Collagen has been well-studied for its medicinal properties in recent years, and it’s an important compound that many of us don’t get enough of. Although supplementation is widely available, including a few servings of collagen-rich foods or collagen-boosting foods in your diet can help optimize collagen levels to minimize joint pain and keep your skin soft and smooth.
At this point, you may wonder: How can I get collagen naturally, and what foods have collagen? Let’s take a closer look at a few of the best collagen-rich foods for joints, hair growth and skin health — plus how you can add them to your diet.
Why Your Body Needs More Collagen
Collagen is an important protein found in abundance throughout the body. Often considered the glue that holds the body together, collagen is responsible for supplying suppleness to the skin, slowing certain signs of aging and and keeping your joints moving smoothly.
As you get older, however, collagen production starts to screech to a halt, giving way to symptoms like joint pain, wrinkles and decreased cartilage. There are a variety of other different factors that can interfere with collagen synthesis as well, such as smoking, sun exposure and a poor diet.
Fortunately, there are plenty of methods that can help boost collagen levels. Using a collagen supplement is perhaps the most easy and effective way to kick up collagen levels, but consuming a variety of foods that contain collagen is another option to increase levels as well.
Some research suggests that using a collagen supplement or increasing your intake of dietary sources of collagen could help:
- Promote gut health
- Reduce joint pain
- Decrease hair loss
- Improve skin elasticity
- Boost muscle mass
- Prevent bone loss
- Enhance heart health
Best Collagen-Rich Foods
Wondering how to naturally boost collagen levels in your body? Adding a few foods high in collagen and elastin (a type of protein found in connective tissue) to your diet can help increase collagen quickly and easily. So what foods restore collagen? Here are a few of the top collagen-rich foods that you can add to your diet:
1. Bone Broth
Made by simmering the bones, tendons, ligaments and skin over a period of several days, bone broth is a great source of collagen, along with several important amino acids. Bone broth is also available in powder, bar or even capsule form for an easy collagen food supplement to add to your routine.
This type of algae is a great plant-based source of amino acids like glycine, which is a key component of collagen. Spirulina can be found in dried form at most health food stores and makes a great addition to green smoothies, desserts or juices.
3. Cod Fish
Like most other types of white fish, cod fish is jam-packed with amino acids, such as glycine and proline. It’s also high in essential nutrients, such as selenium, vitamin B6 and phosphorus. However, be sure to opt for Alaskan cod over Atlantic cod, which is a species that is overfished and considered less sustainable.
Eggs and egg whites, in particular, are some of the top collagen foods thanks to their content of the amino acids that make up collagen, including glycine and proline. Using the whole egg instead of just the egg whites can also supply a steady stream of healthy fats and high-quality protein.
Gelatin is a type of protein derived from collagen, which is why it’s considered one of the top collagen-rich foods available. Gelatin can be used in cooking and mixed into soups, stews or broths to bump up the nutritional value of your meal. Gelatin supplements are also widely available in sheet, granule or powder form.
Top Collagen-Building Foods
In addition to eating a good variety of foods with collagen, you can also boost collagen production by incorporating a few collagen-producing foods in your diet. So what foods help produce collagen? Here are a few of the best collagen-rich foods that you can add to your daily routine:
1. Leafy Green Vegetables
Loaded with vitamin C, leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and arugula are some of the top foods that promote collagen synthesis in the body. Not only does vitamin C act as an antioxidant to protect against free radical damage, but it is also required for the production of type I collagen, which is the most abundant form of collagen in the body.
2. Pumpkin Seeds
Pumpkin seeds are incredibly nutrient-dense, securing them a slot as one of the best collagen-boosting foods. Pumpkin seeds also contain around 19 percent of the recommended daily value for zinc in a single serving, which an important mineral that is integral to collagen synthesis, along with immune function, wound healing and cell growth.
Besides being a stellar source of vitamin C, strawberries are considered among the top collagen-building foods because they contain ellagic acid, a type of antioxidant that has been shown to protect against the degradation of collagen. Other berries like blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are also rich in this essential antioxidant.
4. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits, such as lemon, limes, oranges and grapefruit, are highly nutritious. These fruits are especially high in vitamin C, an important water-soluble vitamin that plays a central role in collagen production. Plus, they’re high in antioxidants, fiber and other micronutrients that help support overall health.
Garlic is one of the top herbs rich in collagen-boosting compounds, such as sulfur, which is thought to ramp up collagen synthesis in the body. Not only that, but garlic also makes a nutritious and delicious addition to nearly any dish, from soups to sauces to salad dressing and beyond.
Sample Plan to Boost Your Overall Collagen
Ready to include a few foods high in collagen and collagen-boosting foods in your daily routine? Here is a three-day sample day meal plan loaded with collagen-rich foods to help get you going:
- Breakfast: Smoothie with spirulina, gelatin, berries and almond milk
- Lunch: Thai coconut chicken soup
- Dinner: Lemon baked Alaskan cod with roasted broccoli and brown rice
- Snacks: Roasted pumpkin seeds and hard-boiled eggs
- Breakfast: Greek yogurt with sliced strawberries and chia seeds
- Lunch: Spinach and strawberry salad with grilled chicken
- Dinner: Zucchini noodles with pumpkin seed pesto and turkey side salad
- Snacks: Protein peanut butter fudge and sliced oranges
- Breakfast: Veggie omelet
- Lunch: Herb and citrus roasted chicken with Brussels sprouts and quinoa
- Dinner: Slow cooker chili with grass-fed beef, bone broth and veggies
- Snacks: Lemon garlic kale chips and fruit salad