Collagen-boosting foods

By Jill Levy

Collagen is an important type of protein containing 19 different amino acids, including some that many of us don’t get enough of. 

Although supplementation is widely available — such as our Multi Collagen Protein powder or Multi Collagen Capsules — making an effort to also include a few servings of protein-rich foods and collagen-boosting foods in your diet can also help to optimize your levels. This in turn can provide support for joint health, skin health, gut health and much more.

How can you get collagen naturally, and what foods have collagen? Let’s take a closer look at a few of the best collagen-boosting foods, plus ideas for how you can add them to your diet. 

Why Your Body Needs More Collagen

Collagen is a protein found in abundance throughout the body. Often considered the glue that holds the body together, collagen benefits including supporting the skin’s texture and elasticity, keeping your joints moving smoothly, and much more.

As you get older, however, collagen production naturally starts to diminish, which can directly affect skin, joints, nails, hair, the gut and more. 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 help boost the building blocks of collagen levels, while consuming a variety of foods that contain collagen is another option to support your body’s own collagen production.

Whether with foods, collagen supplements or a combination of both, increasing your intake of collagen can help in these areas:

  • Supports a healthy gut and impacts gut lining integrity
  • Supports the health of your joints, tendons and connective tissue, impacting comfort and mobility
  • Helps promote healthy hair, nails and skin, including skin elasticity
  • Can assist in building muscle
  • Supports the health of the heart and blood vessels

Top Collagen-Building Foods

Collagen is made up of amino acids that your body has to absorb in order to benefit from. Adding a few foods to your diet that are high in amino acids that form collagen and elastin (a type of protein found in connective tissue) can help support your body’s natural production of collagen.

Emphasizing a nutrient-dense diet that includes lots of antioxidants and vitamin C— such as from fresh vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices — is also helpful for maintaining higher collagen levels. 

Vitamin C is particularly valuable for supporting collagen levels since not only does it act as an antioxidant, but it is also required for the production of type I collagen, which is the most abundant form of collagen in the body. 

Nutrients including zinc, manganese and copper are also supportive of collagen production.

Finally, consuming enough quality protein-rich foods and healthy fats also plays a role in supporting collagen synthesis. 

Here are a few of the top collagen-rich and collagen-boosting foods that you can add to your diet:

1. Bone Broth

Bone broth is one of the few foods/beverages we consume that actually has collagen in it. It’s available in powder, bar or even capsule form and is an easy collagen food supplement as well a source of other nutrients and beneficial compounds.

2. Spirulina 

This algae is a great plant-based source of amino acids like glycine, which is a key component of collagen. Use the dried form in green smoothies, desserts or juices.

3. Alaskan Cod Fish

Cod is packed with amino acids, such as glycine and proline, as well as selenium, vitamin B6 and phosphorus. Other wild-caught fish like salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are all excellent sources of not only protein but also sulfur, omega-3s and other compounds that support overall health.

4. Eggs

Eggs and egg whites are some of the top collagen foods thanks to their content of the amino acids that make up collagen, including glycine and proline.

5. Gelatin

This is a type of protein derived from collagen. Use it in soups, stews or broths to bump up the nutritional value.

6. Leafy Green Vegetables

Since they’re great sources of healthy inflammation-supporting compounds, antioxidants and vitamin C, leafy green vegetables like spinach, kale and arugula are some of the top foods that promote collagen synthesis in the body.

Other beneficial veggies include Brussel sprouts, cabbage, mushrooms, carrots, butternut squash, sweet potatoes, onions, tomatoes and bell peppers.

7. Pumpkin Seeds

These seeds also contain around 19 percent of the recommended daily value for zinc in a single serving, a mineral that is integral to collagen synthesis. 

8. Berries

Berries (such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, elderberries, cranberries, acai and goji berries) are rich in vitamin C, as well as anthocyanins, ellagic acid and other antioxidants that can support healthy levels of collagen. 

9. Citrus Fruits

Citrus fruits, such as lemon, limes, oranges and grapefruit provide vitamin C, antioxidants, fiber and other micronutrients that help support overall health.

Cherries, grapes, avocados, kiwi, apples and pineapple are other fruits to seek out to help make your diet generally more nutrient-dense.

10. Garlic

Garlic is rich in sulfur, which is thought to ramp up collagen synthesis in the body. Onions, leeks, chives and shallots are also good additions to your diet to boost your flavonoid antioxidant and organosulfur compound intake.

11. Fermented foods

Probiotic-containing fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, apple cider vinegar and sauerkraut support the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut, which is important for a healthy immune response and maintenance of healthy cells/tissues throughout your body. 

Related: Benefits of Fermentation for Gut and Immune Health

12. Herbs and Spices

Fresh and dried herbs and spices such as turmeric, ginger, clove, cinnamon, rosemary, parsley, thyme, oregano and others are supportive of healthy immune system function, gut function and digestive health.

Meal Plan to Boost Your Overall Collagen

Ready to include more collagen-boosting foods in your daily routine? Here’s a three-day sample day meal plan loaded with collagen-boosting foods to help get you going:

Day One:

  • Breakfast: Smoothie with spirulina, gelatin, berries and almond milk
  • Lunch: Thai coconut chicken soup made with bone broth, garlic, spices and herbs
  • Dinner: Lemon baked Alaskan cod with roasted broccoli, wilted greens and brown rice
  • Snacks: Roasted pumpkin seeds and hard-boiled eggs

Day Two:

  • 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

Day Three:

  • Breakfast: Veggie omelet with greens and garlic
  • 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 citrus fruit salad

In addition to getting collagen from your diet, supplementing can be a convenient option for increasing your intake. An added benefit from supplementing with collagen is that you’ll obtain multiple types of collagen from several sources, such as beef, chicken, fish and egg shell membranes.

Ancient Nutrition’s Multi Collagen Protein powder is made from four real food ingredients and zero weird chemicals, artificial ingredients, sweeteners or flavors. We proudly source our collagen from non-GMO, pasture-raised, cage-free and cruelty-free sources.

It's also hydrolyzed collagen, meaning it has already been partially broken down, so the critical amino acids are typically easier to absorb.

Final Thoughts

  • Collagen supplements, such as collagen powders and capsules, are a convenient way to increase your collagen and protein intake. But your diet is also important for providing you with amino acids that your body uses to make its own collagen.
  • Foods that provide you with amino acids like proline, glycine and arginine — the kinds found in high amounts in collagen — include bone broth, eggs, cod fish, spirulina and gelatin.
  • Certain “collagen-boosting foods” that are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C also help to support collagen levels. Some of the best include berries, leafy greens, citrus fruits, garlic, pumpkin seeds and herbs/ spices.
Jill Levy has been with the Dr. Axe and Ancient Nutrition team for five years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Psychology from Fairfield University, followed by a certification as a Holistic Health Coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Jill takes a “non-diet” approach to health and really enjoys teaching others about mindful eating, intuitive eating and the benefits of eating real foods.

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