You know how saying a word enough times in a row starts to not even sound like a real word anymore? That's kind of how collagen feels. We hear about it everywhere, but what is it, actually? And why do people want more of it?
"Collagen is one of the main components that make up our skin. The elasticity, or the ability of our skin to bounce back and look young, is in part related to collagen. It's not necessarily a 'more is better' situation; it's more of a 'having the right amount in the right places is better' situation," Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., MPH, RD, senior dietitian at UCLA Medical Center, explains.
In addition to helping our skin look more youthful, collagen can also help keep our gut lining healthy. "This aids in absorption of additional nutrients affecting our overall health," Taz Bhatia, Integrative Health Expert and author of Super Woman RX, says.
"Foods with collagen don't do anything to boost your collagen levels because you break down the collagen into basic proteins/amino acids, the building blocks for muscle," she explains. They're still good for you, but if you want to boost your collagen levels, you should eat foods that contain the nutrients your body uses to produce it. She says that foods containing fairly high amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, or zinc are particularly effective. "We use these nutrients for patients at the hospital who have pressure injuries and need to heal their skin," she says.
So, yeah, they're pretty effective. Keep reading to see 10 foods with collagen-boosting abilities.
When you think about citrus, one vitamin comes to mind: vitamin C. Fruits like grapefruit, lemon, and oranges have been long hailed for their large quantities of this vitamin. Vitamin C is a key component for your body to synthesize collagen.
Nuts and Hemp Seeds
Both of these are rich in healthy fats, but they have another superpower: helping your body create collagen. Hunnes recommends them because they contain high amounts of zinc, which has been shown in studies to aid your body in collagen production.
Bhatia recommends incorporating chicken into your diet if you want to assist your body in making collagen (and, by proxy, improving your skin). She explains that it's rich in certain non-essential amino acids that your body can use to increase the amount of collagen it produces. (Non-essential amino acids refers to the fact that our bodies are also able to produce them on their own, not that they're not essential to your health.)
The bright orange color of sweet potatoes comes from its high levels of beta-carotene, aka vitamin A, which Hunnes says is an essential nutrient for collagen creation in your body.
Yes, cooking it may temporarily stink up your apartment, but the benefits are worth it. Bhatia especially recommends wild salmon, which is packed with zinc. "Research has shown zinc helps to boost collagen production," she explains.
An excuse to order extra edamame next time we're at sushi (not that we needed it, but now it's more justifiable to our wallets): It's packed with zinc.
Get more bang for your collagen-boosting buck with yellow peppers. They're high in both vitamins A and C, which make them a good choice according to Hunnes.
Not only will the high amounts of vitamin C in strawberries help your body make more collagen, but they'll also act as an antioxidant and protect you from free radicals.
Squash is another veggie that's high in vitamin A, says Hunnes (and how timely because we're about to enter fall, and 'tis the season for everything squash).
Like chicken, beef contains those non-essential amino acids that aid in collagen production, Bhatia says.