Did you know that collagen is the body’s most common substance, after water? It is the main structural protein in connective tissue, comprising over 70–75% of skin and 25–35% of whole-body protein content.
Collagen is responsible for regenerating the body’s cells. It gives skin its elasticity, hair and nails their strength, and keeps tissues, cartilage and muscles connected for healthy, flexible joints. As we get older, the body slows down the natural production of collagen. This becomes evident as the skin begins to thin or “sag” and wrinkles begin to form. Natural elements such as the sun and pollutants can also break down collagen reserves.
The good news is that the body has the remarkable ability to repair and regenerate collagen levels with the help of topical treatments, supplements and lifestyle changes. Of course, choosing “clean” and healthful foods is also essential in enhancing and stimulating collagen production.
Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine.” This is exceptional advice to heed when considering optimal nutrition. The key is to enjoy a wide variety of colorful vegetables and fruits, as well as nuts and organic or wild-caught fish (all pro-collagen foods to bank on), while eschewing processed, sugar-laden foods that can contribute to the degradation of collagen, and ill health, in general.
To help keep your skin supple and youthful, here is an overview of some of our favorite collagen boosting foods – as well as some delicious recipes featuring collagen-friendly ingredients.
1. Citrus Fruits
Vitamin C is the super hero of vitamins, and it has a critical role in collagen production. Vital for removing free radicals that can damage healthy cells throughout the body, Vitamin C is the only antioxidant that can also increase collagen synthesis. Add plenty of vitamin C-rich fruits like lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits to your diet, daily.
2. Fish (wild or organic)
Fish is super-charged with omega-3 fatty acids, that contribute to healthy, robust cell formation. Vigorous cells are the life blood of the supportive structure of the skin.
3. Dark Green Vegetables
Vegetables such as kale, broccoli and spinach can impressively amp up collagen production. They will also help avert collagen damage due to free radicals such as smog, dust, cigarette smoke, and excessive sun exposure.
Although these precious pods are a dark green vegetable -- green string beans warrant having a spot-light of their own. String beans are a natural source of hyaluronic acid, known to keep the skin hydrated, smooth and plump -- and will accelerate collagen production. Remember to add bean sprouts to your salads and stir-fries; they too are a collagen boosting superfood.
5. Red Vegetables
Research tells us that certain red vegetables contain an antioxidant called lycopene. Obtain this precious collagen booster from beets, peppers and tomatoes, to name a few. Lycopene is touted to offer protection from the sun's rays, while advancing collagen levels and protecting the skin from further damage.
6. Orange Vegetables
Orange you glad you eat sweet potatoes and carrots? They are ultra rich in vitamin A, which plays a major part in cell renewal and skin repair. Also noteworthy, certain orange fruits such as mangoes and apricots are excellent sources of beta-carotene, which the body then converts into Vitamin A.
Berries are fabulous skin-enhancing food. From deep purple, blue to red, their nutrients assist the body to produce collagen. They're also packed with skin-friendly antioxidants and combat inflammation.
8. Garlic and Olives
Throughout the centuries sulfur was reportedly used to treat conditions such as dermatitis and dandruff. Today, sulfur has been proven to possess many health-enhancing benefits. Eating sulfur rich foods like garlic helps to increase collagen production in joints and skin, and repair collagen fibers that have been damaged. Black and green olives -- also high in sulfur -- contribute to collagen formation.
Healthy proteins are essential for the body to flourish and eggs supply two of the most essential amino acids in collagen production; lysine and proline. Eggs are also abundant in sulfur (as discussed in number 8) a trace mineral necessary for collagen production.
Eating pineapple and drinking its juice helps the body synthesize collagen, promoting toned and glowing skin, while vitamin C and the enzyme bromelain contribute to cell and tissue repair.
11. Avocado & Avocado Oil
You can never go wrong by adding avocados to your diet and adding avocado oil to salads. Nutrients such as Vitamin E, potassium and lecithin will strengthen the skin and amp up cell production.
12. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are chock-full of zinc -- another important mineral that aids the collagen synthesis process. Research has proven that zinc supplementation may help decrease the rate of natural collagen degradation, suggesting that foods rich in zinc may do the same. Nuts are also a great source of the amino acid lysine, essential for the collagen production process.