As we age, our skin loses its youthful firmness and elasticity. Dryness, fine lines and wrinkles are natural signs of aging that affect all of us. There are many internal anti-aging supplements and topical skincare treatments on the market today that claim to reverse the effects of aging. However, there is one ingredient that has been shown to reduce wrinkle depth by up to 10% –and that’s collagen!
Best Food With Collagen
Foods rich in collagen come from animals. This includes chicken, fish, or cows. The following three foods contain high levels of collagen:
1. Bone Broth
Bone broth is made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue for an extended period of time. The process extracts collagen from the bones and skin and places it into the broth. Common animals used to make bone broth include chickens, cows, turkeys, and deer (venison).
2. Fish With the Skin On
Fish are an excellent source of collagen from food, as long as you leave the skin on. That’s because much of the collagen found in fish is stored in the skin. Other benefits of fish include omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.
If you’ve ever prepared a whole chicken, you know there’s quite a bit of connective tissue in the meat. This makes chicken a good option for adding more collagen to your diet. Chicken feet in particular — while not a common food in some parts of the world — are a good source of collagen.
Fruits and Vegetables
For vegetarians and vegans, consider eating foods high in vitamin C. Eating foods rich in this nutrient encourages the body to make its own collagen and keep you healthy and strong.
Examples of foods with high amounts of vitamin C include fruits such as blueberries, papaya, or citrus, and vegetables like broccoli, leafy greens, and cauliflower.
These 10 Foods Are Better Than Collagen Supplements
More on each of these collagen-rich foods below:
Since collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals, it’s no surprise that it is found in various types of protein-rich meat, including beef and chicken. Furthermore, as White notes, meat sources that include bone and/or connective tissue (such as a ribeye steak or chicken wings) are especially rich in collagen because it is the main component of said tissues.
According to a study in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, chicken neck and cartilage can be used to successfully treat arthritis because of its abundance of collagen.
As far as collagen-rich foods go, trendy bone broth is probably the one that people are most familiar with. “Bone broth is a popular option for obtaining collagen without supplements,” Gariglio-Clelland explains. “It is made by simmering animal bones with liquid and some vinegar over a period of 12 to 24 hours to extract the collagen from the animal’s connective tissue.” Animal bones are also a natural source of gelatin, which in and of itself is packed with collagen.
Like other animals, fish and shellfish have bones and ligaments made of collagen, making them a natural source of the skin-plumping substance. Per a study in the journal Food and Nutrition Sciences, fish collagen may even be preferable to collagen found in protein-packed meats such as beef or pork. According to the research, fish collagen is absorbed up to 1.5 times more efficiently into the body when compared to bovine or porcine sources of collagen. Due to the fact that fish collagen is absorbed more efficiently (and therefore enters the bloodstream at a quicker rate) it is considered to be one of the best sources of collagen.
And when you make fish at home, be sure to chow down on the skin, too. Fish skin, which has been used to help heal burn victims, is loaded with collagen.
Collagen is naturally found in the shells and whites of eggs. In total, egg whites contain 18 amino acids and all nine essential amino acids.
More specifically, the type of collagen present in egg whites provides glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and various other amino acids necessary for collagen production.
Studies have shown that these substances can help build connective tissues, heal wounds, increase muscle mass and reduce pain or stiffness. In fact, in a 2015 study, researchers discovered that eggshell membranes can have positive effects on the suppression of skin aging and protecting the skin from UVB radiation.
As White notes, more than 60 percent of spirulina consists of amino acids: the building blocks of collagen. Therefore, the blue-green microalgae found in both fresh and marine waters is an excellent source of the stuff. A 2017 study in the journal Pharmaceutical Biology found that when spirulina was incorporated into topical skin creams it improved cell viability and aided wound healing.
Like certain types of meat, spirulina is a great source of protein. In fact, one tablespoon of powdered spirulina yields 6 grams of the muscle-building nutrient.
Which foods increase collagen synthesis and production?
When it comes to how to increase collagen, White explains there are three key nutrients to keep in mind:
- vitamin C synthesizes collagen
- zinc helps collagen production by acting as a cofactor (an activator of essential proteins)
- copper helps the production of collagen by activating the lysyl oxidase enzyme to create collagen maturation. Copper will create links within collagen to keep it functioning properly. If collagen is damaged copper will help repair it to the elasticity it was as well.
There’s one last piece of the puzzle: protein. “By consuming adequate protein (and therefore providing your body with essential amino acids), along with foods rich in vitamin C, zinc and copper, you’re providing your body with the ‘tools’ needed to boost collagen production,” says Amanda Baker Lemein, MS, RD.
Unlike foods that naturally contain collagen, these following 5 foods possess the nutrient building blocks your body requires to make its own collagen.
Citrus fruits are great sources of vitamin C, which is required for collagen synthesis.
- grapefruit, 88 mg vitamin C per medium fruit, 97% DV
- orange, 70 mg vitamin C per medium fruit, 77% DV
- clementine, 36 mg vitamin C per fruit, 40% DV
- tangerine, 20 mg vitamin C per fruit, 22% DV
Other foods rich in vitamin C include strawberries (1 cup, 100% DV) and guava (1 cup, 418% DV).
Nuts and Seeds
To boost your intake of zinc and copper, two additional nutrients that also promote the production of collagen, look no further than hearty nuts and seeds. The following nuts and seeds are excellent sources (meaning they contain more than 20 percent of your daily value of a nutrient) of either zinc or copper (or both).
- pumpkin seeds, 1 ounce: 2.2 mg zinc, 20% DV; 0.38 mg copper, 42% DV
- cashews, 1 ounce: 1.6 mg zinc, 15% DV; 0.62 mg copper, 69% DV
- almonds, 1 ounce roasted: 0.9 mg zinc, 8% DV; 0.27 mg copper, 30% DV
- sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon: 0.7 mg zinc, 6% DV; 0.37 mg copper, 41% DV
Leafy Green Vegetables
As if you needed another reason to eat leafy green veggies such as kale and spinach, these healthy foods are also high in Vitamin C, zinc, and copper; it’s a collagen-boosting trifecta! In fact, one cup of raw, chopped kale contains nearly one and a half times the recommended daily value of Vitamin C.
Additionally, according to a Korean study, the chlorophyll found in foods like kale has been shown to increase the precursor to collagen in the skin.
Bell peppers are “great” sources of vitamin C, according to Gariglio-Clelland. Half a cup of sliced red bell pepper, for example, boasts 117 milligrams of vitamin C. That’s nearly one and a half times the recommended daily value of the all-important nutrient.
Bell peppers also contain capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory compound that may combat signs of aging. A 2015 study found that capsaicin, which is typically found in spicy, plant-based foods, increases the stability of collagen fibers in tendons and protects collagen fibrils from enzymatic degradation.
Oysters are hands-down the richest source of zinc. Just three ounces of oysters gets you a whopping 33 milligrams of zinc, exceeding your daily recommended zinc intake threefold. (You would just need to eat two eastern oysters to meet your 11-milligram daily value.) Oysters are also great sources of collagen-creating copper, as just three ounces of the mollusks contain nearly two and a half times the recommended daily value of the nutrient.
Now forget about those costly collagen supplements and stock your grocery carts accordingly!