Collagen is a protein that gives your skin its structure and elasticity, keeping it bouncy and plump. There are also other benefits of collagen for men and women that go beyond skin health. Over time, collagen breaks down, but lifestyle factors like stress can speed up the process.
You can increase your body’s supply of collagen by eating collagen-rich foods. But ultimately, your collagen is the best collagen. Incorporating food high in collagen-building-block nutrients also helps naturally support collagen production and protect your body’s supply.
Here are some collagen-rich foods and collagen-boosting foods to include in your diet to help your body make more of the protein and protect the collagen it already has.
What Foods Have Collagen?
The following animal-based foods are the only sources of natural collagen:
- Bone broth, one of the most readily available sources of collagen
- Bone-in beef, chicken, and pork
- Organ meats, including heart and kidneys
- Fish skin
Collagen is only naturally available in animal products, meaning there’s no plant-based source of collagen.
But animal-based collagen foods aren't the only way to increase this protein in the body. The good news is that your body can make collagen with the right nutrients, which you can get from plant-based, vegan sources. It’s arguably easier to supply your body with what it needs to make collagen since most animal-based sources contain only minimal amounts.
10 Foods That Support Natural Collagen Production
You don’t have to solely rely on foods with collagen.
Many plant-based foods contain the building blocks for collagen, including amino acids Proline and Glycine. While they don’t contain collagen, they can provide the body with the necessary components to create it.
These collagen-boosting foods include:
Spirulina is probably one of the most potent plant-based collagen-boosting foods out there. Research shows that the blue-green algae may stimulate dermal fibroblast cells, which are vital in making collagen. It also contains all essential amino acids and a host of other collagen-friendly nutrients like antioxidants and Omega-3 fatty acids.
Nuts and seeds
Nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, and pumpkin seeds are also high in amino acids Proline and Glycine. And they contain plenty of Zinc, a mineral that helps support collagen production.
Many nuts and seeds, including walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed, and sunflower seeds, have high amounts of essential fatty acids, which may help promote collagen synthesis.
Beans and legumes
Beans are rich in amino acids and high in protein. Many also contain plenty of important minerals, like Zinc. Legumes are also high in antioxidants called polyphenols, which evidence suggests may help mitigate oxidative stress, a factor that can contribute to collagen breakdown.
Citruses like grapefruit, oranges, and lemon are all high in Vitamin C, another critical component for synthesizing collagen. Research suggests that Vitamin C helps boost collagen synthesis and minimize oxidative stress, which can negatively impact collagen production.
Colorful bell peppers contain Vitamin C and other collagen-friendly vitamins like Vitamin A (Beta-Carotene), which plays a role in collagen synthesis and wound healing.
While all bell peppers are good for you, red ones have the highest Vitamin C content, at 95 milligrams (mg) per half-cup serving.
This crunchy, cruciferous vegetable is another good source of antioxidants like Vitamin A and Vitamin C. A single serving of cooked broccoli (about ½ cup) contains approximately 57% of the Daily Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin C.
There are many health benefits to adding leafy greens, like kale, to your diet.From the same family as broccoli, kale is another nutritional powerhouse, containing high amounts of Vitamin C. Kale also has the highest amount of the carotenoids, beta-carotene and lutein.
In one 2017 study, 29 healthy female volunteers took a curly kale extract supplement containing 1,650 micrograms (µg) of carotenoids once a day for several months. At the end of the study, researchers found that age-related collagen decline was significantly reduced.
These sweet, tart-skinned fruits make a great snack, and just one kiwi contains almost 83% of your RDA of Vitamin C. Kiwifruits are also rich in carotenoids, including lutein, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin.
There’s also evidence that compared to other fruit, kiwis are the most potent in terms of antioxidants.
Another antioxidant powerhouse? Berries! Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and other berries are chock full of antioxidants like Vitamin C.
Blueberries, in particular, are high in anthocyanin, an antioxidant that may help produce collagen.
Research also shows that resveratrol, a polyphenol present in large amounts in berries, may help stimulate fibroblasts and protect collagen and cells from oxidative damage.
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How to Incorporate Collagen-Rich Foods Into Your Diet
A diet rich in collagen-supporting foods can help boost your body’s collagen production. These foods high in collagen-building sources also contain plenty of health-supporting nutrients, helping to keep your body optimally fueled. Fueling your body with nutritious foods puts it in prime shape for producing collagen and avoiding oxidative stress that can cause collagen to break down.
Here are a few tips on how to include collagen-rich foods into your daily routine:
- Incorporate antioxidant-rich foods into your morning or post-workout smoothie. Add berries and kale to smoothies to boost the collagen-building properties of your favorite fiber-filled AM or PM snack.
- Add beans, nuts, and seeds to your salads. Having a big lunch salad is a great way to increase your daily fiber intake. Sprinkling on nuts and legumes adds an additional textural and flavor component while also boosting amino acid content.
- Add spirulina powder to all sorts of foods. If you’re eating plant-based, getting all essential amino acids from food can be tricky. Enter spirulina, one of the few plant-based foods containing a complete amino acid profile. Add it to hummus, pizza dough, salad dressings, and ice creams for a nutrient boost.
Other Ways to Increase Collagen Intake
The many collagen benefits for women and men make this protein essential to the human body. Your body can make collagen all on its own, but as collagen breaks down over time, it may need a little help to keep chugging along as it synthesizes this protein. And while animal-based collagen-rich foods can replace lost collagen, you need more than collagen alone to produce more.
That’s where plant-based collagen boosters come into play. Many whole foods contain the building blocks for making and increasing collagen level, but getting all those essential nutrients through diet alone can be challenging. Collagen-supporting supplementation can help fill in gaps in diet to help promote the creation of collagen. There are many different kinds out there that can help you get the type of collagen your body needs.
You can find a host of collagen-friendly ingredients in Collagen Protect®, a vegan collagen powder supplement to help protect and preserve your natural collagen.* Hyaluronic Acid supports natural collagen synthesis, Silver Ear Mushroom promotes skin hydration, and Tocos helps protect your natural collagen reserves and prevent oxidative stress.* Want to learn how to use a collagen powder? Boost your collagen reserve with Moon Juice.
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