Let's start with the basics. What is collagen? It comes from the Greek word (kólla), meaning "glue", and suffix, -gen, denoting "producing," which actually isn't too far off from its physical purpose. In scientific terms, collagen is a protein made from amino acids, specifically glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine.
Our bodies are complicated machines that, when kept healthy, function in a perpetual fashion. With all of their different substances, whether they be solid, liquid, or gas, it's difficult to gauge or even attempt to deem one of them "most important." Although, if we had to choose one, we might start with collagen as it's the most abundant protein in the body.
There are at least 28 different types of collagen that have been identified so far, but there are certain types of collagen that you'll most often find in supplements due to their desirable benefits. We'll explore the five most common types of collagen, what they're made of, and how to best source them.
However, before we dive into the different types, let's dive into the collagen before it's collagen. All collagen starts as pro collagen.
Your body makes pro collagen by combining two amino acids — glycine and proline. This process uses vitamin C.
To make sure your body is able to produce pro collagen, you'll need plenty of the following nutrients:
- Vitamin C. Large amounts are found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, and strawberries.
- Proline. Large amounts are found in egg whites, wheat germ, dairy products, cabbage, asparagus, and mushrooms.
- Glycine. Large amounts are found in pork skin, chicken skin, and gelatin, but glycine is also found in various protein-containing foods.
- Copper. Large amounts are found in organ meats, sesame seeds, cocoa powder, cashews, and lentils.
Additionally, your body needs high-quality, vital proteins that contain the amino acids needed to make new proteins. Meat, poultry, seafood, dairy, legumes, and tofu are all excellent sources of amino acids.
The short-chain amino acids found in collagen peptides are easy to digest, highly-bioavailable (meaning your body can make full use of them), and they're also a rich source of important amino acids such as glycine, proline, and glutamine to name a few – which are necessary for detoxification and immune function. Hydrolyzed collagen is a popular ingredient considered to be an antioxidant.