Whipping up a protein shake can help you get an instant boost of protein when you’re pressed for time or on the go, but many people are also turning to collagen powders as a source of protein that can improve your skin and joint health.
“Collagen peptides are strands of amino acids—the building blocks of protein—that make up collagen protein in body tissues,” Kelly Jones, RD. However, collagen is not a replacement for traditional protein powders because it’s not a complete protein, she says. “This means it does not contain all of the essential amino acids necessary for all of protein’s functions in the body, including muscle repair and growth,” she explains.
Despite these limitations, collagen is popular for those looking to better support joints as well as skin health, she says. Research shows it may improve skin elasticity, decrease development of wrinkles and boost hydration as you age. There’s even some promising preliminary evidence that it may combat brittle nails and stimulate nail and hair growth (although more research is needed). Other benefits associated with collagen include better gut health (because it can rebuild the lining of the intestine) and preventing workout-related soreness.
Most collagen powders on the market are made out of the bones and connective tissue of animals like cows, fish, chicken, and pigs. And while they certainly come with compelling benefits…some of them taste a bit funkier than others, given their sourcing. So we asked top dietitians to share the best tasting collagen powder options that they love best. Here’s their verdict.
What to look for in a collagen powder
First off, a little collagen goes a long way. “More is not always better when it comes to any nutrient or supplement, so while some collagen brands have serving sizes offering over 10 grams of protein, a systematic review found that those who do see benefits may only need three grams per day,” says Jones. This doesn’t mean avoid the brands with higher amounts, rather that you can use less than the recommended serving size and still get the same perks.
Some collagen protein products offer simply “collagen peptides” or “hydrolyzed collagen” as the only ingredient, while others may add natural flavor, too. “Since it’s often added to smoothies or even warm beverages like coffee, added flavor isn’t necessary, but it’s important to find a product you like,” Jones says.
Other collagen-buying tips to keep in mind: Powder should be white, not colored (otherwise it might not be as pure), and see if the brand you’re interested in has done research on what’s gone into its product (and is willing to share). Given that collagen is technically a supplement and thus not closely regulated by the FDA, it’s always a good idea to do a bit more research. But in case you don’t feel like doing more homework (fair!), we put together some powders that get a dietitian’s stamp of approval.
The 5 best tasting collagen powder products on the market, according to RDs:
1. Nordic Naturals Marine Collagen Powder ($34 for 5.29 ounces)
“I’m a big fan of this powder as it comes from sustainable, wild-caught Arctic cod and includes vitamin C,” says Jones. Vitamin C is critical for building collagen proteins in the body, so having this nutrient paired with the collagen powder may be helpful, she adds. While Nordic Naturals sells unflavored stick packs, their tub comes in a strawberry flavor, which you might like. “I also like that they don’t overdo the serving size and stick to what science shows is an acceptable dose,” she adds, at four grams of protein per serving.
Shop now: Nordic Naturals Marine Collagen Powder, $34
2. Vital Proteins Unflavored Marine Collagen ($36 for 7.8 ounces)
For those who want a tub of collagen without any added flavor, Vital Proteins released a marine collagen as well, which comes from wild-caught Alaskan white fish. “Despite the serving size indicating a two-scoop serving, their marketing does say ‘one to two scoops a day is all you need,’ so feel free to go with a lower dose for the same benefits and to stretch your dollars,” says Jones. (FYI, each serving has 11 grams of protein.)
Shop now: Vital Proteins Unflavored Marine Collagen, $36
3. Harmony Proteins Beauty Collagen Water ($4 for six packets)
This collagen comes in individual packets and is available in six delicious flavors. You dissolve it in 16 ounces of water like a drink mix for a combination of hydration and protein, along with the benefits of collagen. “The collagen is grass-fed, types 1 and 3 and provides an essence of flavor from real fruit without any artificial sweeteners, flavors, color, additives or preservatives,” says Lauren Harris-Pincus, RDN, author of The Protein-Packed Breakfast Club. Each packet provides 20 calories and has five grams of collagen.
Shop now: Harmony Proteins Beauty Collagen Water, $4
4. Great Lakes Gelatin Unflavored Hydrolysate Collagen ($24 for 16 ounces)
“Great Lakes Gelatin uses grass-fed collagen types 1 and 3 and the simplest product has one ingredient: collagen hydrolysate with 45 calories and 12 grams of collagen protein,” says Harris-Pincus. “The flavored versions have only a few ingredients as well, with the chocolate version containing only collagen, natural chocolate flavor, stevia and monk fruit with no added sugars,” she adds.
Shop now: Great Lakes Gelatin Unflavored Hydrolysate Collagen, $24
5. Biochem Grass-Fed Collagen Plus ($33 for 22.5 ounces)
This option combines collagen with whey protein to create a complete protein powder, helping it stand out from the others on this list. “It has simple ingredients with no artificial colors, flavors, or sweeteners [and] only slight hint of vanilla flavor,” says Harris-Pincus. “This is a great option for those who want the potential benefits of collagen but also wish to consume a complete protein source,” she explains. Mix it in coffee, smoothies or baked goods. One serving has a whopping 20 grams total protein.
Shop now: Biochem Grass-Fed Collagen Plus, $33
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