Are you searching for a faster way to look younger? Finding it difficult to ignore the startling signs of aging? Are your joints unwilling to keep pace with your busy lifestyle? If the answers are yes, then the solution is “You may need more collagen”!
Collagen has been gaining vital importance in recent years and rightly so! Many studies and research have explored collagen’s importance and function in the human body. While taking a supplement is obviously a smart option, you may be surprised to learn that what you pile on your plate too matters.
This article will give you an insight into what collagen is, the various types and what you can consume to naturally boost collagen levels in your body.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is primarily a protein found abundantly in animals and mammals. It constitutes about 35% of the total protein content in our body. It is present in bones, skin, muscles, and connective tissues and is an important component in nails and hair. Collagen can also be found in muscle tissues, intestinal tracts, blood vessels in the heart, and kidneys.
The collagen structure has 3 predominant amino acids, glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline, that give the long collagen fibrils the toughness and strength to connect and support the body structure. Collagen can be termed as endogenous and exogenous. Endogenous collagen is produced naturally in the body while exogenous refers to collagen obtained from other food sources or supplements.
The Five Types of Collagen
Collagen, the most abundant protein in the human body, can be of 16 different types, but up to 90 percent are of type 1, 2, and 3. Each collagen type is different in structure and functions and serves different benefits to our body. We will look at the 5 most common and popular types of collagen and their importance.
Type I – The most abundant type of collagen present as compact clusters of fiber, constitutes almost 90% of the collagen present in your body. It is found predominantly in skin, bones and nearly every connective tissue in the body. Type I collagen can also be found in teeth, blood vessels, tendons, cartilages, and scar tissues.
Studies have found type I collagen to be useful in resolving skin aging, wound healing and reduction in cellulite. Type I collagen can be naturally sourced from fish, beef, egg whites, and bone broth.
Type II – Primarily found in cartilages, this type of collagen is less dense in structure compared to type I collagen. This collagen helps promote gut immunity and provides extensive support in joint health. Natural foods containing collagen include chicken, turkey, and bone broth.
Type III – The second most common collagen in the body, it is made of net-like fibers, type III collagen develops and shapes the muscle structure. It also aids the organs, arteries and blood vessels for cardiovascular support. Type III collagen can be sourced from foods such as beef, fish, egg whites, and bone broth.
Type IV – This collagen is less prevalent and forms the basal lamina, an inner, deep layer of skin that is part of the basement membrane. It is formed in sheet-like structures in the body due to the lack of amino acid glycine. It supports the filtration of organs, especially the kidneys. It is also found in different layers of the skin surrounding the muscles, vital organs and fats cells. Few natural sources of type IV collagen are egg whites and other protein-rich sources.
Type V – A minor collagen made of fiber-like structure, is present mainly in the placenta, skin, and hair. Studies have found that it plays a vital role in the functioning of the placenta. The deficiency of type V collagen is known to cause a decline in corneal transparency. Generally, egg whites serve as a natural food source for type V collagen.
15 Foods that Increase your Collagen Levels Naturally
A poor diet is often the reason for lower collagen levels in the body. Your body uses nutrients from the protein-rich foods that you consume to extract the amino acids required for the creation of proteins, which in turn ensures a constant production of collagen. Less protein consumption means poor collagen production.
Similarly, foods high in sugar can hamper collagen production drastically. Hence to ensure the body has enough nutrients to make collagen, you need to make some changes to your diet and maybe add some collagen-boosting supplements as well. Make sure you include these 15 foods, that naturally boost collagen production, to your diet.
1. Bone Broth
Bone broth is believed to be one of the best ways to extract collagen from beef, chicken and fish bones. But first, let’s clear up a major misconception about collagen from bone broth. This collagen does not directly replace any missing collagen in your joints. Instead, the collagen in bone broth is broken down in your body to release the amino acids required to boost your collagen production.
The process of making bone broth involves simmering the bones in water for 12 to 24 hours to extract the nutrients in them. It can be used as a clear soup with added spices for flavor or adding it to other food preparations as stock. To make collagen-rich bone broth it is recommended to use bones from organic, antibiotic-free animals to avoid contaminants in the broth.
Adding chicken, vegetables, mushrooms, garlic, etc. to your broth is what makes it a really amazing collagen booster as these additional ingredients are also known for helping boost collagen production.
Summary: Organic bone broth is one of the best ways to get the amino acids you require to increase your collagen levels. Spices and vegetables add not just flavor, but they also add to the collagen boost.
The number of connective tissues poultry has can be noticed if one is cutting a full chicken. These tissues are the primary reason for recommending chicken consumption to boost collagen and improve conditions such as osteoarthritis. Besides chicken collagen can provide relief from swollen joints and pain for those suffering from rheumatoid arthritis.
Collagen derived from chicken can also promote anti-aging effects on the skin with increased elasticity and visible reduction in skin wrinkles.
Hydrolyzed chicken collagen intake may be capable of reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines to boost a healthy immune system. The type II collagen content when consumed for autoimmune inflammation, is shown to act on dendritic cells which promote immunity in the body.
Summary: Chicken is a great source of collagen. Chicken collagen is best obtained from the chicken breast cartilage and from chicken bone broth which is a good source of not just collagen but also other amino acids and trace minerals.
Fish which has always been a known good source of dietary protein contains beneficial collagen too. This collagen classified under the category of marine collagen is derived from parts of fish such as head, scales, etc. This is considered more beneficial than using the flesh of fish.
Fish collagen as studies suggest has higher bioavailability meaning it has smaller bio-active peptides that are easily absorbed and digested by the human body. Fish collagen peptides may be of vital importance in treating chronic or Non-Communicable Diseases(NCD).
Research shows that marine collagen peptides may promote anti-photoaging and skin repair effectively, which creates a good potential for use in cosmeceuticals. Studies also show that marine collagen peptides may help inhibit cartilage degradation in degenerative joint diseases such as osteoarthritis.
Marine collagen peptides have also shown that they may effectively control glucose, lipid levels in type 2 diabetes, help in the prevention and treatment of hypertension, possess wound healing capabilities. Consuming marine collagen peptides can even result in a longer lifespan with less risk of tumors.
Summary: Eating fish, preferably as a whole, whether boiled, baked or grilled, can provide your body with the necessary proteins and nutrients to treat many health conditions and support collagen production in your body. Marine collagen supplements are usually sourced from wild-caught fish scales.
Eggs are among the top sources of collagen-rich foods. A whole egg provides 6.29 gm of complete protein equalling about 12.6% of Daily Reference Value(DRV) of protein requirements plus a host of other nutrients. Besides 9 essential amino acids, it also contains 9 other amino acids.
Including eggs as part of your diet assures you beneficial amino acids that boost collagen. Egg yolks also contain collagen. Studies show that collagen types I and V are found in both the inner and outer egg shell membranes of the hen. These eggshell membranes may be effective in the treatment of osteoarthritis conditions such as joint pain and stiffness.
Research has shown that leucine, one of the essential amino acids can have a positive response on skeletal muscle response and may inhibit protein breakdown. Collagen peptides in egg whites may help in hypertension.
Summary: Include nutrient-packed eggs in your daily diet, as fried, boiled, poached or baked, to provide the necessary nutrients to boost collagen levels in your body. Eggshell membranes contain collagen types I and V, which may help treat osteoarthritis.
5. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits provide vitamin C, which plays an important role in the production of procollagen, a forerunner of collagen. The body produces collagen through a combination of amino acids and vitamin C. It is therefore critical to get enough vitamin C from your diet to enhance collagen production. Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, and grapefruits would serve the purpose satisfactorily.
Vitamin C also referred to as Ascorbic Acid (AA) is an antioxidant, that helps protect our body against toxins and free-radical damage. Besides, these types of fruits also contain naringenin, which prevents the breakdown of Hyaluronic Acid (HA). HA is an important component which aids collagen manufacture in the body.
Add citrus fruits to your daily diet as part of salads, juices, and food preparations to get that extra zing and enjoy the collagen benefits.
Summary: Vitamin C intake enhances collagen production. Collagen is produced in the body using a combination of amino acids and vitamin C.
Berries are an excellent source for getting vitamin C as well as antioxidants to protect from skin damages. Did you know that strawberries have higher vitamin C than oranges? Other berries such as raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries give good doses of vitamin C too.
Berries contain ellagic acid which can help prevent the destruction of collagen and protect from skin damage from harmful UV rays. Blueberries contain a flavonoid anthocyanin, which is responsible for the color of the berries as well as has a role in inhibiting UV related photoaging of the skin. Berries also possess antioxidant properties to fight free-radicals in the human body.
Summary: Snacking on berries or adding them to your breakfast cereals provides you with valuable vitamin C and antioxidants that enhance immunity besides stimulating collagen in your body.
7. Other Fruits
Not just berries and oranges but other fruits such as kiwi, guava, papaya, pineapple, and even mangoes are good contenders for vitamin C content. Pineapple contains bromelain, a protein-digesting enzyme, that helps in the hydrolysis of collagen. Studies also suggest that bromelain can have wound healing properties and induce an increase in mesenchymal stem cells with an increased concentration of collagen.
Guava, one of the good contenders of vitamin c also has traces of zinc, another important factor in making collagen. Papaya another tropical fruit contains papain, a proteolytic enzyme that aids in breaking down proteins to smaller peptides to enhance collagen levels.
Mangoes, studies prove, can increase collagen and prevent photoaging of the skin. Numerous studies have shown that Kiwi, a semi-tropical fruit, with its unique taste and vitamin-C content can protect from damage to DNA in human cells, encourage cell growth and promote collagen synthesis. Kiwi juice can degrade denatured collagen and can be used for softening beef for cooking or grilling,
Summary: Tropical fruits, such as mango, pineapple, guava, papaya, and kiwi, offer a multitude of nutrients that enhance the body’s collagen levels naturally.
Beans such as chickpeas, soybeans, navy beans, black beans, and red kidney beans, etc. are a great source of protein. The high-protein content in beans regulates the amino acids required for collagen synthesis.
Dry common beans contain important amino acids such as lysine, and tyrosine with phenylalanine. Besides one can find that most of them have zinc, copper, and hyaluronic acid which are important factors that can speed up collagen formation.
Summary: Most varieties of beans contain amino acids such as lysine, and tyrosine with phenylalanine along with other nutrients such as zinc, copper, and hyaluronic acid which boost collagen production.
Tomatoes are a simple and effective way to ensure you get sustained collagen through the diet. This simple vegetable has loads of nutrients such as vitamin C, lycopene, beta carotene and flavonoids that provide good health benefits including cardiovascular protection.
Eat tomatoes as raw, cooked, baked or pureed to get good health benefits and to maintain collagen levels in your body.
Summary: Along with many beneficial nutrients such as lycopene and beta carotene, tomatoes are rich in vitamin C which is required for the production of collagen in the body.
10. Bell Peppers
Looking at vitamin C sources, the bell pepper is hard to ignore. While adding color and unique flavor to your food preparations, bell peppers also add the essential vitamin C in potent doses.
This vitamin C content from veggies like bell peppers is extremely useful in promoting collagen synthesis and to protect skin diseases such as scurvy. In fact, a cup of red bell pepper, (chopped) has about three times more vitamin C than an orange
Just stir-fry, cook, grill or bake bell peppers and add to your salads, spicy curries or even pizza to get that extra vitamin C in your food and natural collagen in your body.
Summary: Considering that a cup of chopped bell peppers contains three times the vitamin c content compared to an orange, it’s no surprise that bell peppers help boost your collagen production.
11. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens are a must in our regular diet as they are power-packed with vital nutrients. They contain chlorophyll and magnesium. Some greens like kale have a high content of vitamin C too.
Chlorophyll, the naturally occurring plant chemical has antioxidant properties to protect skin from UV damage and enhances the precursor to collagen. Leafy greens are a good source of magnesium which helps in collagen binding. Studies suggest that magnesium is required for increasing hyaluronic acid in the body, again an important factor to promote collagen.
Summary: Consume different leafy greens to get nutrient benefits and accelerate collagen synthesis. Kale has vitamin C while the chlorophyll and magnesium content in leafy greens have collagen-boosting properties.
Mushrooms are common fungi with a powerhouse of nutrients. Edible mushrooms provide multiple health benefits as they contain polysaccharides. Mushrooms also contain beneficial minerals such as magnesium, copper, potassium, zinc and plenty of B vitamins including folate, thiamine, riboflavin, etc.
Mushrooms have enriched content of zinc, copper, vitamin B, magnesium and potassium. Zinc is an important contributor to collagen accumulation and the prevention of collagen breakdown. B vitamins especially B12 helps the body to utilize the amino acids, proteins and promote collagen synthesis. Magnesium, research shows, may possess adhesion properties to bind collagen in the body.
Research on the consumption of maitake mushrooms has revealed that it’s polysaccharide content is capable of increasing biosynthesis of collagen in the body. Another study on white button mushrooms has suggested that the extracts of this mushroom may promote cell growth and strengthen collagen fibers.
Enjoy the benefits of mushrooms as appetizers or add them to your main course as part of a nutritious diet.
Summary: Mushrooms contain many nutrients including B-vitamins, zinc, and magnesium which are known to boost collagen production. The polysaccharide content of maitake mushrooms may increase the biosynthesis of collagen in the body.
Garlic additions usually pack a flavor and are a staple in many dishes. Adding garlic can benefit your body with many nutrients. Garlic is a potent source of sulfur, lipoic acid, and taurine all of which contribute significantly to collagen in your body. Allicin, one of the sulfur compounds is what gives garlic its exclusive odor.
Research shows that garlic contains bioactive sulfur compounds that may help prevent UV induced photoaging and lipoic acid may help in the biosynthesis of collagen. It also has taurine, an amino acid that repairs damaged collagen and promotes wound healing.
For those who can ignore the odor, garlic can be an effective and nutritive addition to foods and provide positive outcomes in terms of collagen production.
Summary: With its lipoic acid content that helps in the biosynthesis of collagen and taurine for repairing damaged collagen, garlic is a potent food source of collagen-boosting nutrients.
Snacking on nuts, especially cashews just got more beneficial. Cashews fill you and that too with the right nutrients to facilitate collagen production and maintenance in your body. Cashews are full of antioxidants, vitamins, iron, zinc, copper, magnesium and other trace minerals.
Research has proven that Zinc is required for collagen synthesis in the body. Studies have shown that copper can promote the production of elastin and collagen production in the body. The magnesium content boosts hyaluronic acid which is essential for collagen maintenance. Even the fruit of the cashew, the cashew apple has shown to strengthen collagen fibers with wound healing properties.
Making cashew milk or even adding cashew paste to food preparations are a great way to ensure you get enough of this nutrient-packed, good-for-health nut.
Summary: With many vital nutrients including zinc and magnesium, cashews help improve collagen production. Consuming the cashew apple may help strengthen collagen fibers.
Dairy forms a critical part of the body’s healthy diet. Dairy products such as milk, whey, fermented milk, etc. are known, good sources for promoting collagen in the human body. Daily provides proteins, amino acids and vitamins essential for overall well-being.
Among dairy products, milk provides 3.3% protein along with 9 beneficial amino acids. It is a potent source of MSM (methylsulfonylmethane). MSM is sulfur that aids collagen production and at the same time prevents collagen deterioration. Bovine milk is proven to induce collagen I synthesis.
One of the dairy product whey, studies show has the highest protein content and amino acids crucial for enhancing collagen production. According to another study, fermented milk combined with collagen hydrolysate has shown improvement in plasma concentrations of collagen-specific amino acids.
Enhance your intake of dairy products in the form of beverages, shakes, smoothies, yogurt or add whey into your savory dishes to up the nutrition level and benefit from increased collagen levels.
Summary: Dairy products, especially whey, are rich in amino acids that are required for collagen synthesis. The MSM content in milk aids collagen production and prevents collagen deterioration.
The Final Note
Collagen the most abundant protein in your body is crucial, as it provides your body with a host of health benefits. But factors such as age, diet, unhealthy habits and exposure to UV rays can spell disaster for your body’s production and maintenance of collagen. Hence we must ensure that we get enough collagen to maintain overall good health.
Consuming nutritious food especially those high in protein will help you get the amino acids your body needs. Also equally important are the vitamins and minerals your body needs to boost collagen manufacture. Collagen supplements offer an easy solution to incorporate most of the nutrients required to ramp up your collagen production.
Combining such dietary supplements with a healthy diet that’s rich in collagen-boosting foods is the best approach if your collagen levels are low. Make sure to have a varied diet with sizable portions of meat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and dairy to maximize your natural collagen production effectively.