What Is Collagen?
Ever wonder what collagen is good for? Well, you’re not alone. With its rise in popularity, collagen-enriched products have become staples for those looking to slow down the aging process and support their joints, hair, skin and nails. So what is collagen, and are there collagen-promoting foods we can eat to help support and promote this essential protein in our bodies?
Collagen is a fundamental protein that acts as a crucial part to the foundation of our skin, hair, bones, joints, muscles, and other connective tissues. Collagen proteins account for more than 25% of the total protein content in our bodies!
As we get older, our bodies’ natural ability to produce collagen slows down. This leads to wrinkled skin, thinning hair, frail bones, weaker joints, and other detriments (2, 5, 6). Lifestyle choices like poor diet or too much sun exposure can lead to an even further decline of collagen production. Unfortunately, in most modern diets, we aren’t consuming enough foods with collagen to help counteract and slow the aging process down. In fact, many modern lifestyle choices may actually be speeding up the aging process.
But all is not lost! We can help our bodies by consuming foods that contain collagen, along with foods containing the nutrients that help promote and protect collagen in our bodies.
So what’s the difference between foods that contain collagen and foods that promote and protect collagen? Let’s get into it!
What Are Collagen-Promoting Foods
Foods that are centered around collagen can be one of two things. They can either be foods that contain actual collagen protein, aka collagen-packed foods, or foods that contain vitamins and minerals that help with the synthesis of those collagen proteins, aka collagen-promoting foods. There are a number of foods that actually contain collagen protein, like chicken, beef, eggs, egg whites, bone broth, etc. However, it’s also important to help support the collagen in our bodies through supplementary foods that help boost the body’s natural collagen production.
Here are 10 foods that have the much-needed vitamins and minerals to help promote the natural production of collagen in your body.
Bone broth falls into both the ‘collagen-packed’ and ‘collagen-promoting’ categories. A high-quality bone broth has plenty of collagen and minerals that help with the upkeep and synthesis of collagen. Beef bone broth contains type I collagen, which is the most abundant in the human body and is great for supporting healthy skin, hair, and nails. Chicken and turkey bone broth contains type II collagen for supporting joint and eye health. With the use of healthy, organic bones, along with the process of cooking the bone broth, minerals like phosphorous, calcium, glucosamine, etc., get extracted from those bones, along with all of its nutrients (3). Along with minerals, bone broth contains many amino acids, like glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, that also play an important role in collagen synthesis (7).
Be on the lookout for dark, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, arugula, kale, broccoli, kale, etc. These greens are packed with vitamins and nutrients that are essential for collagen synthesis, but more on that in a bit. What these dark greens have that are pretty unique to this food group is the presence of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is a pigment that gives these vegetables their beautifully vibrant green hues. Studies show that chlorophyll promotes the synthesis of procollagen, which is needed for the production of actual collagen (9).
Others great sources of vitamins are citrus-based fruits, like kumquats, grapefruits, lemons, oranges, limes, etc. Easy to peel and eat on the go, or mix into a salad, the benefits found in citrus fruits are plentiful. Studies have shown that vitamin C can increase type 1 collagen synthesis and help accelerate bone healing after a fracture (6). Other studies have observed that vitamin C can help with UV ray protection, scar inflammation, and the promotion of tissue healing (8, 11).
Garlic has many great qualities, from the numerous health benefits hidden within to just being a great addition to a meal. However, garlic also contains many minerals that correlate with collagen benefits, and one of those minerals is sulfur. Sulfur has been shown to help with rebuilding damaged collagen and protect against its degradation (14).
Whether it be strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, etc., berries are a great source of vitamins and overall nutrition. Berries have plenty of vitamin C, which, on top of the benefits mentioned above, is also helpful for protecting against collagen degradation (16). More than just vitamins, some berries (raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, etc.) have a nutrient called ellagic acid. Studies show that ellagic acid, found in these berries, helps slow down the process of skin wrinkle formation and inflammation caused from collagen degradation (17).
It might not be time for Halloween, but you can always buy pumpkin seeds at your local grocery stores. Pumpkin seeds are full of minerals, and one of those minerals happens to be zinc. Studies have shown that zinc is important for the prevention of collagen degradation and promoting its synthesis, as well as being helpful during wound healing (19, 20, 22, 26).
Avocados are making an appearance everywhere these days, in salads, on toast, in shakes, or just by themselves… and there is a reason for it! Filled with nutritional goodness, avocados have become a full blown a science-backed superfood. Avocados are packed with vitamin E and antioxidants, which studies have shown to help get rid of free radicals that damage and break down collagen proteins (21).
A handful of nuts is a brilliant grab-and-go snack to help fill your appetite, while getting a good amount of your daily nutrients. Whether it be for protein intake, healthy fats, or beneficial minerals, nuts are a great addition to your lifestyle. Nuts, like almonds and cashews, have certain minerals that have been proven to help with collagen synthesis. Studies show these nuts have minerals, such as copper and zinc, that help increase procollagen, as well as prevent collagen degradation (19, 20, 22, 26, 27, 28).
It might be quite difficult to bite into a tomato the way you would with an apple, but it would be a great addition to a salad or any meal. Tomatoes are a great source of lycopene, an amino acid that helps with the promotion of type 1 collagen synthesis and protection against UV radiation, which affects collagen degradation (29, 31, 32). Tomatoes also contain a decent amount of vitamin C, and as mentioned above, is great for tissue healing, protection against collagen degradation, and more (8, 11, 16).
It’s nice to treat yourself to some oysters every now and then, not just for the taste, but also for all of the goodness that they’ve got within! On top of being known as an aphrodisiac, oysters are a great source of zinc and copper, which are minerals that are great for procollagen synthesis and preventing collagen degradation (19, 20, 22, 26, 27, 28).