The One Food An Inflammation Expert Eats Daily

Photo: Ellie Baygulov

Chronic inflammation will wreak havoc on your body, both inside and out. The good news is, you can reverse it, and it starts with what you eat. I’m a firm believer in giving my body the absolute best tools to work with, so I eat plenty of organic vegetables, quality proteins, and healthy fats. One of my top priorities is to prevent chronic inflammation, so my diet includes a daily dose of collagen.

Collagen may seem like an unlikely tool in the battle against inflammation, but it’s one of the best ways to keep your body from being in a constant inflammatory state. Collagen’s anti-inflammatory powers come from the role that it plays in our gut health. A healthy gut can reduce inflammation throughout the whole body. The ability of collagen to help restore balance to our digestive tract makes it a major player in the fight against inflammation.

Collagen is one of the most common proteins in the body. In fact, it makes up about a third of the body’s protein content. It’s one of the building blocks of the human body and can help to improve your health, both below and above the surface. It also plays an important role in maintaining skin elasticity, connective tissue flexibility, and even bone strength. Collagen contains glycine, an amino acid with proven anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory effects.

Sometimes I include the powdered version in a favorite recipe. The rest of the time, I will get it in my daily serving of bone broth. No matter how I choose to ingest it, I make sure to get a dose of collagen every single day. Here are a few of my favorite ways to ensure I’m getting the powerful and healing anti-inflammatory benefits that come from collagen:

1. Bone broth.

Collagen exists in the body in connective tissue, cartilage, and bones. One way to access this wonderful protein is through bone broth. Bone broth is like stock, only it’s cooked for a much longer time. This helps to pull the nutrients and collagen from the bones, cartilage, and joints. It’s a delicious way to reap all the wonderful anti-inflammatory benefits of collagen! I like to call bone broth "liquid gold." This is because it’s also packed with other nutrients that have the power to transform your body. You can make your own bone broth or you can buy it pre-made. If you opt for the pre-made variety, make sure to buy only organic, grass-fed products. Avoid preservatives, yeast extracts, and any other additives. You'll also need to watch out for added sugar, as it’s often hidden in pre-made bone broth products. If you grab any bone broth product off the shelf without checking ingredients, you may be doing your body more harm than good. Try having just one cup of bone broth daily, and I promise, you will be begging for more! Here's an easy chicken bone broth (and even a vegan version!).

2. Sardines.

Canned fish might seem like a surprising place to find the health-boosting (and face-saving) benefits of collagen, but sardines pack a solid punch on the collagen front since they are packaged with their bones and connective tissue included. Don’t worry, they’re so soft that you won’t even notice them! You can use them as a pizza topping, chop them up finely and put them in salads or soups, or, like many doctors I know, simply eat them with a fork as an on-the-go snack. For an even better flavor, you can even try mixing them with a little avocado mayo or mustard.

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3. Supplements.

Bone broth isn’t the only way to reap collagen’s incredible benefits. It also comes in powdered form, making it easy to include in your daily supplement or meal routine. Usually, when people think of collagen or bone broth, they tend to think "savory." Of course, that makes sense; after all, chicken broth is the go-to for a soup base. But there’s no need to limit yourself to salty situations! Powdered collagen is flavorless, so you can mix it into your food and beverages in surprising ways. It mixes seamlessly into smoothies, coffees, and plenty of other unsuspecting places! The textural difference is hardly noticeable, and the benefits are out of this world. Supplemental collagen products have come a long way, especially in flavor. They make it easy to take care of our skin and joints while fighting inflammation at the same time.

What if you're vegan or vegetarian?

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you can boost your body’s collagen-building power and help protect your existing collagen through the following foods:

  • Foods high in vitamin C such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, kiwis, papayas, bell peppers, and broccoli are vital for the synthesis of collagen.
  • Dark, leafy greens like spinach and kale contain antioxidants that protect against the free radicals that break down collagen.
  • Red veggies like beets as well as fruits like tomatoes and red peppers are full of lycopene, which boosts collagen.
  • Orange veggies like carrots and sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamin A, which restores collagen that’s been damaged.
  • Foods rich in sulfur such as broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, cabbage, onions, shallots, and leeks play a key role in collagen production.
  • Foods rich in copper such as nuts activate an enzyme that plays a critical role in collagen production.
  • White tea helps to shut down the enzymes that break down collagen and another skin protein, elastin.
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The bottom line?

Adding collagen into your daily diet is one of the best things you can do to help your body fight inflammation. If you’re just starting to supplement with collagen, make sure to allow enough time for its effects to show up. It may take eight weeks before you notice a reduction in inflammation, visible changes in skin texture, and improvement in joint health. Although that might seem like a long wait, it gives you plenty of time to discover recipes that you love! By simply adding a daily dose of collagen to your diet, you'll enjoy the gut-healing properties that will reduce inflammation, both inside and out!

Here's what happens when you drink collagen every day for a month.

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