The excitement around collagen-based products continues to thrive within both health and beauty circles. From facial masks to coffee, you can find collagen in countless skincare products and dietary supplements. But what started this wellness trend?
The Craze Over Collagen
The popularity of collagen products stems from the protein’s diverse functions within the human body. Collagen, a structural protein, serves as a binding “glue” that gives structure to skin, bones, teeth, ligaments, joints, muscles, and blood vessels. The protein creates cushioning around the body and provides strength to vital connective tissues.
Although the body makes collagen naturally, production slows as you age. You can also damage your collagen reserves through unhealthy habits like smoking and prolonged sun exposure. To increase your collagen levels, you can consume more collagen-rich foods or supplements; or, you can take in more of the vitamins and nutrients that help the body to synthesize collagen on its own. Possible health benefits of increasing your collagen intake include:
- Firmer, more flexible skin
- Stronger hair and nails
- Joint pain relief
- Better heart health
- Higher bone density
- A boost for building muscle mass
- Gut microbiome maintenance
If you’ve noticed the increased interest in collagen among health and wellness enthusiasts, you’ve likely heard about gelatin as well. And first glance, you may have confused gelatin as the same thing as a collagen powder supplement. However, the two products have significant differences.
Most of the collagen powder products you see on the shelves consist of hydrolyzed collagen, also known as collagen peptides. The hydrolysis process breaks down the amino acids in collagen into small molecules, making them easier for the body to absorb.
Gelatin, on the other hand, only partially undergoes hydrolysis. To make it, producers take animal products rich in collagen, such as bones, and submerge them in boiling water; then, they extract and filter the broken down amino acids.
What Difference Does it Make?
Hydrolyzed collagen powder and gelatin contain the same amino acids, and thus produce similar health benefits. However, they have different uses due to their different molecular structure. Collagen powder dissolves in cold and hot liquid, so you can add it to virtually any beverage and even bake it. Gelatin, on the other hand, gels and acts as a thickener.
Common Collagen Uses
- Collagen Coffee– Because collagen powder is tasteless and doesn’t change the consistency of a drink, you’ll hardly notice it’s there if you dissolve the supplement into your morning brew.
- Collagen Baked Goods– Collagen powder is safe to bake with, meaning you can add it to virtually any recipe without altering the taste or texture.
- Cooking with Collagen– You can add collagen to your favorite meals by adding collagen powder to a liquid included in the recipe. Just be sure to give the collagen time to dissolve before mixing the liquid with other ingredients.
As previously mentioned, gelatin works as a thickener, creating the gelatinous texture associated with puddings and jello. However, the uses for gelatin don’t stop there. You can also use gelatin in:
- Bone broth
- Baked goods (as an egg substitute)
- Jams, marmalades, preserves, and other spreads
- Ice cream
- Panna cotta
- Pie filling
- Whipped toppings
Both collagen supplements and gelatin provide proven health benefits and be easily incorporated into common foods and beverages. If you’re looking to improve your skin appearance, protect your joints, or build muscle mass, using collagen or gelatin can help you achieve your goals without having to change your diet drastically.
Plus, adding collagen and gelatin to your diet can push you to cook more creatively. Don’t be afraid to try new things alongside these beneficial amino acid supplements.
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