Foods Rich In Collagen For Glowing Skin and Healthy Joints

Written by Varsha Patnaik

Is almost everyone you know talking about collagen? That’s because it’s the new big thing in the health and fitness industry— and for good reason! There are claims that foods rich in collagen can do wonders for your skin and hair along with joints and muscles. The smart thing to do before getting started on a collagen diet, use collagen supplements, or have endless mugs of bone broth (more on this later) is to get the fundamentals right and distinguish fact from fiction. So, let’s get started.

Collagen: What Is It?

Collagen is one of the most important proteins that your body makes. It is the strongest of all the tissue fibers that make up connective tissues. Your skin, hair, bones, nails, joints, muscles, blood vessels, cartilages, cells, placenta, and other organs have collagen in them. Collagen is made up of three alpha chains. Each alpha chain is made up of thousands of amino acids (the building blocks of protein), with glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline being the most abundant (1).

Collagen is a crucial part of connective tissues responsible for giving structure, elasticity, and firmness to your body. Foods rich in collagen reinforce your body’s natural collagen production by stimulating the fibroblasts (cells in the skin) that make collagen (2).

And this leads you to the next part— what is a collagen diet?

The Collagen Diet: Know The Facts

The collagen diet is a way of eating which limits sugar intake and incorporates foods rich in collagen, a collagen food supplement, or foods that boost your body’s ability to produce collagen (3). Let’s look at some quick facts about it:

  • Naturally, collagen as food is found in animal parts, like chicken, meat, fish, and dairy products (4).
  • The body makes collagen on its own in a complex series of processes that involve amino acids, copper, zinc, and vitamin C (5)(6)(7)(8).
  • With age, the body’s collagen production becomes low and collagen diets may help reverse some of the signs of aging (9).
  • Collagen injections or collagen supplements also form a part of certain collagen diets (10).
  • The research on collagen supplements is in its initial stages with promising results. However, there is not enough evidence to support its complete safety. (11) (12).

If you want to steer clear of supplements (more details on this coming up later) or injections, then how do you increase collagen naturally? The answer is, through eating right. So, let’s see if we can find some healthy foods and herbs rich in collagen.

The Best Food Sources Of Collagen

You can approach the collagen diet in several ways. You can eat collagen-rich foods for hair and skin or you can take a collagen food supplement with your doctor’s advice. Either way, you stand to gain from incorporating foods high in collagen, and foods that help you make more collagen in your body, in your diet.

1. Foods Rich In Collagen

You can consume collagen-rich foods for hair, skin, bone, and gut health. The collagen you eat breaks down into amino acids, which are then distributed to the parts of your body where collagen can (or needs to) be made. Glycine, lysine, proline, leucine, hydroxyproline, and hydroxylysine are some of the essential amino acids for collagen production. Most animal sources are a good source of collagen (13).

  • Beef

Beef is one of the best sources of amino acids, the building blocks of connective tissues. Beef is also a natural source of collagen and is widely used in the extraction process for making collagen peptides (supplements). So, when you are biting into a juicy steak, you are doing yourself a favor (14).

  • Fish With Skin

The skin that you find on fish, especially sea-fish, is rich in collagen. Apart from that, fish is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which promote skin health (15).

  • Chicken

If you are a fan of lean meat and enjoy eating chicken, you are supplying your body with a ton of ingredients that it needs to cook up some collagen for you. Chicken neck and cartilage are exceptionally good sources, so you may want to prepare chicken stock/broth/soup with these for a collagen boost (16).

  • Eggs

Eggs are a very healthy way to incorporate healthy proteins into your diet as they contain amino acids that make collagen (17).

  • Bone Broth

Bone broth is made by simmering bones and connective tissues from beef, venison (deer), chicken, or turkey for a long time. The slow cooking process helps to draw out collagen into the broth. If you don’t want to go through the long process (though it is worth it for the quality and taste), you can buy bone broth from stores. Commercially available bone broth may vary in quality, or availability of collagen as they are processed differently. Studies show that while bone broth contains some of the essential amino acids for collagen, it may not be a consistent enough source when compared to oral supplements (18).

2. Collagen Boosting Foods

There is a lack of collagen-rich foods vegetarian and vegan diets allow as most natural sources are animal-based. However since your body is a robust collagen-making unit, you can always eat the ingredients your body uses as raw material for building collagen. Make sure you eat a wide variety of nutrient-dense foods, with emphasis on the nutrients crucial to the growth and upkeep of collagen.

  • Vitamin C

Your body cannot naturally produce vitamin C, so it is important to incorporate foods containing vitamin C into your diet. What’s that got to do with collagen? you may ask. Well, from your body’s perspective, everything. That’s because your body uses vitamin C to make its own collagen. If you don’t have enough of it, you not only will show signs of aging faster but also open yourself up to serious health issues (19).

Red and green peppers, citrus fruits, berries, blackcurrants, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and potatoes are some great sources of this key nutrient.

  • Zinc

Zinc plays an important role in the development and maintenance of bones. This role of zinc is also linked to the part it plays in the making of collagen in the body. Studies have shown that zinc increases the performance of cells responsible for collagen production in bone tissues (20).

Meat, shellfish, oysters, chickpeas, nuts, fortified cereals, bread, and dairy products are good sources of zinc.

  • Copper

You need to up your copper intake for boosting collagen production as it plays a vital role in the development and maintenance of your connective tissues. Elastin (a vital protein that lends elasticity to connective tissues in the skin) and collagen can cross-link and form bonds thanks to the availability of copper (21).

Nuts, prunes, dark leafy vegetables, potatoes, black pepper, shellfish like oysters, and organ meats like liver and kidneys are good sources from where you can get your copper fix.

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids

You can keep your ligaments in shape by consuming more omega-3 fatty acids. A study has found that omega-3 can enhance the collagen forming fibroblasts (cells that make connective tissues) working in the ligaments of your body (22).

Seeds like flaxseed, sunflower seeds and chia, walnuts, Brussel sprouts, kale, spinach, and fatty fish like mackerel, sardines, and salmon are excellent sources of omega-3.

  • Antioxidants

Antioxidants do not directly make collagen for you. But, they do something very crucial for your skin. Not only age, but free radicals in your skin are also responsible for collagen loss. Antioxidants are free radical scavengers and can protect collagen in your skin from excessive damage (23).

Dark chocolate, beans, berries, kale, spinach, red cabbage, onions, prunes, apricot, and green tea are only a few of the vast sources of antioxidants that you can include in your collagen diet.

If you are wondering why it is so important to boost the body’s collagen production, the answer’s coming right up!

What Happens To Your Body If Collagen Is Low

By the time you are in your early twenties, your body has already started losing collagen. When you hit your forties, you can expect a one percent loss in collagen every succeeding year. By the time you are eighty years old, your body produces less than 75 percent of the collagen it used to produce when you were a young adult. Besides age, several other factors may lead you to lose collagen—free radicals, smoking, alcoholism, disease, and a nutrient-deficient diet (24).

The numbers may seem quite alarming, especially since collagen is a vital component for healthy skin, hair, bones, joints, and more. So, let’s see what are some of the symptoms of a drop in your body’s collagen levels:

  • Skin Ageing

Collagen loss leads your skin to lose elasticity, firmness, and protection against natural wear and tear. Wrinkles, deep lines, crepey, and sagging skin which is more prone to damage from pollutants and UV rays are some of the signs that your skin is losing collagen (25).

  • Joint Pain

The cartilage in your body is made up of type-II collagen. The cartilages are designed to help your bones glide over each other, without friction. With collagen loss, those cartilages wear down and lead to a condition called osteoarthritis. Stiff joints, aches, and swelling are the most commonly reported symptoms of osteoarthritis (26).

  •  Weak Bones

The structure and strength of your bones depend greatly on collagen, which accounts for more than 80 percent of the proteins in them. Weak, brittle bones that are more susceptible to injuries and fractures can be linked with a loss of collagen in the connective tissues of your bones (27). According to another study, loss of collagen may even be responsible for osteoporosis (28).

  • Stiffness In Ligaments And Tendons

The tendons in your body connect your bones to your muscles, while the ligaments connect your bones. Both tendons and ligaments are composed of connective tissues that contain collagen and if you lose enough of it, you can experience stiffness and mobility problems (29).

With so many issues that you may face if your collagen levels drop, you may have an idea of the benefits a collagen diet may give you. Read on, to verify.

Health Benefits Of A Collagen Diet

If you eat collagen-rich foods for skin, you may reverse some signs of skin aging. Studies have revealed that oral collagen can improve the thickness of the epidermis and make the skin hydrated. It also reduces wrinkles and age lines on facial skin, besides affecting the elasticity and smoothness of skin positively (30).

You can also reap the benefits of eating foods rich in collagen with an improvement in joint pain (31).

There is more good news for you. A study has noted that certain collagen peptides can improve bone density in postmenopausal women (32). The result? Lowered risk of osteoporosis and stronger bones.

So, should you get on a collagen diet? Read the drawbacks and make a more informed decision.

Collagen Diet: The Drawbacks

  • You can end up relying too heavily on collagen supplements instead of making positive lifestyle changes and nurturing healthy food habits.
  • You may have allergic reactions to ingredients in collagen supplements or nuts/shellfish. It is advised that you speak to your doctor before introducing anything new to your diet.
  • Some people report digestive issues with a high protein diet.
  • The diet is animal product-centric, so it is not very vegan-friendly.

You may want to take the supplement route if your body is struggling to absorb nutrients from foods directly or if your doctor has recommended it. If so, read on to find more about collagen supplements.

Collagen Supplements: Safety and Precautions

You can get hold of a collagen food supplement and put it in your morning coffee, smoothies, and even water. Hydrolyzed collagen (or collagen peptides) is easily absorbed by the body as it is processed and a broken-down version of animal collagen. It is also tasteless, odorless, and colorless and likely won’t put you off. Preliminary research has found it to be safe and effective for improving skin elasticity and moisture retention (33).

But, before you race ahead on the path of least resistance, take a look at some important safety concerns.

  • Unregulated Market

Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) agency. That means that the supplements in the market may not follow the same standard procedures. So inconsistency in terms of quantity of processed collagen and its effectiveness is not guaranteed.

  • Not For Vegans Or Vegetarians

Most hydrolyzed collagen is derived from animal and fish products. That makes them unavailable to vegans and vegetarians.

  • Allergic Reactions

If you are allergic to seafood, or shellfish, you may be at risk of developing allergic reactions to collagen supplements. Talk to your doctor to rule that out.

  • Concerns About Toxicity

There are some concerns about collagen supplements carrying a risk of viral infections or other environmental toxins. There is not enough evidence to prove or disprove these concerns.

  • Potential Side Effects

There were no potential side effects reported on clinical trials involving collagen supplements, according to a placebo-controlled, randomized study (34).

Collagen supplements may be safe and effective, but you still have to take care of your diet and skin to get the most out of them. Read on to find a checklist of do’s to restore your skin and reverse some signs of stress, pollution, and aging.

How To Restore Collagen In The Face

You can restore the collagen in your face with anti-skin aging techniques:

  • Follow a healthy collagen diet.
  • Use a collagen supplement if your doctor gives you the go-ahead.
  • Use sunscreen and protect your face from sun damage.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Hydrate yourself.
  • Sleep enough and reduce stress.

Sources

Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Read our editorial policy to learn more.

  1. Hydrolyzed Collagen—Sources and Applications
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6891674/
  2. Skin Collagen through the Life Stages: Importance for Skin Health and Beauty
    https://parjournal.net/article/view/3863
  3. The Role of Functional Foods in Cutaneous Anti-aging
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4390761/
  4. Hydrolyzed Collagen—Sources and Applications
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6891674/
  5. Proline Precursors and Collagen Synthesis: Biochemical Challenges of Nutrient Supplementation and Wound Healing
    https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/147/11/2011/4743236
  6. Copper and the Synthesis of Elastin and Collagen
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6110524/
  7. Zinc May Increase Bone Formation through Stimulating Cell Proliferation, Alkaline Phosphatase Activity and Collagen Synthesis in Osteoblastic Mc3t3-e1 Cells
    https://e-nrp.org/DOIx.php?id=10.4162/nrp.2010.4.5.356
  8. Discovering the Link Between Nutrition and Skin Aging
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/
  9. Skin Anti-aging Strategies
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583892/
  10. Oral Ingestion of Collagen Hydrolysate Leads to the Transportation of Highly Concentrated Gly-Pro-Hyp and Its Hydrolyzed Form of Pro-Hyp into the Bloodstream and Skin
    https://pubs.acs.org/doi/10.1021/acs.jafc.6b05679
  11. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30681787/
  12. Collagen Supplements
    https://www.publish.csiro.au/hc/pdf/HC15947
  13. Bone Broth Unlikely to Provide Reliable Concentrations of Collagen Precursors Compared With Supplemental Sources of Collagen Used in Collagen Research
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29893587/
  14. Amino Acid Makeup of Beef
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7269220/
  15. Effects of Sizes and Conformations of Fish-scale Collagen Peptides on Facial Skin Qualities and Transdermal Penetration Efficiency
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20625414/
  16. Ingestion of Biocell Collagen®, a Novel Hydrolyzed Chicken Sternal Cartilage Extract; Enhanced Blood Microcirculation and Reduced Facial Aging Signs
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3426261/
  17. Protein and Amino Acid Content in Four Brands of Commercial Table Eggs in Retail Markets in Relation to Human Requirements
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7142600/
  18. Bone Broth Unlikely to Provide Reliable Concentrations of Collagen Precursors Compared With Supplemental Sources of Collagen Used in Collagen Research
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29893587/
  19. Discovering the Link Between Nutrition and Skin Aging
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/
  20. Zinc May Increase Bone Formation through Stimulating Cell Proliferation, Alkaline Phosphatase Activity and Collagen Synthesis in Osteoblastic Mc3t3-e1 Cells
    https://e-nrp.org/DOIx.php?id=10.4162/nrp.2010.4.5.356
  21. Copper and the Synthesis of Elastin and Collagen
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6110524/
  22. Omega-3 Fatty Acids Enhance Ligament Fibroblast Collagen Formation in Association with Changes in Interleukin-6 Production
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10632966/
  23. Skin Anti-aging Strategies
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583892/
  24. Hydrolyzed Collagen—Sources and Applications
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6891674/
  25. Skin Collagen through the Life Stages: Importance for Skin Health and Beauty
    https://parjournal.net/article/view/3863
  26. Type Ii Collagen Degradation and Its Regulation in Articular Cartilage in Osteoarthritis
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1766700/
  27. The Role of Collagen in Bone Strength
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7427651_The_role_of_collagen_in_bone_strength
  28. Osteoporosis, a Unitary Hypothesis of Collagen Loss in Skin and Bone
    https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7791823_Osteoporosis_a_unitary_hypothesis_of_collagen_loss_in_skin_and_bone
  29. Age-related Changes in Structure and Extracellular Matrix Protein Expression Levels in Rat Tendons
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3824999/
  30. A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835901/
  31. Improvement of Activity-related Knee Joint Discomfort Following Supplementation of Specific Collagen Peptides
    https://cdnsciencepub.com/doi/10.1139/apnm-2016-0390#.X0v7bNNKjlw
  32. Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women—A Randomized Controlled Study
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793325/
  33. Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications
    https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30681787/
  34. A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6835901/
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