Collagen is widely recognised as the “glue” that holds mammalian tissues together. It is the same compound touted to give the skin its elasticity and promote skin cell regeneration and is the hero that holds our skin, muscles, bones, cartilage, tendons, blood vessels, and organ tissues together.
The reason why the beauty industry is banking on collagen supplements and why people are snapping them up is because our natural collagen production slows down as we age, and we will increasingly rely on diet and making other lifestyle choices to keep up the supply.
Beyond just relying on our body’s manufacturing of collagen, lifestyle choices affect our production too.
A poor diet, prolonged unprotected exposure to the sun, excessive drinking and smoking, just to name a few unhealthy lifestyle choices, will decrease collagen production. In the case of UV exposure, prolonged periods under the sun or in the tanning bed actually causes collagen under the skin to deteriorate. As a result, signs of ageing can surface prematurely.
By eating the right foods, we can give ourselves an edge in the production of this vital nutrient.
Boost Collagen Production With These Foods
This hairy fruit is high in Vitamin C, which is needed to prime our bodies for collagen production. The vitamin works with glycine and proline to produce, hydroxyproline, an amino acid that holds up collagen’s structure.
One reason why berries are known as superfruits is that they are laden with vitamin C too. Beyond boosting your immunity and priming your collagen factories, it is also a potent antioxidant. It can guard against collagen deterioration caused by free radicals. Blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries (yes, we know strawberries are not berries) are great sources of antioxidants.
Almonds are a good source of vitamin E, an antioxidant abundantly available in our skin. Vitamin E helps to neutralise free radicals that damage collagen. Vitamin E also plays a useful role alongside its C cousin to encourage collagen production. Also, almonds are great for stocking up on copper that is required to make collagen fibrils.
Avocados, while not as rich in Vitamin E as almonds, are nonetheless an undeniably delicious source of the vitamin. This should make two wonderful excuses for you to order another serving of guacamole.
Carrots contain loads of vitamin A that is helpful for your body to repair damaged collagen and restore the supply. If becoming a rabbit is not your thing, go for sweet potatoes, apricots, squash and mangos. If that is too many to memorise, the rule of thumb is any fruit and vegetable that is orange in colour will do.
Next up on our health colour palate is dark green. Rich, dark green veggies like kale, spinach and broccoli are excellent sources of vitamins A, C, and E, which are all essential for the synthesis of collagen. In addition, the chlorophyll that they contain has been shown in studies to increase the amount of procollagen in our skin.
Who knew that sulphur, the same compound that makes your breath and your flatulence more pungent, enhances your body’s ability to manufacture collagen? Also, sulphur helps to prevent collagen fibres from breaking down.
This is one excuse for you to make repeated trips to the oyster bar. Rich in zinc, eating oysters can provide you with the essential mineral to stimulate collagen production and slow the breakdown of collagen. Zinc is also essential for forming new bone cells and structures. The benefits to skin and bone from eating oysters make this seafood a choice ingredient for outdoor sportspeople.
Seeds & Nuts
Pumpkin seeds are a lazy person’s nutritional cheat code. If you cannot find the time to cook collagen-boosting meals, or if you are simply not very inclined in the flavour department, just grab a handful of your favourite nut mix and sprinkle them on roasts, salads, breakfast yoghurt and cereals, or eat them as a snack. Most nuts and seeds are loaded with zinc, especially cashew nuts and pumpkin seeds.
Tomatoes contain ample amount of lycopene that shields our skin from UV damage and helps us repair damaged skin cells. As mentioned above, prolonged sun exposure, especially when unprotected, causes more damage to our skin collagen due to UV rays. Damaged skin and collagen deterioration lead to the onset of premature ageing signs such as wrinkles, fine lines, hyperpigmentation and thinning of the skin.
Collagen is abundant in mammals. After all, it is the “glue” that connects skin, organ, bone, and connective tissues together. But hold your horses at the buffet line, meat is not the most collagen-rich part of an animal. The parts with the densest amount of collagen are the connective tissues like tendons, cartilage, skin, ligaments and bones. The efficient way to draw out the collagen in them is to boil them in a soup or stew.