milk. Just put one can of organic coconut milk, not light, in a blender with one can of water and one tsp powdered natural calcium supplement, like Traditional Foods Market Whole Bone Calcium. You can also add 1 tsp vanilla extract, but I usually omit it.
6 oz prepared organic coconut milk
6 0z 100% organic juice of choice
1 scoop Perfect Hydrolyzed Collagen
1 tsp Catie’s Whole Food Vitamin C Plus
1 tsp Catie’s Organic Greens or Catie’s Gluten Free Organic Greens
Put all ingredients in a BPA free shaker bottle, leaving the collagen for last. Put in the agitator (good shakers will have one), and shake, shake, shake. Enjoy!