Want to have beautiful, firm and smooth skin throughout life? Don’t we all? You could spend your hard-earned money on a variety of expensive products while trying to achieve eternal youth, but serums have questionable benefits. Instead, take a look at your diet to find nutrients that support the health of your skin. The skin is one of the biggest organs in your body, and the most affected by nutrition. One nutrient that supports skin and connective tissue health is called proline, an amino acid found in foods high in protein. It not only helps improve the look of your skin, it also keeps joints healthy and maintains muscle mass. But, these are not the only benefits! For overall health improvements, try adding it using our tips below.
What is Proline?
Proline is an amino acid, or building block, of protein. There are a total of 20 amino acids used to build almost every organ, muscle, and tissue in your body. You must get these from food. They’re referred to as “essential” because the body cannot produce them.
The rest of the amino acids are considered non-essential, meaning your body can make them from other compounds or other amino acids. In theory, we should only be required to eat those that are essential, and the body handles the rest. But, in the case of proline, there is an argument that the body isn’t efficient at making what it needs. Research shows that blood levels drop by 20-30% on a proline-free diet (1). This means we need to get some proline from food.
That being said, just because proline isn’t considered essential doesn’t mean it lacks purpose. Proline is an essential part of collagen, the most abundant protein on earth. Collagen is what makes up our skin, joints, and any connective tissue. Without proline, and the other amino acids that makeup collagen, the body cannot heal wounds, maintain healthy joints, or build muscle. But, the benefits of proline don’t stop with collagen; it contains several health benefits of its own.
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What are the Health Benefits of Proline?
Maintains Skin Health and Repairs Wounds
Collagen makes up skin and connective tissue. Proline is an essential part of collagen. Without proline (or really, without collagen) wounds wouldn’t heal because the body wouldn’t be able to rebuild skin when you get injured. Also, your skin would sag because there’d be nothing to hold it in place (2). Connective tissue connects things together. Everything falls apart without it. Eating enough amino acids to make collagen, particularly proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine, helps keep skin firm, healthy, and looking youthful.
Supports Digestive Function
Proline may help treat leaky gut syndrome by strengthening the gut lining. Leaky gut happens when tiny holes open up in the gut lining, allowing pathogens to enter. This triggers inflammation. Amino acids, including proline, are required to rebuild any damaged intestinal cells, keeping the lining intact. Proline also helps reduce inflammation and improve immune function in the digestive system (3). A common recommendation for trying to heal leaky gut is to take bone broth regularly, partially due to its high proline content.
Lowers Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the US. Fatty build-ups in the artery walls cause heart attacks and strokes due to blockage. This prevents the blood from flowing through. But, proline helps release some of this stuck fat, helping remove the blockage. This sends it back into the bloodstream for use elsewhere. Proline may help reduce the risk of a heart attack (4).
Lowers Inflammation and Helps Manage Stress
Proline helps lower inflammation, which promotes a healthy immune system. It also helps trigger a cascade of anti-inflammatory compounds and genes that help with recovery from environmental stress (5). Proline aids in more efficient energy production, enabling us to better handle stress. Furthermore, it repairs DNA damaged by oxidative stress and promotes liver detoxification. All of these functions lead to an improved immune system and lower inflammation. This reduces overall risk of disease, making you feel your best.
Strengthens Joints and Other Connective Tissue
Since proline is part of collagen, it is required to repair connective tissue of all kinds. Connective tissue helps hold your bones in place and behaves like a shock absorber. Ask anyone without connective tissue in a knee to tell you how painful life is without it! Bones grinding against bones – no thanks!
Proline helps maintain and repair connective tissue. You need it to make another amino acid called hydroxylysine, one of the main components of collagen, tendons, and muscle.
We naturally produce less collagen with age, and joints start to deteriorate over time. This is exacerbated by poor diet, stress to the joints, and being overweight. Consuming more amino acids that help form collagen may help support the formation of new connective tissue, cartilage, and even strengthen bones. Proline helps lower inflammation, which preserves joint mobility and function and reduces pain associated with aging.
Proline Food Sources
Since proline is an amino acid, you’ll find it in high protein foods, particularly those high in collagen. Typically, animal foods with collagen include those with connective tissue. For example, a whole chicken (with bones and skin) contains more collagen than a chicken breast with bones and skin removed.
People these days often choose boneless, skinless meat (a bummer for upping proline). To get some, add collagen sources to your diet. No recommended daily requirement for proline exists. “Non-essential” amino acids are found in many foods. If you eat any kind of food with protein (even vegetarian sources) you most likely meet your needs.
The foods highest in proline include:
- Bone Broth
- Organ meats, like liver
- Collagen supplements
- L-proline supplements
- Wild-caught fish
The best way to get proline into your diet is to consume quality sources of collagen. Bone broth is a great source of collagen and proline, with other important amino acids like hydroxyproline and glycine. Consider sipping on bone broth or use in soups and broths. If you are trying to heal leaky gut, bone broth is full of amino acids and minerals to help the digestive system repair itself.
If skin or joints are a bigger concern for you, you may want to use collagen powder. This tasteless supplement can be mixed into smoothies, baked goods, or soups. Although proline supplements exist on the market, a powder provides a larger variety of amino acids to support health. A collagen supplement boosts joint health and helps maintain skin firmness.
Proline works best when eaten with foods high in vitamin C. So pair with citrus, tomatoes, or strawberries. A great way to make sure your body uses the proline you take in is to make a smoothie with some collagen powder and strawberries. Yum!