Collagen is the main structural protein in our body’s connective tissues that makes up 25%-35% of the whole-body protein. Basically, its primary role is to support the skin structure and speed up healing — the reason the degradation of collagen is often associated with early fine lines, wrinkles, and dullness. This is why everyone keeps saying collagen is essential for bouncy, firm, and elastic skin. However, whether we like it or not, at some point we’ll all experience a loss of collagen in the body, which in turn makes aging signs appear more visible and skin less radiant. The good news, though, is that we can help replenish it by either taking collagen supplements or having a diet rich in collagen-boosting foods. Or both.
Before we move to the best collagen-boosting foods, let’s break down some basics about how the body produces and uses this protein.
How the body produces collagen?
When you get nutrients from eating protein-rich foods, the body breaks down these dietary proteins into amino acids, producing collagen. Next, the process requires vitamin C, copper, and zinc to occur. For this reason, besides the protein-rich foods, you also need to intake vitamins and minerals to help the body complete the collagen production process.
When does the collagen level drop?
After the age of 25, the collagen level starts to decrease by 1.5% each year, and by the age of 35 your body will have lost about 15% and by 45, 30% of the total collagen content. You can preserve your collagen level by kicking some habits out of your life, such as eating excessive amounts of sugars, and refined carbs, smoking, and getting sunburned.
Here’s a list of the best foods to promote collagen production, and also the ones that contain collagen themselves.
One of the richest sources of collagen is bone broth. It’s high in minerals, vitamins, and amino acids, the building blocks of protein. Also, it contains a high amount of collagen, supporting skin health. Bone broth is a flavored liquid that you can DIY or buy, and can be drunk straight up or used to cook various dishes.
Fish & shellfish
Marine collagen is known as the easiest absorbed by the body. While fish bones and ligaments are made of collagen, take note that fish contain less collagen in the parts we usually consume. The richest in collagen are the head, eyeballs, or scales. Anyway, fish is also rich in specific amino acids needed to produce collagen.
You already know that sun exposure damages the skin’s collagen fibers, speeding up the aging process. Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, an amino acid that protects the skin from sun rays, acting as an antioxidant. Also, one medium tomato can provide up to 30% of the vitamin C needed to complete the collagen-producing process. Thus, adding tomatoes to your diet will indeed help preserve youthful skin.
Egg whites contain a large amount of proline, one of the essential amino acids for collagen production. Plus, while further research is needed, collagen-like proteins (similar to types I and V) have been found in the hen’s eggshell membranes and yolk.
An excellent source of vitamin C, berries serve as a powerful antioxidant, protecting against the breakdown of collagen cells caused by the free radicals. Raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries are potent sources of antioxidants too and contain more vitamin C needed for collagen production. Besides, according to this study, berries also contain ellagic acid, known to fight against UV damage.
Kales, spinach, green beans, and broccoli contain chlorophyll — an antioxidant that increases procollagen in our skin. Dark green vegetables are one of the most nutrient-dense superfoods we can find on the planet. Being potent sources of vitamin A, C, and E, they are vital nutrients for collagen synthesis and healthy skin.
Cashews and almonds
Cashews are rich in zinc and copper, both crucial for boosting the body’s ability to produce collagen. On the other hand, almonds are a potent source of vitamin E, helping neutralize free radicals that are damaging the collagen cells. Plus, vitamin E is merging with vitamin C, stimulating collagen formation. They’re also a potent source of copper, an essential trace mineral required to form collagen fibrils.
I love garlic! Besides adding a fantastic flavor to some dishes, it can boost collagen production. Garlic is high in sulfur — a trace mineral that synthesizes and prevents collagen breakdown.
Beans are super rich in proteins that contain the amino acids required for boosting collagen. Also, many types of beans are rich in copper, another essential nutrient needed for collagen production.
Because oysters are a rich source of zinc, they help stimulate the collagen required for bones’ health. In plus, zinc has been shown to slow down the breakdown rate of collagen cells in granulation tissue, allowing wounds to heal faster. BTW, oysters are delicious too!