Categories Advice, Food, Gut Health, Health, Nutrition, Protein, Uncategorized

Confused about collagen?

Collagen supplements are becoming increasingly popular. Are you confused by them? You may be wondering whether or not this is something your body needs, or if these types of supplements even work. This post will help you decide if it’s right for you.

Understanding collagen

Collagen is a protein made up of amino acids. It is one of the most prevalent proteins found throughout the body. It is present in bones, skin, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, your intestinal lining, and other fibrous tissues.  The main role of collagen is to provide structural support to your tissues. There are different forms of collagen, but the primary amino acids that comprise it are glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline.

Role of collagen

As we age, collagen levels decrease. This can lead to issues such as osteoarthritis, joint pain, stiff tendons, wrinkled skin, and GI disturbances. As a result, collagen is being added to beauty products and dietary supplements as a means of providing anti-aging benefits, reducing joint pain, supporting healthy bones and healing leaky gut.

Benefits of collagen

While some studies are mixed, there is strong evidence to support the following benefits of collagen

  • Promotes skin elasticity, hydration, anti-aging and improvement in overall appearance.
  • Can increase bone density and reduce bone loss
  • Helps reduce joint pain and stiffness
  • Can increase the process of wound healing

There is moderate evidence to support these additional benefits*

  • May support growth of hair and nails
  • May increase muscle mass
  • May protect against mucosal damage and support a healthy intestinal barrier
  • May support cardiovascular health

*Further studies are needed

Collagen food sources

So how can you obtain collagen naturally? Collagen is mainly found in animal tissue – primarily in the joints, tendons and bones. Bone broth is another common food source. You can purchase commercially made bone broth, but the best way to reap the benefits is to make it yourself. Here is a recipe you can try.

If eating animal carcass or drinking bone broth is not your thing, you can also try consuming foods that synthesize collagen and support its production. These include poultry, game meat, organ meat, fish, shellfish, cheese, egg whites, seeds, spirulina, and soy.

Collagen supplements

Collagen supplements come in a variety of forms including capsules, gummies, powders. One of the most common and versatile forms of collagen supplements can be found in bovine, chicken, or marine collagen peptides.

Collagen peptides are the result of larger collagen molecules being broken down into short chain amino acids. Peptides are ideal because they break down easily in liquids. You can add them to both cold and hot beverages, such as coffee or a smoothie. You can also include them in baked goods.

There is no recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for collagen, but on average 2.5-1.5g per day have been utilized in studies. As with all supplements, I only recommend professional grade brands. Supplements are not regulated so quality really does matter. For example, with some commercial protein powders, there is concern about potential lead contamination. It’s worth investing a few more dollars to know that what you are consuming is safe. As always, before consuming any supplement I urge you to talk with a qualified healthcare practitioner to determine if you really need it.

For more tips like these or to book a session, contact me here

Sources:

  • The Functional Nutrition Library
  • https://health.clevelandclinic.org/
  • https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0319p26.shtml
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23375414
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25884286
Categories Food, Health, Nutrition, Weight Loss

Understanding Macros Part 2: Protein

Hopefully you read about carbs in part one of this series. If not, you can check it out here. In part two of understanding macros, the focus is on protein. Protein performs many functions in the body and is essential to maintaining a healthy weight. Most of my clients are not getting enough. Read on to learn about the importance of protein and the minimal amount you should be aiming for in your diet.

PROTEIN

Proteins are mainly comprised of 20 different building blocks known as amino acids that are linked together in long chains by amino bonds. Amino acids are comprised of three types: essential, non-essential, and conditionally essential. Essential amino acids cannot be produced in the body and must be provided through food. The nine essential amino acids are:

Histidine

LysineThreonine

Isoleucine

Methionine

Tryptophan

LeucinePhenylalanine

Valine

 

A complete protein is one that contains all nine essential amino acids. All animal proteins are complete proteins. An incomplete protein is lacking one or more essential amino acids. Most plant based proteins are incomplete proteins. Sometimes, certain combinations of incomplete proteins can make them a complete protein. Examples of these combinations include rice and beans, edamame and walnuts, or oatmeal with almonds.

Non-essential amino acids can be provided by food, however the body can also produce these on its own. Conditionally essential amino acids are normally non-essential, but they are supplied by the diet when the need for them exceeds the body’s ability to produce it.

Amino acids are required to enable protein to perform its many functions, which include:

  • Growth and maintenance of skin, tendons, membranes, muscles, organs, and bones
  • Repair of body tissues
  • Hormone regulation
  • Digestion support in the form of enzymes
  • Fluid Balance
  • Acid-base regulation
  • Transportation of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, oxygen and lipids
  • Formation of antibodies to fight infection
  • An additional form of energy and glucose

Foods that contain protein include meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, lentils, soy, nuts, nut butters, seeds, and certain grains. When choosing meat such as beef, pork, lamb or eggs, be selective. Look for products without antibiotics and where applicable, choose pastured / grass fed. Remember that whatever the animal consumed, we consume. Choose lean cuts so that you can eat an ample portion.

A serving size of protein is generally 3-4 ounces for women, slightly more for men, or about the size of the palm of your hand. At a minimum, individuals should consume 0.8-1.0 grams of protein per kg of body weight per day. This is a general recommendation and can vary based upon an individual’s needs, goals and healthy history. For weight loss, I generally recommend a higher amount. It is important to know that while protein is beneficial for many reasons, consuming too much protein can be detrimental. For this reason, I don’t always recommend certain types of protein supplements that exceed safe amounts.

Why does it matter?

Protein performs many valuable functions within our body. In addition to helping us build muscle and fight off infections, protein works synergistically with carbs to extend the energy that carbs provide. About 3-4 hours worth. Protein also provides satiety. Simply put, incorporating protein at meals will keep you fuller longer and help to offset blood sugar crashes that occur when our diet is too high in carbohydrates. I recommend including protein at each meal and snack, and especially at breakfast. By starting your day with protein, you will avoid those early morning blood sugar spikes that often lead to fatigue, mood changes, brain fog, and cravings.

Key takeaway

Protein can be essential in helping us to balance our plate and maintain a healthy weight. When choosing protein, choose a variety of high quality sources. Be aware of which combinations of plant based foods provide you with a complete protein. Include protein at each meal and snack, and combine it with a complex carb to provide energy longer.

Summary

Balancing carbs with protein will help utilize the energy they provide, but also extend it throughout the day to help keep you balanced. Adequate protein in the diet will also help to build muscle, keep your hormones balance, and support digestion.

Want to know your specific protein needs? Contact me here for a nutrition counseling session.

Sources:

Mahan, K.L., & Escott-Stump, S. (2008). Krause’s food and nutrition therapy. St. LouisMissouri: Saunders Elsevier.

Murray, M. T., & Pizzorno, J. (2012). The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 3rd Edition. New York, New York: Atria paperback.

Rolfes, S. R., Pinna, K., & Whitney, E. (2009). Understanding normal and clinical nutrition, eighth edition.   Belmont, California: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Photo by Alex Munsell on Unsplash

Categories Food, Health, Nutrition, Weight Loss

Understanding Macros Part 1: Carbohydrates

Macronutrients (commonly referred to as macros) are carbohydrates, proteins and fats. We know that healthy eating and proper nutrition is more than just counting calories. It’s about eating whole, real foods that are minimally processed and packed with nutrients. But to lower your risk of disease and to maintain a healthy weight, it is also important to understand the types of macronutrients your calories consist of and to maintain the right balance 😉 of each.

So let me explain a little bit about macros and why they should matter to you. In Part 1 of this 3-part blog, we’ll begin with arguably the most debated type of macronutrient: Carbohydrates.

CARBOHYDRATES

Carbohydrates have several functions. They provide our bodies with fuel and energy, they support our brain and they support our nervous system. Whether it’s to perform our day-to-day activities, exercise, or to simply focus better at work or school, carbs are an essential part of the diet.

Energy from carbohydrates is provided to our cells in the form of glucose (also known as blood sugar). When we eat any form of carbohydrate, our blood sugar rises. The carbohydrates are then broken down into glucose molecules, which are transported into our cells by our fat storage hormone insulin. Once our cells are at capacity for glucose absorption, any remaining glucose in the blood is moved to our muscles or our liver where it is stored in the form of glycogen. Once glycogen stores are at capacity, excess glucose is converted to fat. When our body needs energy, our fat burning hormone glucagon brings glucose out of storage and back into the blood for use by all the other cells. It is important to note that these two hormones cannot operate at the same time. So, we are either in fat burning mode or fat storage mode throughout the day.

Carbs are comprised of two types: Simple carbs and complex carbs. Simple carbs are sugars comprised of molecules known as monosaccharides and disaccharides. Complex carbs are comprised of fibers and starches.

Monosaccharides are a single molecule of sugar. They are the easiest type of carbohydrate to be absorbed in the body, and can cause our blood sugar to rise the fastest. Monosaccharides include glucose, fructose, and galactose and occur naturally in fruit, honey, and dairy. Other sources include processed foods and beverages which contain high fructose corn syrup such as soda, cakes, cookies, pastries, certain breads, and ready to eat cereals.

Disaccharides are pairs of monosaccharides. They include maltose (glucose + glucose), sucrose (glucose + fructose) and lactose (glucose + galactose). Sucrose is commonly known as table sugar, and dairy products contain lactose. Disaccharides are digested less rapidly then monosaccharides because during the digestion process, the two molecules must be broken apart to be absorbed. However, disaccharides still cause our blood sugar to elevate more quickly then the final group of carbohydrates, which is complex carbs.

Complex carbs are comprised of long chains of monosaccharides, known as polysaccharides. All plant foods (fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains) contain forms of complex carbohydrates. Complex carbs take a longer time to break down in the body and to move through our digestive tract. They cause our blood sugar to rise the slowest. This helps to keep us fuller longer, and more effectively balance blood sugar by avoiding rapid spikes and dips that can commonly occur.

Foods that contain complex carbs include starches and fibers. Starches are found in plant based foods such as grains (rice, wheat, millet, rye, barley, and oats), beans, legumes, potatoes, yams, cassava, breads and pasta. Fiber (an indigestible carbohydrate) includes two types: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is known to protect against heart disease and diabetes due to its ability to lower cholesterol and blood sugar. This is imperative for individuals who are trying to manage high cholesterol, pre-diabetes or diabetes. Foods that contain soluble fiber include oats, barley, legumes, and citrus fruits. Insoluble fiber is also valuable in the diet because it bulks the stool to promote regular bowel movements and alleviate constipation. It can also help to feed our gut bacteria and support a healthy microbiome. Foods that contain insoluble fiber include celery, corn, and bran. Strive for a minimum of 20-30g of fiber per day. Include both soluble and insoluble fiber sources in your diet.

A serving size of most carbs is about a half a cup or the size of your fist. In terms of how many carbs you need in a day, this can vary per individual based on your calorie needs, health conditions, and your goals.

Why does it matter?

To function at its best, our body must be provided with enough glucose to support our energy needs, but not too much to cause harm. Our cells can only absorb so much glucose at a time. As mentioned earlier, excessive amounts of glucose (from eating too many carbs or too high a volume of simple carbs) will cause glucose to get stored in the form of fat. This can lead to chronically elevated blood sugar which can cause fatigue, cravings, difficulty focusing, elevated cholesterol, weight gain, pre-diabetes, and diabetes. In contrast, low blood sugar which can result from either a sudden blood sugar ‘crash’ after eating a high carb meal, or by consuming a diet too low in carbs, can lead to issues such as dizziness, light headedness, sweating, weakness, anxiety, confusion, and hunger.

Key takeaway

Not all carbs are bad. Aim to consume mostly complex carbohydrates in your diet. Complex carbs provide you with fiber. They are more slowly digested which will keep you fuller longer, provide you with more energy by preventing blood sugar spikes, and keep you at the lowest risk of disease. Remember that fruit and veggies can count as your carbs.

Summary

If you are struggling with energy levels and find it difficult to get through your day let alone your workouts you may not be eating enough carbohydrates. Carbs provide us with energy, so we need them in our diet. Diets that exclude carbs will only work for a short period of time, but eventually they will not be able to meet your daily energy needs and sustain you throughout your day.  The problem with carbs is that most of the time, we tend to get the wrong ones (simple carbs) and at too large of a portion. Strive for complex carbs in order to keep you fuller longer, and combine them with protein to help balance blood sugar and extend your energy levels. To learn more about protein, stay tuned for Part 2 of this post.

Want to know more about your specific carbohydrate needs? Contact me here for a nutrition counseling session.

Sources:

Mahan, K.L., & Escott-Stump, S. (2008). Krause’s food and nutrition therapy. St. LouisMissouri: Saunders Elsevier.

Murray, M. T., & Pizzorno, J. (2012). The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, 3rd Edition. New York, New York: Atria paperback.

Rolfes, S. R., Pinna, K., & Whitney, E. (2009). Understanding normal and clinical nutrition, eighth edition.   Belmont, California: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Photo by Monika Grabkowska on Unsplash