Shavonne Morrison, MS, RD, LD, shares the best high-collagen foods to add to your diet and a high-quality collagen supplement. Plus, she breaks down additional collagen-boosting foods that can help support healthy skin, hair, and joints by increasing your body’s natural collagen production.
Looking to take care of not only your bones but also your skin and hair? One of the answers is collagen (the main structural protein in the body’s connective tissues). Of course, you likely have already heard of collagen: Collagen supplements have grown in popularity over the recent years. You may have seen them popping up at your local grocery store or favorite beauty retailer—but did you know that you can also eat collagen-rich foods?
If you’re not into bone broth, arguably the most well-known high-collagen food, no worries. You can also find other collagen-rich foods, like fish and some plant-based foods, and there are foods that indirectly boost collagen production, too.
Before we get to specific collagen-rich foods, let’s first discuss what collagen is and what it’s good for.
What Is Collagen?
As mentioned above, collagen is a protein abundant in the body. One of its main functions is to aid the largest organ in your body: your skin.
However, it’s also found in joints and ligaments, as it contributes to their elasticity. This elasticity is important for you to be able to move comfortably and have flexibility.
As we age, collagen production naturally decreases, which can lead to:
- Dull skin
- Less flexibility
Research has found that collagen production in the skin in those over the age of 80 is decreased by around 75 percent in comparison to young adults between the ages of 18-29. It’s thought that collagen begins to decline by the time you reach your 30s.
What Is Collagen Good For?
While getting enough collagen is just one way to reduce the effects of aging, it’s an important one to keep in mind.
In fact, a recent 2022 study states that getting enough collagen in your diet can delay skin aging and promote joint health. This applies long-term as well, so prevention is key when it comes to maintaining these facets of health and beauty.
Other studies cite similar data: One states that getting enough collagen enhances facial skin moisture and elasticity. It also notes improvements in wrinkles and skin texture.Another study specifically examining collagen supplements presents similar results. After just 12 weeks, participants had improvements in skin elasticity, hydration, and wrinkles.
How To Boost Collagen Production Through Diet
In terms of nutrition, there are two primary factors involved in increasing collagen in your body:
- Consistently eating high-collagen foods
- Consuming foods that promote collagen synthesis
If you want firm, supple skin and healthy joints, read on about collagen-rich foods for joints so you can integrate them into your diet.
The Top 5 Collagen-Rich Foods
Collagen is abundant in animal products since it’s part of an animal’s connective tissues. However, some plants contain collagen, as well. That said, here are the best naturally high-collagen foods.
1. Bone Broth
By far, one of the richest sources of collagen protein is bone broth.
Typically, bone broth is made by taking—well, bones—and cooking them in water for several hours. In doing so, nutrients including glycine and collagen are extracted from the bones. The bones are then removed, leaving you with a nutrient-dense broth high in collagen.
You can use bone broth in place of standard broth in soups and stews to boost the nutrient content (bone broth is a great immune-boosting soup ingredient). You can also enjoy it solo, sipped as a hot beverage.
Bonus: Bone broth has tremendous anti-inflammatory benefits for gut health, as well!
You probably know that eggs are high in protein. However, what you may not know is that egg whites are particularly high in the amino acids glycine and proline, both of which are necessary to create collagen in the body.
Consuming eggs regularly can provide your body with the building blocks of collagen. So however you enjoy your eggs, know that they’re contributing to your healthy glow!
Meats—especially red meats including beef, pork, and lamb—are among the best high-collagen foods.
These animals have lots of connective tissue that requires collagen for the same reason humans have it: It helps them move their muscles properly. (Fun fact: Tougher cuts of meat are tough because they have more collagen in them.)
Including these foods that are high in collagen in your diet can help improve your collagen levels. If you’re concerned that the collagen itself is “cooking out,” we’re here to help. Collagen actually turns into gelatin when it’s heated. Plus, the meat still contains the amino acids necessary for your body to create collagen, so don’t worry!
Another collagen-rich food? Fish. Like other animal products, fish has connective tissues and bones that contain collagen.
Marine collagen peptides (MCPs) come from fish skin and scales. Research shows that fish collagen has similar benefits to beef collagen in terms of its pro-aging benefits. Interestingly, some sources say that collagen from fish absorbs better than that from meat.
Those who are eco-conscious may also be pleased to know that this type of collagen may be better for the environment. That’s because using fish skin and scales to produce marine collagen can reduce overall waste and pollution.
Another food with collagen to know: Spirulina. In fact, a less-commonly consumed source of gelatin is the algae spirulina.
Spirulina is a good source of plant-based protein, which means it also contains amino acids. Which amino acids, you ask? You guessed it: Glycine and proline, which (as we learned above) make up collagen. Spirulina is available in powder or capsule form.
Other Collagen-Boosting Foods
Eating foods that are naturally high in collagen is great—but that doesn’t have to be your only plan of attack. You can support your body’s natural process of creating it by consuming foods that boost collagen levels.
Collagen production starts by combining a few key nutrients to make procollagen:
- Vitamin C
Eating these important nutrients will increase the collagen your body makes. Zinc also supports collagen function by acting like a primer for collagen production (it signals bone cells to create collagen and activates a protein that helps enhance collagen’s wound-healing functions), so load up on high-zinc foods, too! These are the best foods to collagen production:
Foods High In Vitamin C
- Bell pepper
Foods High In Proline and Glycine
- Pumpkin seeds
Foods High In Zinc
- Lean meats
- Soy products
- Nuts and seeds
Benefits of Taking Collagen Supplements
It’s always important to aim to get specific nutrients from whole foods. This ensures you reap all the nutritious benefits these foods have to offer. However, many find it convenient to take high-collagen supplements to make sure they meet their health and wellness goals. This can be beneficial if you’re vegan and don’t eat eggs or meats high in collagen, but it can also be important for anyone’s diet, particularly as you age. Studies have found that your body’s collagen levels decrease by about 1 percent each year after age 40.
Enter: high-quality, collagen-rich supplements.
If you want to give your body a boost, try HUM’s Collagen Love. It contains collagen peptides (sourced from grass-fed, pasture-raised beef) to support skin structure, increasing firmness and elasticity. It also contains vitamin C, which helps to fight skin-damaging free radicals and keep signs of aging at bay. Additionally, the supplement contains hyaluronic acid, which increases moisture retention for smooth, soft, and glowing skin.
Ready to go collagen crazy? Products such as HUM’s Collagen Pop are a fun way to boost your beauty routine and help you get enough collagen. Plus, it packs the powerful antioxidant vitamin C, which not only increases collagen synthesis, but also combats free radical damage from sun exposure. All said, it’s a win-win for your skin.
Consuming the best high-collagen foods—along with foods that boost collagen production—will give your body all of the tools it needs to create high-quality collagen.
From there, if you’d like to ensure that you’re reaping all of the benefits of collagen on a consistent basis, consider supplementing your diet.
With these insights in mind, you can be proactive about the health of your skin—as well as your joints—for years to come. Go ahead and fill your plate up with collagen-rich foods. Your body will thank you.