• Marie Belzile-Davidson, MS, RDN, LD

All about collagen peptides and why we love them!

If you have been following The Functional Kitchen for a while now, you know we love collagen peptides! In this post, we will cover what collagen peptides are, how they are beneficial to human health, ways to choose the right collagen peptide product, and how to incorporate them into your everyday food.



What are collagen peptides?


We are going to break this down step by step, starting with "collagen." Do not worry, we will get to the "peptides" part in a minute.


Put simply, collagen is a protein. It is just one of the many types of protein we have in our bodies (1). As a quick review, proteins are (2):

  • one of the three main macronutrients we all need to live our healthiest lives- protein, carbohydrates, and fat.

  • the building block of nearly every element in our bodies (it is in every single cell we are made up of).

  • Proteins are made up of smaller units called amino acids.

  • Our human bodies need 20 specific amino acids to produce the proteins we are made up of.

  • Some amino acids are essential, meaning we must take them in through food because our bodies cannot produce them for us

Ok, moving onto the "peptides" part of "collagen peptides:" Peptides are just a chain of amino acids. They are not fully-formed and functional proteins.


I like to think of a fully-formed protein as a pearl necklace. Each pearl represents an amino acid and together, they create a whole necklace (protein) that is intact and serves its purpose. Now imagine you cut this pearl necklace (protein) into multiple smaller strings of pearls (amino acids). Each string of pearls (amino acids), is a peptide. These smaller strings (peptides) make the necklace (protein) whole but, individually, they do not form the entire functional necklace (protein).


Putting it all together, collagen peptides are small strings of amino acids that could form a functional protein, if they were all put back together in the right order.


Every protein in our bodies has a specific amount and sequence of amino acids that it needs to properly function. When it comes to collagen, it is made up of multiple amino acids but three specific ones make up the majority of this protein: glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline (1). This will be important in a minute, I promise!



Where do collagen peptides come from?


We can get collagen peptides from essentially any source of collagen. Collagen is commonly found in the skin, tendons, and bones of animals and can also be found in fish scales (1).


That being said, common sources of collagen peptide supplements you may see on the market in America include cows, pigs, and fish (1).



The benefits of collagen peptides:


Since peptides are a component of proteins and proteins are necessary to build and continuously rebuild our bodies, there are numerous benefits to collagen peptides.


Consuming collagen peptides provides our bodies with the amino acids we need to build collagen. Collagen is important in bone health, the development of organs and muscles, the healing of wounds and other damaged tissues, and is a fundamental part of ligaments (1, 3).


Research has also shown that consuming bioactive peptides, like the ones found in collagen peptides, have beneficial effects on blood pressure, Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, and inflammation, just to name a few (3, 4). On top of that, collagen peptides play a major role in the survival and multiplication of cells, which is so important because our cells are constantly repairing or replacing themselves (1, 3).


One of the main reasons why we absolutely love collagen peptides at The Functional Kitchen is because of their ability to help heal and/or maintain a healthy gut! Our gut (intestines) are lined with cells that help us properly absorb the nutrients we need from the foods we eat. These cells also sit tightly side by side, forming an important barrier between our gut and the rest of our body. These cells see a lot of action and are replaced more quickly than some of the other cells in our bodies (5).


The high concentration of glutamine that is found in collagen peptides helps these oh-so-important intestinal cells in multiple ways: it allows them to turn over (replace themselves) at a healthy rate and also helps keep them packed tightly together. If our gut cells cannot turn over at a normal rate, this can lead to inflammation and digestive issues. If intestinal cells cannot form the tight barrier (known as a tight junction) needed, food particles can "leak" out of our guts and into places they do not belong, leading to inflammation and potentially an immune response (5). If you want to learn more about "leaky gut," check out our blog post on it!


I could go on and on about the benefits of collagen peptides but we will move onto the collagen peptide product we recommend the most to our clients!



Choosing a collagen peptide supplement:


I am just going to cut to the chase here: The Functional Kitchen is not sponsored by or affiliated with this product but we consistently recommend Vital Proteins collagen peptides.


Here are some of the reasons why we love this particular brand:

  • There are no fillers. The ingredient list is simple, with their Original Collagen Peptide product only containing collagen peptides, hyaluronic acid, and Vitamin C (6). Some collagen peptide products contain bulking agents which just add more volume without really adding any quality or functional value.

  • There are no unnecessary sweeteners. Collagen peptides are essentially tasteless and mix well into a variety of foods and beverages so there is no need for added sugar here.

  • The product dissolves well. Collagen peptides can get sticky and clumpy so you want to opt for a product that will incorporate easily and seamlessly into the foods you commonly eat.

  • The product is reasonably priced for the high quality you get. While Vital Proteins is not the least expensive collagen peptide product we have seen on the market, it is also not the most expensive.

  • It is easy to purchase from numerous locations: you can buy it from various online retailers and numerous grocery stores.

Do you have to specifically use Vital Proteins? No. However, we would recommend seeking out a collagen peptide product that has the previously mentioned qualities we love about Vital Proteins' products.


Ways to incorporate collagen peptides:


Plain collagen peptide products are essentially tasteless so chances are, they will blend nicely into foods you already eat! You can also use them like you would use any other protein powder.


Try mixing them into:

  • coffee or tea

  • soups

  • oatmeal

  • cereal milk

  • smoothies

  • baked goods

Here is a favorite from our founder and lead dietitian, Gretchen:

  • Make a smoothie with 2 scoops of collagen peptides, 8 fl oz of unsweetened almond milk, ½ banana, ½ cup berries, 1 tbsp chia seeds, and ¼ - ½ tsp vanilla extract.

Remember, collagen peptides are not a complete protein. This means they do not have all 20 amino acids that our bodies need. Collagen peptides are a supplement/something to incorporate into your diet. They should not be your only source of protein.


References:


1. León-López A, Morales-Peñaloza A, Martínez-Juárez VM, Vargas-Torres A, Zeugolis DI, Aguirre-Álvarez G. Hydrolyzed Collagen-Sources and Applications. Molecules. 2019;24(22):4031. Published 2019 Nov 7. doi:10.3390/molecules24224031


2. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Teaching Dietary Protein Basics. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. https://www.eatrightpro.org/practice/practice-resources/international-nutrition-pilot-project/teaching-dietary-protein-basics. Accessed 08/24/2021, 2021.


3. Paul C, Leser S, Oesser S. Significant Amounts of Functional Collagen Peptides Can Be Incorporated in the Diet While Maintaining Indispensable Amino Acid Balance. Nutrients. 2019;11(5):1079. Published 2019 May 15. doi:10.3390/nu11051079


4. Li S , Liu L , He G , Wu J . Molecular targets and mechanisms of bioactive peptides against metabolic syndromes. Food Funct. 2018;9(1):42-52. doi:10.1039/c7fo01323j


5. Kim MH, Kim H. The Roles of Glutamine in the Intestine and Its Implication in Intestinal Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2017;18(5):1051. Published 2017 May 12. doi:10.3390/ijms18051051


6. Vital Proteins. Collagen Peptides. https://www.vitalproteins.com/collections/collagen/ products/collagen-peptides. Accessed 0829/2021, 2021.


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