Eat These 12 Foods to Get More Collagen in Your Diet
If you’ve searched for ways to slow down the aging process and keep your skin looking smooth, plump and supple, chances are: you’ve come across collagen. And if you’ve ever wondered what collagen is good for, it’s safe to say we wouldn’t be much more than a pool of human paste without it.
You see, collagen is a protein found throughout the entire body. In fact, approximately 30% of the protein in our body is collagen. While it’s a nutrient highly concentrated in the tough inner layer of the skin— and perhaps best known for keeping skin firm and youthful— collagen is also found in the hair, nails, joints and intestinal tissue. Dr. Josh Axe describes the function of collagen nicely: as the “glue” that holds us together.
There are at least 16 types of collagen found in the body (1). Approximately 90% of the collagen found in the human body are types I, II, and III. Collagen types I and II are concentrated in the skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments, while type II is found primarily in the joints.
Our bodies produce collagen, but as we enter our mid-late 20’s, our natural collagen production begins to decline. This is when visible signs of aging surface, such as fine lines and wrinkles.
In addition to the natural aging process, toxins, and environmental pollutants, excessive sun exposure, smoking, and eating a diet high in refined sugar and fried foods also destroy our natural collagen. These factors can interfere with future collagen production, and may cause visible signs of aging (3).
Luckily, there’s a way to prevent collagen breakdown and boost collagen production naturally— and it all begins with what’s on your plate. Forget botox, injections, or expensive supplements: many foods found in nature contain the nutrients required to form collagen, making your diet a weapon against fine lines, wrinkles, and other signs of aging.
Here are 12 foods to eat that promote collagen production naturally.
12 Foods That Contain Collagen
If we could recommend only one food to promote collagen production, it would be bone broth. While most foods contain antioxidants and other nutrients to help the body synthesize collagen, bone broth is one of the rare foods to actually contain a bioavailable form of collagen your body can use right away.
Since collagen types I, II, and III are concentrated in the tendons, ligaments, bones and joints, cooking down these animal parts for long periods of time helps release collagen from the bones (as well as other amino acids, proteins and electrolytes), resulting in a broth containing naturally-occurring collagen.
Wild salmon contains zinc, a trace mineral that’s been shown to activate the proteins needed for collagen synthesis (4).
Wild salmon is also a source of omega 3 essential fatty acids, which support inflammation reduction and skin health. Omega 3’s also moisturize your skin from the inside out, which naturally promotes a more youthful appearance.
Our bodies can’t produce omega-3 essential fatty acids, so we must obtain them from dietary sources. If you’re not a salmon fan, you can get your omega-3’s from other fatty fish such as mackerel and tuna, seafood, organic eggs, and grass-fed meats.
Note: It’s always best to choose wild salmon over farmed whenever possible. Farmed salmon may contain toxins such as PCBs, which can damage cellular health.
Chlorella is a single-celled algae that’s sold in a green tablet or powder form.
Not only is chlorella a source of beta-carotene, but it also contains another nutrient that may help boost collagen production: Chlorella Growth Factor.
Chlorella Growth Factor, also known as CGF, is a nutrient that’s entirely unique to chlorella. CGF contains the nucleic acids RNA and DNA, which give our cells “instructions” on which functions to perform— including cellular repair and regeneration, which may promote collagen synthesis.
You can take chlorella in powder form and add it to your smoothies or take chlorella tablets as a supplement.
We know green vegetables are some of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet, but they may also be a powerful way to prevent collagen breakdown.
All green plant foods (such as bok choy, green algae, arugula, kale, lettuce, green beans, and broccoli) contain chlorophyll, which is the pigment that gives plants their vibrant green color. Studies have shown that consuming chlorophyll may increase the precursor to collagen (procollagen) in the skin (6).
Chlorophyll and liquid chlorophyll supplements (which are an easy way to get a concentrated dose of chlorophyll) have also been shown to provide strong antioxidant activity against UV damage and the free radicals from toxins that promote premature aging (7).
Vitamin C helps “link” the amino acids together that are needed to form collagen, such as proline, which makes it an essential nutrient in the pre-collagen production phase (8).
As an antioxidant, vitamin C also protects against toxins found in our air, food and water supply that contribute to breaking down collagen and damaging the skin’s inner layer. Vitamin C may also help with skin cell repair and regeneration, which is why it’s commonly added to skincare productions.
Citrus fruits are sources of vitamin C, so be sure to load up your smoothies, salad dressings and homemade vitamin water recipes with lemon, lime, orange, and grapefruit.
Chicken eggs are another one of the rare foods that actually contains collagen in the yolk and eggshell membranes. In fact, eggshell membrane supplements have become a popular natural remedy for supporting joint health due to their collagen content (9).
Eggs also contain sulfur, a trace mineral required for collagen production (10). Sulfur also supports liver health.
Berries contain a nutrient called ellagic acid, which has been shown to prevent collagen breakdown from UV damage (11). Like citrus fruits, berries contain vitamin C, which as you now know, helps link specific amino acids together for collagen formation.
Tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which has been shown to protect the skin from sun damage and prevent collagen breakdown (12). Tomatoes contain a variety of antioxidants (including vitamin C), which protect the skin at a cellular level, so it never hurts to include them in your diet.
Pumpkin seeds are one of the richest plant sources of zinc, which as mentioned above, acts as a cofactor for collagen synthesis. Studies have also shown taking zinc supplements may help slow down the rate of collagen breakdown. Zinc also supports skin health (14).
Other plant based sources of zinc include kidney beans, spinach, garbanzo beans, walnuts, cashews, and almonds.
Another food with powerful antioxidant benefits, avocados provide vitamin E, which may help prevent collagen breakdown and supports overall skin health.
It may be worth enduring garlic breath in exchange for younger looking skin.
As mentioned above, sulfur is a trace mineral that helps synthesize and prevent the breakdown of collagen. Garlic and its close cousins shallots, leeks, chives, and onions are dietary sources of sulfur, so don’t be afraid to add them to your recipes liberally.
Chia seeds are an excellent plant-based source of omega-3 essential fatty acids (16). These healthy fats contribute to anti-aging by building healthy skin cells and providing moisture to the skin, which helps create a smooth, supple appearance from the inside out.
What About Collagen Supplements?
While it may seem like a good idea to take a collagen supplement for anti-aging benefits, the nutrients from supplements aren’t always bioavailable, meaning they’re not easily absorbed or utilized by the body for their intended purpose.
Personally, we recommend using “food as medicine” when it comes to boosting your collagen intake. Sipping on a comforting mug of bone broth each morning, trying new varieties of leafy greens, and regularly eating the foods listed above are the most effective ways to maintain collagen levels in your body.