When I was at the University of Minnesota finishing my undergraduate degree, I found myself in line for the microwave in the student lounge with the Dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. He asked what I studied and when I told him I was in the Nutrition Dietetics program, he asked what motivated me to take that direction.
"I'm interested in local food systems," I replied.
In response, he said something to the effect of, "I like the idea of local foods, but I can really only eat so many turnips and rutabagas, so it loses me come wintertime."
At the time, I honestly didn't know how to respond. I probably laughed, blushed, and went back to my lunch, but the conversation stuck with me all these years. At the time, I think turnips and potatoes probably were among the few local foods that we available in the midst of the cold season (you see, edible plants don't grow too well under several feet of snow...). Over the coming years, we strengthened our local economy and farmers followed demand. The MN Department of Agriculture and the USDA both provided grants and loans for building season-extending infrastructure on farms to provide Midwesterners with carrots, beets, onions, garlic, winter squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes and even some cold-hardy greens in the winter. Last year I bought locally-grown carrots at my neighborhood grocery store all the way into the spring! I don't know about you, but that makes my heart warm...and my mouth water - winter carrots are the sweetest!
The global market is an incredible thing (it's also deeply flawed, but that's a conversation for an environmental economist to tackle and for me to sit in the back of the room cheering). The global market brings citrus and avocados to Minnesota, where it's going to take several more decades of global warming before we can grow those on our home turf. This market also puts a huge variety of foods in front of us at every grocery store. And while the variety and creativity that selection offers is exciting and probably nutritionally beneficial, it also disrupts our connection to the physical world we live in.
Here's an example:
In Minnesota, tomatoes, watermelon and cucumbers are ready to harvest in the heat of the summer. These foods are full of water and electrolytes, which help balance the amount of sweat we produce in the humidity and heat. They cool us down while replenishing our body fluids. That's needed at that time of year.
Now we move forward a few months and the temperatures drop. Our bodies are working hard to stay warm. The last thing we need is to eat cold foods like salads, smoothies or ice cream, or cooling foods like raw tomatoes, watermelon and cucumbers when goosebumps are a permanent accessory to our outfits.
So what is a way of eating this time of year that supports balance and restores harmony in our bodies?
If you start feeling the pot roasts and mashed potatoes settle into your middle section, send the extra insulation your gratitude. When we remember that we are part of the animal kingdom, it makes good sense that we'd put on a little extra weight for the cold season. Before you consider skipping lunch or following some fad diet, reassure yourself that spring is coming. And with it comes lighter foods, longer days and restless energy just waiting to take you for a jog. Spring is a season primed for detoxification and lightening up.
You are part of this beautiful planet, remember that. So put on a few pounds and stay in touch. I'll share some tips for losing it when the time comes to do so.
Collagen peptide supplements have become all the rage in recent years. With claims of eliminating joint pain and smoothing skin, hair and nails, who wouldn’t want to give this versatile protein powder a try?
Collagen is a protein found throughout the body. It’s a strong molecule, making up tendons and ligaments, the flexible matrix of bone and teeth, joint cartilage, connective tissue, arteries, skin and hair. Because it can be found in all these places in the body, collagen supplementation sounds like a panacea. Do the claims – and potential – actually live up to the hype?
Before jumping on the collagen cure-all bandwagon and recommending it to all my clients, I scoured the scientific literature for nuggets of truth in the claims. Here’s is my attempt at summarizing the answers I found to my questions in 500 words or less:
Regarding joint health:
Collagen supplements increase production of hyaluronic acid, a major component of the synovial fluid that lubricates our joints and other tissues, allowing them to slide across each other. In a small study with 97 participants, collagen supplements were shown to improve joint pain. Interestingly, the longer the subjects took the supplement, the less impact it had. This suggests that taking collagen supplements may help maintain joint health, and be helpful for people with joint pain or osteoarthritis but it likely won’t resolve the issue completely (1).
Another study explored the impact of collagen supplements on rheumatoid arthritis and found that it reduced joint swelling and tenderness (2).
Regarding hair skin and nails:
In the body, collagen stimulates cell proliferation (reproduction) and accelerated cell migration to the skin (3).
After 90 and 180 days of taking a collagen supplement, women with thinning hair had more growth, volume, scalp coverage, and shine. They also found greater moisture retention and smoothness to their skin (4). Skin dryness and breaking down of the collagen matrix in the skin are hallmark signs of aging. Oral collagen increases the density of collagen in the skin after 8 weeks of supplementation (5).
Collagen cannot confer benefits when used topically, however, so save your money on skin care products listing collagen as one of the ingredients. The molecule is just too large to be absorbed through skin cells.
Collagen supplements may be helpful with nails that break or peel, or simply don’t grow. Taking supplements for 24 weeks improved nail health in a study on brittle nail syndrome. These benefits persisted even a month after supplements were discontinued (6).
If you’re interested in adding collagen supplements to your health regimen, here are a few things to keep in mind:
One thing that appeals to me about this supplement is its versatility. You can add protein powder to smoothies or roll these delicious Lemon Turmeric Energy Bites, blend it up in your bullet coffee or stir it into a glass of water. It’s tasteless and very versatile.
Have you tried using collagen? What did you notice? What are your favorite collagen recipes?
1) Clark KL1, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, Aukermann DF, Meza F, Millard RL, Deitch JR, Sherbondy PS, Albert A. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Current Medical Research and Opinion; 2008 May 24(5):1485-96.
2) Trentham DE, Dynesius-Trentham RA, Orav EJ, Combitchi D, Lorenzo C, Sewell KL, Hafler DA, Weiner HL. Effects of oral administration of type II collagen on rheumatoid arthritis. Science. 1993 Sep 24;261(5129):1727-30.
3) Lee SK, Posthauer ME, Dorner B, Redovian V, Maloney MJ. Pressure ulcer healing with a concentrated, fortified, collagen protein hydrolysate supplement: a randomized controlled trial. Advanced Skin Wound Care. 2006 Mar;19(2):92-6
4) Ablon, G. A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Efficacy of an Oral Supplement in Women with Self-perceived Thinning Hair. Journal for Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology. 2012 Nov; 5(11): 28–34.
5)Asserin J, Lati E, Shioya T, Prawitt J. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. 2015 Dec;14(4):291-301.
6) Hexsel D, Zague V, Schunck M, Siega C, Camozzato FO, Oesser S. Oral supplementation with specific bioactive collagen peptides improves nail growth and reduces symptoms of brittle nails. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 2017 Dec;16(4):520-526.
I love food.
I love thinking about it, talking about it, writing about it. I love growing food, cooking and eating food. I use this space to try to convey that. Follow me on social media for more day-to-day inspiration on these topics.