Collagen Protein and Gelatin are practically considered a super food in the AIP Autoimmune Protocol world, but what exactly is the stuff and why is it necessary?
The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is all about healing the gut, and I used to think of it as an elimination diet—what not to eat. Then, I shifted my focus to what I should eat to make sure I consumed the right nutrients and really heal. When I was first told that collagen protein heals the gut, I immediately wanted to try it. The only problem was I didn’t understand exactly what it was and why I needed to add it to my diet.
I did a little research and had an interesting revelation: it’s basically what my Chinese mother had been promoting to me for years, but in the form of bone broth! My mom has been a huge advocate of bone broth for as long as I can remember, and she is a prime example of its benefits. People always mistake her for my “sister” (the one I don’t have), despite the fact that she is well into her 50’s (shhhh). This would probably be the perfect place to insert some kind of joke about Asians not aging…but in all seriousness, bone broth has consistently been my mom’s answer for everything, from achy joints to sagging skin, and even as post-pregnancy nourishment.
While there are plenty of articles and recipes for bone broth, that still doesn’t explain this new super ingredient in white powder form that has been floating around the blogosphere. After reading more about it, I have deemed it the “lazy or busy person’s alternative to both broth!”
Here is an easy breakdown for those of you wondering about some of the same things I was.
What is Collagen Protein?
Both collagen hydrolysate and gelatin refer to a type of connective tissue found only in animals and humans. The collagen made for consumption is produced by cooking down this connective tissue (usually from cow or pig). Yes, you know what I’m talking about—these are those rubbery parts of a steak or the cartilage on a chicken drumstick that are usually too tough to chew and are discarded. You have more collagen in your body than any other type of protein. A decrease of collagen protein in our bodies over time can cause all kinds of issues, from wrinkles to weak joints. Collagen protein contains high amounts of glycine and proline, which in turn, build more connective tissue.
You may have seen different brands carrying the “hydrolysate” or the “gelatin” in different colored containers, but the two share the same amino acid profiles. The difference is that the hydrosolate is produced in a way that allows it to dissolve into liquids without gelling and is more quickly absorbed by the body. This soluble version is convenient to add to beverages like tea or smoothies. The gelatin version may be used to make gummies, fruit roll ups, and other fun recipes.
Collagen protein offers gut-healing properties, and most importantly, provides a nutritious and natural alternative to whey or plant based proteins (usually restricted on the Paleo/AIP diets). There is no real complete protein powder that is compatible with AIP since whey and egg are eliminated. Collagen provides a good protein supplement, and is particularly convenient to add to Paleo/AIP beverages. It’s really not a good idea to have a smoothie or shake without protein or fat because our goal should be to balance our blood sugar, not to set up a spike-and-crash.
Why Use Collagen Protein?
Some of the benefits of using collagen protein include:
– healthier hair and strong nails
– improved digestion
– joint comfort and mobility
– healthy immune response
– improved skin
– improvement in cellulite
– allows for better sleep at night
– healing of the mucosal layer in the gut
The last reason, healing the gut, is why collagen protein is strongly recommended for those with autoimmune issues. An underlying issue in autoimmune disorders is “leaky gut,” and collagen heals the gut barrier. Because these health benefits are predominantly derived from the amino acids, it really doesn’t matter whether you opt to use the hydrolysate or gelatin form.
Collagen Protein Powder versus Bone Broth
In my humble opinion, bone broth wins, hands down. Just ask my mom. She’s still not entirely comfortable with the powdered forms that I like to use for convenience, but she is also one of those amazing people who are super efficient in the kitchen and are all about making natural soup stocks and bone broths.
With my hectic lifestyle, it’s just not feasible to make broths all the time. Also, sometimes, when it’s 110 degrees outside on an average July day in Las Vegas, it’s not surprising that I just don’t feel like having bone broth. And sometimes, I’m just lazy (but oh so grateful when my mom drops off a fresh batch of broth for my freezer). It’s so easy and convenient to sprinkle some collagen protein into my smoothie or tea. It’s even more fun to incorporate it into my baking! As a side note, recipe development can be full of trial and error when it comes to baking with collagen (that awkward moment when you pull some beautiful, fluffy Paleo muffins out of the oven only to bite into one and realize it has the texture of a dog’s chew toy…trust me, I speak from hours and hours of failed recipe development). After lots of experimentation, I’ve figured out how to include both forms of collagen protein in my Paleo Angel Power Balls.
I personally love the brand, Great Lakes Collagen Protein Hydrolysate (and the Gelatin). I know Vital Proteins has become quite popular lately. Some people argue it’s “better” in some ways, but plain and simple, it gives me tummy aches! I don’t know why. I’ve tried it numerous times and it never fails to leave me feeling a little uncomfortable. But I’ve never had a problem with Great Lakes.
We use collagen protein in POWER BALLS as an amazing way to get an extra 12 Grams of Protein into your diet! They are delicious and nutrient dense. Perfect for breakfast on-the-go or a quick snack.
In any event, collagen protein has some amazing gut-healing benefits, and the powder forms have made it very easy to get some into your diet. Give it a shot and let me know when you begin to notice stronger nails and smoother skin. Hey, the lazy way is better than nothing!