Collagen just may be the worst kept health secret in the wellness world. Everyone, it seems (vegans aside) raves about its beauty– and digestion-boosting powers—yet despite its occurring naturally in foods like fish, meat, and eggs, the ingredient has remained relatively inaccessible to the masses. Case in point: Dirty Lemon—a brand that was among the first to hop on board the collagen train—made it a point to not be available in stores. There are supplements, but they come at a pricey cost, as if they’re magic beans grown from water flowing from an exclusive fountain of youth.
But all that inner-circle collagen whispering has taken the protein to a more mainstream level, and thankfully, it’s easier to find than ever before. One of the biggest trends Well+Good’s editors saw at ExpoWest 2019—aka the world’s biggest natural products convention—was collagen being worked into foods and drinks people love consuming anyway. Oatmeal, protein bars, even water are all getting the collagen glow-up—and will soon be available at mainstream supermarkets for non-cringeworthy prices. It’s about time!
Drinkable collagen 2.0
There are a ton of collagen powder blends and products out there, where you just blend a scoop into your favorite smoothie to get a hit. Now you can buy collagen-infused water, the latest launch from Vital Proteins. “I wanted to take the Vital Proteins brand into the beverage space in an effort to help make collagen even more approachable,” says Vital Proteins founder and CEO Kurt Seidensticker. “Collagen is an important part of living a healthy lifestyle, and because life is always on the go, we wanted to provide consumers an easy way to get the collagen their lifestyle demands,” Seidensticker says. No blender or potentially messy mixing required.
Seidensticker says the brand used new technology to make it as nutrient-dense and tasty as possible. (Read: No fishy taste.) “In order to do that we created a product using new aseptic technology,” which essentially refers to how the product is sterilized and made shelf-stable, “which gives us the purest and best tasting fresh fruit-infused collagen beverage,” he says. “With minimal heat treatment, we’re able to retain the nutrients and fresh fruit taste,” he says. He adds that the price, while higher than regular water, is comparable to that of other functional drinks, while having more protein (10 g) and less sugar (3 g) than a lot of the competition.
If you like the idea of drinkable collagen but want to be the one to decide the delivery method, Youtheory‘s new single-serve liquid collagen packets ($20.99 for a 12-pack) might be exactly what you’re looking for. “We believe that the market is prime for a major shift in delivery formats and we know that consumers are thirsty for innovation; liquid products are up and coming,” says Nick Bitz, MD, a licensed, board-certified naturopathic doctor, collagen expert, and Youtheory’s chief scientific officer. This isn’t just for convenience—although individually packaged servings of collagen are certainly that. Registered dietitian Brigitte Zeitlin, RD, says that generally liquid supplements (including collagen) are more easily absorbed by the body than their powdered or encapsulated counterparts. “You will still get all the same benefits from your collagen supplements, but the liquid will get absorbed more quickly,” she says. Win-win.
According to Zietlin, the benefits of collagen are the same whether you reach for foods where its naturally occurring (such as eggs, fish, and bone broth) or foods with collagen added in; she recommends filling your diet with both if your wellness goal is to increase your intake. This just got a lot easier with new packaged food offerings that are high in collagen without being, well, bone broth.
Later this year, Purely Elizabeth will release single-serve collagen protein oats, each sold with a nut butter packet for added protein. “Grass-fed collagen is my protein of choice at home in my day-to-day life. I like it for how clean and simple it is, has minimal taste, and of course the benefits for your hair, skin and joints,” founder Elizabeth Stein says. While oatmeal and nut butter of course have plenty of great protein on their own, Stein says adding collagen gives the breakfast the beauty- and digestive-boosting benefits that wouldn’t be there otherwise. And the fact that it contributed to the overall protein serving was of course another pro.
You can also skip the oats all together and just go for a collagen-infused nut butter from Wild Friends. It comes in three flavors: vanilla almond butter, vanilla peanut butter, and chocolate peanut butter. No judgement if you don’t even bother slathering it on toast and just eat it by the spoonful.
Collagen as pre- or post-workout fuel
Because collagen is a protein, it makes sense that it’s starting to be incorporated into, well, protein bars. Paleo brand Caveman Foods recently debuted a collagen bar—which, sticking with Paleo rules—is 100 percent grain-free. Each bar has 11 grams of protein, 5 of which is collagen. “Made with simple, real foods like nuts, egg white protein, and grass-fed beef collagen, and we never use sugar alcohols or artificial ingredients that leave an aftertaste, the brand’s CEO Jeff Hansberry told FoodBev Media.
According to Zeitlin, all protein helps the body recover—not just collagen protein—but she does like collagen bars for one major reason: they offer variety. “No one protein is particularly more important than the other, and in general it’s a good idea to eat a variety of foods because they offer a variety of different nutrients.” In other words, eating the same protein bar every day—regardless of what type of protein it has—might not be best for your body. The rise of collagen protein bars offers one way to mix things up.
As you can see, collagen has evolved beyond powders and gummy form to blending into what you do every day. (You know, eating and drinking.) Sorry wrinkle-free, strong-nailed insiders: your cult nutrient has officially gone mainstream.
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