What do gelatin and bone broth have to do with your fun in the sun? To understand the connection, it's important to consider the layers of the skin and the interaction of these with the UV rays of the sun.
Your skin is composed of the epidermis, the outermost layer of the skin; the dermis, directly beneath; and the hypodermis, located beneath the outer and middle layers.
When UV light collides with the epidermis, most of the UV (95 percent or more) is blocked. The remaining 5 percent (or less) is absorbed by the collagen which is located in the second layer, the dermis.
What exactly is collagen? Collagen is the most abundant protein found in the body. Derived from the Greek word kólla, or glue, collagen keeps our bodies from falling apart—literally. Collagen makes up 15 percent of our total dry weight.
The problem is that collagen production begins to decline in our mid-20s, and by the time we hit 40, our collagen levels have fallen by up to 30 percent.
With less collagen we are more susceptible to sunburn, which leads to inflammation. Inflammation signals the body to release metalloproteinases, enzymes that chew apart our collagen. This creates a cycle that makes us vulnerable not only to wrinkling but also to skin cancer and other degenerative conditions. People with weak collagen are also at risk for more sports injuries.
The bottom line? Collagen matters, and even more so as we age.
Will eating collagen make a difference? In her book Deep Nutrition, Dr. Catherine Shanahan addresses the unique benefits of bone stock, a natural supplier of glycosaminoglycans (a type of collagen):
Glucosamine can actually stimulate the growth of new, healthy collagen and help repair damaged joints. And collagen isn't just in your joints; it's in bone, and skin, and arteries, and hair, and just about everywhere in between. This means that glucosamine-rich broth is a kind of youth serum, capable of rejuvenating your body, no matter what your age.
While homemade bone stock is great in the winter, it may not be so appealing in the summer. Fortunately, hot soup is not the only way to eat your collagen! Homemade gelatin in combination with other liquids such as kombucha or fruit juice offers similar nutritional benefits but in a cold, refreshing form.
To make cold gelatin, simply whisk together 2-3 tablespoons of gelatin with 2 cups liquid. (Great Lakes unflavored gelatin is one recommended brand.) Pour into molds or a shallow plate and refrigerate. Voilà! You're ready to eat your collagen!
There are a myriad of healthy gelatin combinations utilizing fruits and probiotic drinks such as kombucha. See these 15 Homemade Jello Recipes for specific instructions.
Looking forward to some fun in the sun? Start eating collagen!