When you hear “collagen” you probably think about skin health. But this substance is important to your body in other ways. Since we, unfortunately, lose collagen as we age, we need to ensure that we get it from various foods in our diets.
Are there foods that naturally contain collagen? There are foods that increase your body’s production of collagen so that you stay healthy. These are mainly protein-based foods.
Let’s explore the best ones to add to your diet, as well as look at whether food sources of collagen are healthier for you than supplements. Should you add both to your regular diet?
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is a term for the structural proteins present in the skin and connective tissues, and it’s responsible for about 30 percent of the protein found in the human body.
Collagen contains 19 amino acids and there are 29 different types of collagen! Humans contain Type 1, 2, and 3 collagen. Let’s see where these are found in the body.
- Type 1: This type of collagen is found in tendons, organs, bones, and skin.
- Type 2: This collagen is found in cartilage.
- Type 3: This type of collagen can be found in reticular fibers, which are thin fibers of connective tissue.
Collagen is a protein that appears in the highest amounts in the body. It has a fiber-like structure that makes connective tissue, which connects other tissues.
It’s a big part of the skin, muscles, tendons, cartilage, and bone. It strengthens the tissue so that it’s resilient and can tolerate stretching.
Why Is Collagen Good For The Body?
Let’s explore the various health benefits of collagen for your health and wellbeing.
- Collagen Boosts Skin Health: Collagen strengthens the skin, makes it more elastic, and hydrates it. This is why as we age and lose collagen, our skin becomes dry, saggy, and wrinkled.
- Collagen Improves Your Joints: Collagen helps to maintain how your cartilage functions. This is the tissue that protects the joints. Again, since we lose collagen as we age, this can increase your risk of degenerative joint conditions such as osteoarthritis.
- Collagen Keeps Bones Healthy: Since your bones are mostly made up of collagen, which gives them the strength they need, losing collagen over the years can cause your bones to lose density. This puts you at risk of conditions such as osteoporosis. In a study, when women took a calcium supplement containing collagen for a year, they were found to have lower levels of proteins that encourage the breakdown of bones than women who only took the calcium.
- Collagen Is Good For Your Heart: Collagen gives your arteries structure, which prevents them from losing their elasticity. When your arteries weaken, this puts you at a greater risk of a health condition called atherosclerosis, which is when the arteries narrow. It can lead to stroke or heart attack.
Best Foods High In Collagen
As we age, the amount of collagen that the body naturally produces decreases. This causes less skin elasticity, lower epidermal thickness, and skin damage, which can show up as thin, wrinkly, sagging skin.
Collagen also results in less flexible ligaments and tendons, weaker muscles, joint pain, and gastrointestinal problems. When your body experiences less collagen, you could also find that it hampers your hair growth or your hair is thinner than it used to be.
This is why adding more collagen to your diet, whether via foods or supplements, can be beneficial to your body’s collagen production.
If you want to reach for collagen-rich foods, here are the best ones to add to your diet.
Bone broth is made by simmering water with animal bones, which is thought to remove collagen from the bones. Bone broth typically contains bones and connective tissues, so it has collagen as well as other nutrients such as magnesium, calcium, amino acids, and phosphorus.
About 300ml of bone broth has been found to boost plasma levels of precursor amino acids proline and glycine, both of which help your body to produce collagen.
If you’ve ever tried collagen supplements, you might have seen that many of them contain chicken. Research has found that chicken cartilage is used as a source of collagen in the treatment of arthritis.
One of the best ways to enjoy chicken to increase your consumption of collagen is to buy a high-quality chicken broth. This food contains amino acids and gelatin, as well as other nutrients.
Another way to get more collagen from chicken is to buy a whole chicken. You’ll see its connective tissue, which is a good sign, but interestingly chicken feet are also a great source of collagen.
Eggs don’t contain connective tissues but make sure you add egg whites to your diet because this part of the egg is the best to eat. Egg whites contain high quantities of proline, which is required for the production of collagen in the body.
You can eat egg whites in a variety of ways, such as by scrambling them, adding them to a smoothie, or making a delicious omelet.
This is a great way to encourage collagen production in the body, especially if you can’t eat animal-derived products on a vegan or vegetarian diet. Vitamin C-rich foods produce pro-collagen, which is the precursor to collagen.
You can find vitamin C in a variety of foods, such as oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and limes. You should also eat more berries, such as blueberries and raspberries because they not only contain Vitamin C but they also contain other antioxidants that protect the skin against damage.
Fish with skin
When eating fish, try to include the skin instead of cutting it away. This is because fish contains amino acids that your body needs to produce collagen, and its skin contains a high amount of Type 1 collagen.
Just bear in mind that different types of fish will have skins that taste a bit different. Some fish that have delicious skin include flounder, salmon, bass, and snapper.
To get your fish skin crispy, make sure you pan-fry or grill it at a high temperature with the skin side down. You should avoid steaming or boiling fish skin as this can result in a soggy texture.
Now you have a really good reason to add oysters to your regular diet: oysters contain copper, a mineral that’s required for the body to produce collagen. An oyster with the most natural concentration of copper is the Eastern oyster.
When preparing oysters to maximize your copper and collagen consumption, make sure you cook them. Steaming or smoking oysters will give you more copper than if you eat oysters raw.
In fact, raw oysters only have half the amount of copper that you can get from cooking them! When cooked, oysters give you 4,800 micrograms of copper per 100-gram serving.
Spirulina is blue-green algae that keep your body healthy. It has many essential amino acids, such as proline, that keep the skin firm and help the body to produce collagen.
You can eat spirulina in a variety of ways, such as by adding it to water and drinking it or sprinkling it in smoothies.
Should You Consume Collagen Supplements?
It might seem more practical to buy collagen supplements to give your body more collagen than eating certain foods, but there’s limited research on how well our bodies can absorb the nutrients in such supplements. This is why absorbing collagen and nutrients in food makes more sense.
There’s another important reason why collagen-rich foods are better than supplements. When you eat whole foods instead of supplements, you get more nutrients from the foods you’re eating besides collagen.
For example, meat products that give you collagen also give you other nutrients, such as protein. Similarly, Vitamin C-rich foods that help your body produce collagen also protect your body against disease because Vitamin C is an antioxidant.
How Many Collagen-Rich Foods Should You Eat, And How Often?
When adding more collagen foods to your regular eating plan, you might wonder how to do this. There’s actually no clear rule when it comes to the number of collagen foods you should be eating.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to focus on eating a healthy, balanced diet and take a closer look at your daily values of important nutrients, such as copper, zinc, and Vitamin C.
These nutrients are essential for collagen as they work together to keep collagen elastic and strong.
There are many nutrients that help the body produce collagen. These include:
- Proline, which is found in foods such as soy, cheese, meat, and egg whites.
- Anthocyanidins, which are antioxidants found in berries such as blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.
- Vitamin A, which is found in plant foods and animal-sourced foods as beta-carotene. It then gets transformed into Vitamin A in the body.
Your diet should be as plant-based as possible and contain whole foods, as these have more nutrients such as antioxidants.
These contribute to slowing down the aging process and making your skin look healthier. They also help to keep diseases at bay.
What To Know About How Collagen Is Used By The Body
When you consume collagen, it gets broken down into dipeptides and tripeptides. These are made up of amino acids. The peptides are absorbed through the intestines so that they can enter the bloodstream. From there, they enter blood vessels in the skin.
Once in the skin, they tell collagen-making cells to start working.
You can’t direct where the collagen food or supplement you’ve consumed goes. This is because collagen is found in various parts of the body, so the collagen could go to your joints instead of your skin or vice versa.
Unfortunately, you can’t control or change what your body decides to do with the collagen.
Does collagen help you to lose weight?
Since collagen is found in protein-rich foods such as beef, chicken, and eggs, these types of foods can help you to feel fuller after meals, which can contribute to weight loss.
Does the sun damage collagen?
UV rays in sunlight cause collagen to break down at a faster rate, which contributes to the skin becoming wrinkled.
Does smoking damage collagen?
Smoking is a lifestyle habit that damages collagen. Cigarettes contain over 4,000 chemicals, and many of them cause elastin and collagen in the body to be destroyed.
We lose the collagen our bodies have as we age, which can lead to skin aging, joint problems, and other health conditions. If you want to add more collagen to your diet, you should make sure you choose the most collagen-rich foods.
In this article, we’ve featured foods that contain collagen as well as foods that contain ingredients that help the body to produce collagen.
We’ve also provided you with information you need to get the most benefits from collagen, such as if you should eat it in foods or use collagen supplements.