kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

Collagen makes up about one-third of all protein in the body.

It is like the “glue” that holds us together. In fact, the word comes from the Greek word “kólla,” which means glue.

Collagen provides structural support, strength and resiliency for skin and joints. Collagen is responsible for the white of the eye and also the transparent cornea. In muscles, collagen forms fibers that behave just like rope in that they are strong when stretch but collapse when pushed together.

Collagen is very adaptable. Collagen with hydroxyapatite create strong bones and teeth.

Unfortunately, with age, the body’s ability to replenish collagen declines and the loss of collagen is a major contributor to skin aging and loss of joint function. In the skin, this contributes to dryness and wrinkles. The skin looses elasticity and strength.  In joints, the loss of collagen leads to dysfunction and can cause osteoarthritis.

In humans, most of the collagen is present in four forms:

  • Type I collagen accounts for 90% of your body’s collagen and is made of densely packed fibers. It provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, fibrous cartilage, connective tissue, and teeth.
  • Type II is made of more loosely packed fibers and found in elastic cartilage, which cushions your joints.
  • Type III collagen is found in the skin, cartilage, blood vessels, and throughout other soft tissue.
  • Type IV collagen helps with filtration and is found in the layers of your skin.

Collagen is produced primarily by connective tissue cells called fibroblasts and by cartilage cells called chondrocytes.

Whole collagen is a large, complex protein that cannot be easily digested or absorbed into the body. Scientists have discovered that partially broken down collagen, hydrolyzed collagen, is highly absorbable. When consumed, hydrolyzed collagen stimulates the production of new collagen.

Collagen can be broken down as much as 95% and be easily distributed throughout the body if taken orally. Two mechanisms by which this happens:

  • Collagen fragments directly activate fibroblasts and chondrocytes, stimulating them to increase their production
  • Immune system cells recognize the collagen fragments and activate a process that stimulates fibroblasts, boosting the production of collagen and other connective tissue proteins.

The majority of clinical trials assessing the ability of oral collagen to improve skin health and appearance have found it to:

  • Improve skin hydration
  • Improve skin elasticity (the ability to stretch and bounce back without sagging)
  • Improve skin texture and condition
  • Reduce lines and wrinkles, including crow’s feet

Collagen also benefits nails, improving flexibility and texture. Several studies have shown that people taking hydrolyzed collagen have accelerated skin healing, reversed signs of aging and reduced cellulite.

Cartilage keeps joints like the knee, elbow, fingers, shoulder, and hip working through a full range of motion without pain. This lubricated, rubber-like tissue lines the end of bone, cushioning them so that they can glide over each other smoothly without damage.

With wear and tear joint cartilage breaks down. Over time, it becomes thin, rough, and cracked and can even erode completely, leaving bone rubbing on bone. This condition is called osteoarthritis. It results in inflammation, pain, and significant reduction in the range of motion of the joints.

Collagen is vital to the structure and health of cartilage. Hydrolyzed collagen has been shown to protect cartilage and repair it by increasing the number of chondrocytes producing cartilage. It also reduces inflammation in the joint, reducing stiffness.

All collagen starts off as procollagen. Your body makes procollagen by combining two amino acids, glycine and proline. This process uses vitamin C.

You may be able to help your body produce this important protein by making sure you get plenty of the following nutrients:

  • Vitamin C. Large amounts are found in citrus fruits, bell peppers, and strawberries
  • Proline. Large amounts are found in cabbage, asparagus, and mushrooms
  • Glycine. Large amounts are found in beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Copper. Large amounts are found in sesame seeds, cocoa powder, cashews, and lentils.

There are some things that destroy collagen:

  • Eating too much sugar and refined carbs. Sugar interferes with collagen’s ability to repair itself. Minimize your consumption of added sugar and refined carbs.
  • Getting too much sunshine. Ultraviolet radiation can reduce collagen production. Avoid excessive sun exposure.
  • Smoking. Smoking reduces collagen production. This can impair wound healing and lead to wrinkles.

Some autoimmune disorders, such as lupus, can also damage collagen.

There’s debate over whether consuming collagen-rich foods actually increases the levels of this protein in your body. When you eat protein, it’s broken down into amino acids and then reassembled, so the collagen you eat wouldn’t translate directly into higher levels in your body. Hydrolyzed collagen breaks down the large protein down into smaller peptides, which are more easily absorbed in the body.

There aren’t many studies on collagen supplements, but those that exist show promise for benefits in the following areas:

  • Muscle mass. A 2019 study in recreationally active men showed that a combination of collagen peptide supplements and strength training increased muscle mass and strength more than a placebo.
  • Arthritis. A 2017 animal study looked at the effects of giving collagen supplements to mice with post-traumatic osteoarthritis (PTOA). The results indicated that supplementation may play a protective role in the disease’s development and progression.
  • Skin elasticity. Women who took a supplement showed improvements in skin appearance and elasticity in a 2019 study. Collagen is also used in topical treatments to improve the appearance of skin by minimizing lines and wrinkles.

The most effective collagen peptides will list Collagen Type I and Type III.

Ingredients To Avoid:

Soy Fillers
Citric Acid
Artificial Additives
Non-hydrolyzed Collagen
Dairy Preservatives
Natural Flavors

Do not buy a collagen that lists ‘natural flavors’. Natural flavors are derived from chemicals found in food, but are later enhanced in a laboratory. Simply put, natural flavors are not actually natural.

Plus, the FDA hasn’t officially defined what natural flavors mean, so it can be used to describe a lot of different things that may not always be good for you.

There are many vegan options for collagen supplementation:

Zolt from Hey Zolt

Sunwarrior Collagen from Lucky Vitamin.

Rae Vegan Collagen Boost Dietary Supplement Bulk Powder – Unflavored – Available at Target!

Goji Berries

Goji berries, also known as wolfberries, are a reddish-orange berry with a sweet and sour flavor. One variety of goji berries tastes almost like a tomato while another tastes closer to a cranberry.

Goji berries have long been used as a central ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, and the vast majority of goji berries sold in the United States are dried and imported from China. They’ve been used in traditional medicine for thousands of years. Research shows consumption of goji berries slows signs of aging, maintains eye health, and strengthens your liver, kidneys, and lungs.

Goji berries grow on vines and look a bit like tiny grape tomatoes. Like tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant, they belong to the nightshade family. Goji berries aren’t easy to find fresh in the United States.

Goji berries are often called a superfood because they contain chemical compounds called phytochemicals that are produced by plants. Phytochemicals in goji berries include polysaccharides, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin.

The polysaccharides are an essential source of dietary fiber. Beta-carotene is responsible for the orange-red color pigment in goji berries. Beta-carotene is vital for eye health, bone health, skin health, and cell development. The amount of beta-carotene in goji berries is among the highest of all edible plants. Zeaxanthin plays a crucial role in supporting the immune system. Many researchers believe that zeaxanthin can prevent macular degeneration.

Beta-carotene is an ingredient used in skin creams to:

  • improve skin health
  • reduce skin irritation
  • manage the effects of the sun
  • manage the impact of aging

One study reported in the American Academy of Optometry’s journal Optometry and Vision Science stated  that seniors who drank goji berry juice for 90 days increased zeaxanthin and other antioxidant levels significantly. Another study reported in the journal Drug Design, Development and Therapy shows goji berries protect the retina from the ganglion cells responsible for glaucoma, a condition that can lead to vision loss.

Zeaxanthin can fight:

  • UV light
  • free radicals
  • oxidative stress.

A 1-ounce serving contains 4 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber, plus all nine of the essential amino acids humans don’t produce and need to obtain from food sources.

Just 5 tablespoons of dried goji berries has:

  • Calories: 98
  • Protein: 4 grams
  • Fat: 0.1 grams
  • Carbs: 21.6 grams
  • Fiber: 3.6 grams
  • Sugar: 21.8 grams
  • Iron: 11% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin A: 501% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 15% of the DV

Goji berries contain large amounts of vitamins A and C, similarly to other berries, including blueberries and raspberries. Vitamins A and C are vital for building immunity and preventing illnesses, ranging from the common cold to cancer.

Goji berries’ high levels of antioxidants slow tumor growth, reduce inflammation, and help to remove harmful substances from the body.

Goji berries may be helpful in controlling the release of sugar into the blood. Research from 2015 shows that goji berries balance insulin and glucose levels in the blood. The same study linked goji berries to increased HDL levels in people with type 2 diabetes.

Goji berries may trigger an allergic reaction in rare cases, especially in individuals who are allergic to other fruits.

Goji berries may interact with certain drugs, including blood thinners and medications for diabetes or high blood pressure.

How to Buy

Goji berries are almost always sold dried (rather than fresh) in the U.S. and can usually be found in the supplement section or occasionally in the bulk foods section at natural foods stores and organic co-ops. A local Asian grocery store may have a better price and some larger Asian grocers also stock frozen goji berries.

Herbal teas containing goji berries and goji berry powders are available online and from natural food stores and may be available in well-stocked grocery stores. There are also goji berry supplements in capsule form.

How to Store

Keep dried goji berries in an airtight container in a cool, dark location. Avoid exposing them to any type of moisture, which causes them to get sticky and clump together. With proper storage, dried goji remain fresh for at least a year; some producers add sulfur dioxide and other preservatives, which can increase the shelf life. Fresh goji should be eaten shortly after harvest; you can store frozen goji for up to six months.

How to Cook

Dried goji berries are good in smoothies. If you don’t have a powerful blender, you may want to rehydrate them first in a little water or apple juice to soften them before you blend them. Goji berry powder is also available and can be stirred directly into juices, herbal teas, or even just water.

Sprinkle goji berries onto salads, into granola, add to energy bars and cupcakes or trial mix.

Raw Goji Berry Stuffed Chocolate Treats

Lisa Anderssen and Eric Huss

24 Servings

Ingredients

  • 4 cups gluten-free rolled oats
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 4 tablespoons raw cocoa
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 8 Medjool dates
  • Water, as much as is needed to get a smooth, solid mass
  • 2 ounces of goji berries
  • 2 cups almond flour
  • 2 tablespoons (more) tables spoons of maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon gingerbread spice
  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate juice (optional)
  • 1 cup pistachios, topping

Instructions

  1. Start the evening before and soak the goji berries in a bowl of water for 6-12 hours
  2. Start with the chocolate layers which will be both the bottom and top layer. Mix the oats in a blender or with a hand blender until you have a flour.
  3. Add the almond flour, cocoa, and vanilla and mix the dough well.
  4. In another bowl, mix the dates into a fine mass.
  5. Put the dates into the dry mix and add the syrup and 1 tablespoon of water.
  6. Blend the mixture until it is smooth. If it becomes too dry, add water until you get the desired consistency.
  7. Rinse the goji berries and put them in a bowl.
  8. Add the almond flour, syrup, pomegranate juice, and gingerbread spices and blend the mixture until you have a consistent blend.
  9. Use a square shaped mold and line it with parchment paper – long on the sides so there is some paper to grip.
  10. Put in half of the chocolate mass and work it into the form until you have an even layer. This is your top layer.
  11. Then lift out the chocolate mass with the parchment paper and wrap the mold with new parchment paper, add the rest of the chocolate and press it out.
  12. Then add the goji paste and spread evenly.
  13. Now it’s time to put the first chocolate layer by gently laying it over the goji paste with the parchment side up.
  14. Chop the pistachio nuts and remove the parchment paper to sprinkle the chopped nuts finely over the cake.
  15. Add to the parchment paper back on top and then put the cake in the refrigerator for 2-3 hours.
  16. When you remove from the refrigerator, lift the whole cake onto a cutting board and chop it into pieces.

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