The Scoop on Collagen

By Heide Kennedy, Arizona Farm Bureau Communications Intern

A scoop of collagen.

Of all the different supplements that have been becoming popular in recent years, I’d venture to say that collagen has either topped or is near the top of that list. With claims of keeping skin from sagging and also keeping hair and nails from becoming brittle, there’s no wonder that collagen-rich foods and collagen supplements are gaining lots of attention. Unlike some supplements that make amazing claims about what they can do for you when really the effects are little to none, collagen is actually a very legitimate supplement that really does what it is supposed to do. Let’s look at what collagen really is and where it comes from, why we need collagen, and finally some of the best sources of collagen.

According to registered dietician Jillian Kubala, collagen is a type of protein that makes up the structure of your body’s cells and tissues. To get even deeper into what collagen is, Kubala says that it is made of 3 amino acids, glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline. These make up the triple helix structure of the collagen. Collagen is typically found in connective tissue, tendons, bones, skin, and cartilage.

Often, it’s said that we need collagen to keep from aging too quickly. While this is one benefit of taking collagen, there is a deeper reason why we need it (and subsequently get anti-aging benefits from it!). Collagen serves multiple purposes in our bodies, which Kubala says include:

  • Tissue repair
  • Immune response
  • Cell communication
  • Cell migration

Our bodies naturally make collagen, but as we age our production of collagen slows, and our existing collagen tends to become brittle and fracture, which leads to signs of aging. Additionally, Kubala says that other lifestyle factors such as excessive smoking, drinking, or sun exposure also speed up the rate at which our collagen production drops. So, this also means that all of those jobs that collagen does in our body begin to not be done as well due to the reduction of collagen. This is why as we age, it’s important to keep our bodies well-nourished with collagen.

So, what are some of the different sources of collagen we can incorporate into our diets? There are both foods that we eat that are high in collagen, foods that promote the production of collagen in our bodies, or there are also concentrated supplements of collagen that can be taken as well.

Some collagen rich foods include:

  • Bone broth or marrow
  • Meats with skin on
  • Jellyfish
  • Fish skins

Some of the foods that promote the production of collagen include:

  • Beans
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Citrus

Foods and supplements are both great sources of collagen. You can have one or the other, or both! For some, cooking up collagen rich foods might be an easier option, while others might prefer just adding a scoop of collagen powder to their coffee in the morning!

So, there you have the “scoop” on collagen, including what it is and what its made of, what it does for your body, and some good sources to include in your diet!

For more health-related articles, check out the Fill Your Plate blog!


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Spice Up Your Water!

By Heide Kennedy, Arizona Farm Bureau Communications Intern

When I used to show livestock, one of the most frequent questions that judges would ask us showmen is, “What is the most important nutrient to be feeding your animal?” At first, what always came to my mind was protein since it’s responsible for building and maintaining cells. But this is actually a trick question because the answer is water! Water is so necessary for life that without it, no other nutrient really matters. This isn’t just true for livestock, it’s true for any living thing, us included!

So, what makes water so important? Registered dietician Jenny Kroplin says that water makes up about 60% of our bodies, making it absolutely necessary for optimal function. Some of the specific jobs that water has within our bodies include keeping a normal body temperature, lubricating and cushioning joints, protecting the spinal cord, and helping to flush out wastes.

It’s pretty clear how important it is to keep ourselves well-hydrated. But, if we’re honest, sometimes it can be hard to want to drink enough water each day as sometimes it can be a hassle to remember, or for some people, the flavor is just too plain. This is where flavoring your water can come to the rescue!

Adding a little flavor to your water is a great way to improve the taste of your water and subsequently make you more likely to drink more of it. A word of caution, however, is to be sure to watch the amount of sugar that is being added to your water when flavoring. While it might taste good, sweetened beverages often lead to an overconsumption of sugar, as its much easier to keep drinking sweetened drinks rather than continuing to eat sweet foods. Too much sugar can lead to lots of negative health effects such as high blood sugar, pre-diabetes, high triglycerides, weight gain, and inflammation.

But, no need to let that discourage you from flavoring your water at all. There are still lots of healthy ways to spice up your water without adding any sugar at all. Try adding different fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers, citrus, or berries. Or, add fresh herbs such as mint, rosemary, lemongrass, or basil. You can even play around with combining both fruits and herbs! Tea bags are also a great way to flavor your water as they are pre-made and ready to go!

Drinking enough water and staying hydrated doesn’t have to be boring! Try flavoring your water the next time that you feel like you might be struggling to want to drink it! You’d be surprised about how much it helps!

For more articles about water and hydration, check out the Fill Your Plate blog!


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Have Protein at Every Meal

By Heide Kennedy, Arizona Farm Bureau Communications Intern


Have you ever eaten a meal and not too much later you’re already feeling hungry again? You might think this is odd because you ate a substantial amount of food yet you still feel like you could eat more. This feeling is the result of not getting enough protein in your previous meals.

Protein is such an important macronutrient for so many reasons and promoting fullness is a big one!

According to registered dietician Jana DeMoss, protein is an essential macronutrient. In fact, every cell in our bodies contains protein, and the protein that we consume is used to repair cells, make new cells, and also promote growth and development. Another job that protein has is to reduce the hunger hormone ghrelin and increase the fullness hormone peptide YY.

Since protein is used so much in our bodies, its crucial that we get enough of it in our diets each day. If we don’t, our bodies will never feel fully satisfied, causing us to turn to easy snacks and other foods, which are often a carb source, to try and combat that hunger. DeMoss says that the way to stop this cycle of eating, not feeling satisfied, eating more, and still not feeling satisfied, is to make sure that you  include at least 30 grams of protein in each meal, and have some protein with each snack as well.

When it comes to sources of protein, there are so many options available, many of which we produce right here in Arizona! Consider adding beef, pork, poultry, seafood, nuts, beans, eggs, and dairy products to your diet for a healthy boost of protein!

For some delicious recipes that are high in protein and for tips on where to get high quality protein sources from Arizona, check out the Fill Your Plate recipe section!

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Artificial Sugars Can Have Negative Impacts on Gut Health

By Heide Kennedy, Arizona Farm Bureau Communications Intern

Have you ever come to a point where you decided to try cutting out sugar from your diet? Since it can sometimes be hard to not have something a little sweet now and then, you might have discovered the mysterious world of artificial sweeteners. These sweeteners are sweet like sugar but don’t have all the same effects of sugar, which sounds too good to be true! So you might be wondering, are artificial sugars really that perfect?

Well to answer part of that question, a recent study published in iScience has found that artificial sugars actually take a negative toll on our gut microbiomes. Dr. Ruchi Mathur, the author of the study, says that artificial sweeteners are not completely harmless. The study found that people who used sucralose (Splenda), saccharin (Sweet ‘n Low), or stevia tended to have less rich and diverse colonies of bacteria in their small intestines.

When aspartame (Equal) was studied however, researchers found that those who consumed it didn’t have a lessened gut microbiome like those who used other artificial sweeteners did. But what aspartame users did exhibit was an increased concentration of bacteria that produce a toxin called cylindrospermopsin. This toxin is known to have harmful effects on the liver and nervous system, and it is also a potential cancer-causing agent.

It might be worth taking a second look at the type and amount of artificial sugar that you consume. If you do pursue a sugar free diet, maybe consider either avoiding sweets as a whole, or opting for natural sugars like fruit, honey, maple syrup, or dates!

For more information about artificial sugars, check out this previous article from Fill Your Plate: Artificial Sweetener Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Attacks and Stroke – Fill Your Plate Blog

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The Connection Between Sleep and Gut Health

By Heide Kennedy, Arizona Farm Bureau Communications Intern


How’d you sleep last night? Your answer to this question can also tell you a little bit about how your gut is doing too. Gut health and good sleep are hot topics in the health and wellness world, and it turns out that the two are directly related. If your sleep is off then your gut health will be off, and vice versa. So, let’s look at the connections between the two, what can throw it off, and how you can take care of both!

According to Dr. Allison Brager, the gut microbiome, which is all of the bacteria that live in your small intestine, influences all sorts of brain functions, including sleep.  Specifically, the distribution of healthy bacteria in the gut impacts the health of our neurons, the speed at which they transmit signals, and their ability to regrow and regenerate post-stress. Another factor in the gut-sleep relationship is the presence of the hormone serotonin, which regulates your mood, emotions, and sleep. Serotonin is highly present in the gut and brain, but more so in the gut.

Since the relationship between the gut and brain goes both ways, a disruption to either can throw the other off as well. Dr. Wendy Hall says that sleep disruptions such as shift work and the irregular sleep times that come with it can have a profound impact on health. She notes that even small differences in health can result in changes to gut bacteria as well.

So, how do you avoid disruptions to your sleep and gut health? Dr. Shilpa Ravella says that the most important way to take care of your gut health is to eat a diet rich in whole foods rather than processed foods. Add more vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats to your diet to keep your gut bacteria as healthy as possible. When it comes to sleep, stick with the basics, such as a regular bedtime and wake up time, staying off devices while in bed, and sleeping in a dark, cool, and comfortable environment.

The bottom line? Eat well and sleep well to promote a good relationship between your sleep and your gut health. For more articles about sleep and gut health, check out the Fill Your Plate blog!

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