Fun fact: the name collagen comes from the Greek kola, meaning "glue", and the suffix -gen, denoting "producing". Collagen is quite literally the glue that holds our bodies together!
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. There are at least 16 types of collagen, but 80–90% of the collagen in the body consists of types I, II, and III. The various collagen types and the structures they form all serve the same purpose – to help tissues withstand stretching.
While skin gets all the attention, collagen is abundant in skin, tendon, bone, ligaments, muscles, blood vessels, cartilage, dentin, and interstitial tissues. As we age, our collagen output naturally decreases. This process of decline begins around age 30 and results in a loss of elasticity throughout the body – well beyond the skin.
So, what can we do to help combat these natural aging processes? We wanted to address this common question in this blog, because it turns out, you don’t need to take a collagen supplement to support collagen formation in your body. However, what you put in your body does matter! Here’s how to naturally boost collagen.
Natural Sources of Collagen
Collagen is only found naturally in animal foods. Bone broth, gelatin, meat on the bone, and fish with the bones and/or skin are the best natural sources of collagen.
Collagen supplements also exist, but these are made from animals, like the hides of beef, the skins of fish, and eggshells. Research is also mixed as to how effective they are at boosting collagen production.
Collagen Boosting Foods
There aren’t any direct plant sources of collagen. However, there are both animal and plant-based foods that can help prevent the breakdown of collagen and help boost collagen production naturally. Here are the collagen boosting food nutrients to focus on:
Vitamin C both helps the formation of new collagen and prevents the breakdown of existing collagen. It helps the formation of new collagen by converting the amino acid proline into hydroxyproline, which stimulates collagen synthesis. Thanks to its strong antioxidant properties, vitamin C also helps prevent collagen breakdown from free radical damage.
Vitamin C can be found in common fruits and vegetables like strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli, citrus, pineapple, and dark leafy greens. While vitamin C is most abundant in fruits like camu camu and acerola cherry, they can be hard to access. But we’ve included them in their pure and potent form in our Pure Radiance C® powder and capsules.
Zinc acts as a cofactor (a helper nutrient) in the formation of collagen.
Animal protein is an excellent source of zinc, with beef, lamb, and shellfish being the richest sources. But plant proteins, like nuts, seeds, and legumes are also good sources zinc. While there aren’t any direct plant sources of collagen, the best plant-based sources of zinc that will help support collagen production include lentils, hemp seeds, pumpkin seeds, and cashews.
Note that many plant-based sources of zinc also contain phytates which inhibit the absorption of zinc and other minerals. Therefore, zinc from legumes isn’t absorbed as well as the zinc from animal products, and more may be needed to meet your needs.
If you’re having trouble meeting your zinc needs, try our organic vegan Zinc Complex™ which combines fermented zinc with an organic food complex of immune-supporting shiitake mushrooms, vitamin C-rich camu camu berries, and green vegetables and sprouts.
Certain antioxidants can help boost collagen production, particularly those found in green tea. The catechin compounds are protective for your skin. They can diminish UVB-induced photo damage by decreasing activity of enzymes involved in tissue degradation and by increasing the synthesis of components needed for collagen production.
Matcha tea, made of ground green tea leaves, provides even more concentrated benefits than brewed herbal green tea. Our ceremonial-grade, Japanese Organic Matcha Power® has more than 10x the antioxidants compared to traditional teas and other top superfoods.
Copper helps in both the synthesis of collagen and in preventing the breakdown of collagen, thanks to its antioxidant properties.
Copper rich foods include dates, dark chocolate, chickpeas, beans, and cashews.
Collagen is made from the building blocks of protein – amino acids. The three most beneficial for collagen production include glycine, proline, and lysine. These three in particular play a role in the production of procollagen. These amino acids can be found in the following foods:
- Glycine: Beans, nuts, seeds, cauliflower, kiwi, bone broth, red meat, poultry, eggs, fish, dairy
- Proline: Asparagus, mushrooms, cabbage, eggs
- Lysine: Legumes, nuts, seeds, spirulina, eggs, red meat, pork, poultry
B vitamins, especially vitamins B2 and B6 are essential for the metabolism and synthesis of proteins in the body. They support the synthesis of proteins like collagen and aid cell turnover and collagen maintenance and improve the absorption of zinc.
Since B vitamins can be difficult to obtain in sufficient levels through food, particularly for those who avoid animal protein, a supplement can be supportive, and even essential. Our organic and vegan Super B-Complex™ provides the perfect balance of all eight essential B vitamins plus three important cofactors in a potent, energizing formula.
Chlorophyll is a pigment that gives plants their green color. Plants use chlorophyll along with sunlight to get their nutrients. This potent substance has been researched for its ability to help stimulate collagen production.
Chlorophyll can be found in dark leafy greens, broccoli, spirulina, and chlorella. Our Organic Blue-Green Algae Powder contains is a rich source of chlorophyll from algae found in the Klamath Blue Lake in Oregon. It is tested by independent third-party laboratories for potential contaminants and is certified organic and vegan.
How to Prevent the Breakdown of Collagen – What to Limit or Avoid
Adding the specific nutrients and foods listed above to your diet can support natural collagen production and help to prevent the breakdown of collagen. However, you can also limit or avoid intake of or exposure to certain foods or elements to help prevent the breakdown of collagen.
While some collagen loss is inevitable with age, the less you naturally lose, the less your body has to build back up! Here are some things to limit or avoid:
- Excess sugar: Sugar interferes with collagen’s ability to repair itself.
- Too much direct/unprotected sun: UV exposure damages the collagen you already have.
- Alcohol: Alcohol can contribute to dehydration in the skin (and throughout the body) and increase the rate of collagen loss.
- Smoking: Research has shown that smoking decreases the synthesis rates of type I and III collagens in skin.
Vegan Collagen Booster Smoothie