Protein is an undeniably important part of our makeup. Protein is the foundation for enzymes, hormones, organ tissue, muscles, bones and many other facets of the body. So, it would seem logical that dietary consumption of protein is important for someone wanting to maintain optimal health.
The largest and most abundant protein in the body is collagen. It makes up roughly 65 percent of our total protein. Collagen is more prominent in the non-muscle tissues of the body, such as the skin, bones, connective tissues and organs.
The modern diet is generally low in collagen due to the mentality of what's considered healthy and because of the way most proteins are now prepared.
Rather than making a soup or stew with an entire chicken, where the bones and skin are cooked and made into a broth, we've been taught that the lean chicken breast is much healthier. Now, this chicken breast is healthy and definitely a lean form of protein, but it does lack certain amino acids and important nutrients that would be found in the skin, bones and connective tissue of the entire animal.
So by eating leaner in this example, we may miss out on valuable nutrients not found in the chicken breast alone. This goes for all animal meats. Oxtail, for example, isn't at the top of our healthiest food list, but it does contain a great deal of collagen and valuable nutrients not found in a lean cut of steak.
The point is that getting a variety of both muscle protein and collagen protein will help ensure a more balanced amino acid uptake. This is important because as we age, natural collagen levels begin to decline, and as they do, our bodies begin to suffer. Organs and bones get weaker, cartilage shrinks and wears down, and our skin sags and wrinkles. This breakdown is caused in part by poor dietary choices such as drugs, alcohol, high sugar, processed foods and hydrogenated oils, just to name a few.
Since collagen is the essential building block for so many tissues, consuming collagen-rich foods has numerous benefits. Dietary collagen can improve our skin elasticity, bone density, tendon and ligament stability, strengthen internal organs and arteries, as well as support lean muscle tissue and growth. Collagen-rich foods, therefore, play a very important role in our overall health.
Now, to be clear, you don't have to eat oxtail soup or chicken bones every day to increase your collagen intake. Bovine gelatin and hydrolyzed collagen can be found in powder form and used as a dietary supplement to an already balanced diet. This powder is easily digestible and can be added to milk, juice, water or even a breakfast smoothie for a convenient way to get more nutritious collagen.
If you think your diet is lacking collagen, try adding this form of dietary protein to give your body what it needs.
For more exercise and nutrition tips, visit our blog at PushFitnessTraining.com or find us on Facebook.
• Joshua Steckler and Mark Trapp are co-owners of Push Fitness, a personal training studio in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning and nutrition. Contact them at PushFitnessTraining.com.