The good news is there’s enough anecdotal and science-based evidence to suggest these benefits are within reach.
The bad news is there are dozens upon dozens of collagen supplements on the market—quite possibly hundreds.
Better yet, it comes in different flavors and since it mixes easily, you can add it to just about anything. Naturally, this means there are a lot of products for you to choose from and the potential for a lot of confusion — or worse, just grabbing the first one you see.
So it can be easy to get lost quickly and grabbing a sub-par collagen can be a costly mistake (it’s expensive). So here’s a no-nonsense guide that will help you cut through all the noise and find the best collagen supplement.
Step #1: Look for collagen peptides AKA hydrolyzed collagen or collagen hydrolysate
To make collagen peptides, collagen is put through a process called “hydrolysis” to make it easier to digest.
During hydrolysis, collagen peptides are enzymatically hydrolyzed. Enzymatically hydrolyzed essentially means collagen has been “pre-digested” with enzymes in the presence of water to provide a super easy way for you to absorb them.
The reason you’re looking for collagen peptides is because collagen is a massive protein and it’s difficult for your body to assimilate it quickly. It’s the difference between swallowing your food whole and chewing it.
Step #2: Locate the best-absorbing collagen supplement
Size is everything when it comes to collagen. The smaller the peptides, the better your body will be able to absorb them.
“Low molecular weight” takes peptides to the next level. Simply stated: it’s the gold standard for collagen supplements. It’s what you want to see on your label to ensure you can easily absorb the collagen peptides.
Step #3: Find the best collagen source
The main four sources of collagen are marine (fish, usually), porcine, bovine, and chicken.
Though they all provide the key amino acids to help produce collagen, some sources are better than others.
Porcine: Pig collagen is the lowest quality source of collagen as it is less controlled compared to other sources like chicken and beef. The hide and feet of pigs offer the highest concentration of collagen.
Chicken: Once again, the feet are a significant source of collagen. Understandably, it’s a lot easier to feel comfortable taking a collagen supplement if the chickens are free-range.
Marine: Fish collagen is derived from their scales and skin—prime targets for potential contamination. You want to see wild-caught and sustainably fished or sustainably caught. “Sustainably” means the ecosystem won’t be upset by overfishing.
Bovine The undisputed best source of bovine collagen is grass-fed and pasture-raised.
To sum it up, be sure to verify the quality of the source of your collagen before you put it in your mouth.
Step #4: Check the label for vitamin C
Vitamin C assists with collagen synthesis, so you want to see at least 50 mg on the label.
In a study, researchers used vitamin C (ascorbate) on skin fibroblasts (cells responsible for producing collagen) and noted a 3-4 fold increase in collagen synthesis.
Your body can still produce collagen if you don’t supplement with vitamin C—as long as you have enough in your body. Since vitamin C is water soluble (meaning it won’t stick around in your body for long), it’s best to have collagen with vitamin already in it.
So can you get by without taking collagen with vitamin C? Yes. Should you? No.
In almost every case imaginable, you should take vitamin C along with collagen.
Step #5: Make sure it tastes good (hint: check reviews)
Taste may be more important than you think.
Many collagen supplements are flavorless because that’s the natural state of collagen peptides.
But many have flavors added so you don’t have to worry about buying something else to mix it in or because a great flavor can make everything better.
Obviously, you can’t look at a label and figure out how it tastes. However, you can look at reviews to see what other people are saying about it.
Most importantly, it should taste good enough that you look forward to drinking it every day. If it doesn’t satisfy your taste buds, you’re less likely to consistently take it. As with anything health-related, consistency is key.
Step #6: Avoid artificial sweeteners and flavors
Sweeteners or flavor additives may be an attempt to mask the quality of the collagen. Plus, research shows artificial sweeteners and flavors just aren’t good for you.
Natural flavors are far better and can provide interesting taste options without the problems associated with artificial sweeteners and flavors.
Step #7: Look for superfoods
Sometimes, there’s more to a collagen supplement than just flavoring and peptides. In cases like these, it’s important to take a closer look at the ingredients to see what else is in the collagen supplement.
A superfood combo can provide benefits on top of the collagen supplement, though one with vitamin C would be best.
As mentioned previously, vitamin C would be a welcome addition to any collagen product since it can help the body synthesize collagen. If you’re eating a healthy diet and/or taking a multivitamin, it’s not necessary to have a high amount, but it should be present.
Superfoods like beets have naturally-occurring antioxidants that may be beneficial for a collagen supplement. Plus, beets may help support a healthy cardiovascular system. It’s why we added them to our premium quality SuperBeets Collagen.
Your checklist to find the best collagen supplement
Sifting through all the collagen supplements currently on the market is not easy. Plus, more are being added every single day.
This checklist can help you quickly evaluate collagen products and find the best one. Remember to look for products that have:
- Collagen peptides or hydrolyzed collagen or collagen hydrolysate.
- “Low molecular weight” on the label because peptides are easily absorbable.
- Clean sources:
- Pasture-raised, grass-fed beef
- Free-range chicken
- Wild caught, sustainably fished
- At least 50 mg of vitamin C to assist with collagen synthesis.
- Great taste/flavor to ensure you’ll take it daily. Check reviews if you’ve never had it before.
- Superfoods like beets that can add additional benefits and provide vitamin C.
- Natural flavors and sweeteners.
By following these 7 steps, you’ll have the edge you need to quickly sift through and locate the best collagen supplement. Ultimately, it provides you with the best chance to help support your joint and skin health.