The Best Ways to Boost Collagen: Food Vs. Supplements

Many people turn to beauty products and supplements for collagen, yet you can support your body in making its own with the proper nutrition.

Woman looking at her skin in the bathroom  mirror

Collagen has captivated those wanting to turn back time on wrinkles and joint pain. This claimed fountain of youth, acts a scaffold for our body structure and adds elasticity to skin. Many people are turning to beauty products and supplements for collagen, yet with the right nutrition, you can support your body in making its own. 

What is collagen?

Collagen is the main structural protein that’s found in our skin, connective tissues, bone, teeth, muscles, and tendons. It makes up about 25% of the total protein content in our bodies. It acts like a glue, providing strength and structure (1). Collagen has gained a lot of popularity in the beauty industry, as an anti-aging ingredient that helps reduce wrinkles and improve skin health.

What decreases collagen?

As part of the normal aging process, collagen production slows. There are also many lifestyle factors that reduce the body’s ability to make collagen. This includes mental and physical stress, a poor quality diet, and inflammation. 

  • Age: as a natural part of the aging process, nutrient absorption decreases, so collagen production declines.
  • Poor quality diet: too much sugar or unhealthy fat (trans and saturated) can lead to collagen depletion (2). 
  • Excess sun: when exposed to too much sun, the UV rays can damage collagen in the skin, eventually leading to more wrinkles. 
  • Smoking: cigarettes contain many damaging chemicals which can decrease collagen. They also deplete the body of vitamin C (an antioxidant found in fruit and vegetables), which helps produce collagen. 
  • Environmental pollutants: skin is the main barrier that protects against physical, chemical, and biological stressors that come from the environment (3). 

Do you need collagen supplements?

Hydrolyzed collagen is a powder supplement that can be added to beverages, shakes, smoothies, or any kind of sauce. It’s also added to cosmetic products in the form of cream, supplements, and powders. 

Cosmetic collagen products can help reduce water loss and protect skin against some environmental wear and tear. Some studies have suggested that it can help with cell water absorption and retention, improving the look of skin (4). But they’re not as effective as eating foods that help the body produce collagen. 

Some studies have promising results when it comes to short and long-term use of collagen supplements for wound healing and skin aging (5). More research on collagen needs to be done before any definitive conclusion on the amount, type, and usage of collagen supplements are made. 

Collagen is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), but this doesn’t mean that every supplement company practices safe and regulated measures. It’s always a good idea to choose food sources over supplements.

How can you naturally increase collagen?

Collagen can be found in some foods. It's naturally found in bone broths and gelatin. Simmering bones of beef, chicken, or fish in water, on a slow and low temperature can help draw out natural collagen. Gelatin is extracted from the skin, bones, and connective tissues of animals such as cow, chicken, pork, and fish. You may commonly know it for the chewy texture it adds to gummies or Jello but it's best to eat without added sugar. 

The body can create collagen all on its own, with the right nutrients. Three amino acids (protein building blocks) that assist the body in making collagen are proline, lysine, and glycine. Collagen formation also happens with the help of nutrients: vitamin C, zinc, and copper (6). 

  • Proline: dairy, eggs, lamb, pork, beans.
  • Lysine: cheese, red meat, pork, poultry, eggs, soy. 
  • Glycine: meat, fish, dairy, legumes (beans and lentils). 
  • Vitamin C: citrus fruits (orange, lime, lemon), strawberries, tomatoes, red bell pepper, leafy greens.
  • Zinc: whole grains, oysters, beans, nuts (cashews, almonds). 
  • Copper: grains, beans, nuts, shellfish, dark leafy greens. 

The form of collagen found in supplements and beauty products may not be well absorbed by the body. Since research is currently limited and inconclusive, it’s best to focus on a balanced, whole food based diet with a variety of protein sources. 

Want to boost your collagen? Try out a fantastic fish soup and track your protein and nutrient content with a trusted nutrition app

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