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Collagen Boosting Foods [From Plants and Animals]

Collagen is important to you, but you don’t necessarily want to take a collagen supplement. Maybe you are following a vegan lifestyle, and don’t want animal-based products. How can you eat more collagen boosting foods?

In this article you will learn the best foods to increase your collagen, whether you eat meat, fish, or a strictly plant-based diet. 

Let’s get started.

Collagen from Animal Products

Collagen comes from animal products. This is because animals form collagen in their bodies, and if you eat that animal you get the benefit of their collagen.

Here are some animal products that can boost your collagen intake:

  • Bone broth
  • Chicken skin
  • Cook with gelatin
  • Small, whole fish, such as sardines or herring
  • Organ meats such as liver and kidneys

Collagen Boosting Foods from Plants

Plants do not form collagen. If you eat only plant-based foods, you don’t get any preformed collagen in your diet. 

However, you can still boost your collagen production by eating certain nutrients.

Amino Acids

Like all proteins, collagen is made up of long chains of amino acids. It contains high amounts of specific amino acids like glycine, proline, hydroxyproline and lysine. Most of these amino acids you can make in your body, with the exception of lysine.

Lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning you need to get it from foods. Lysine strengthens the crosslinks between collagen molecules that build out their fibers (1). 

Every third amino acid in the collagen molecule is glycine. You can make glycine in your body and/or get it from foods (2).

Nearly a quarter of the amino acids in collagen are proline. You can make proline in your body and/or get it from foods (2).

Most of your body’s store of hydroxyproline is found in your collagen. Plants are a poor source of hydroxyproline, because like collagen, it is mostly made in the tissues of animals. The good news is that you can synthesize your own hydroxyproline. This requires the amino acid proline, plus iron, vitamin C and oxygen (2).

Here are some amino acids your body needs to produce collagen (3, 2):

NutrientPlant Food Sources
Glycine

almonds, peanuts, amaranth, soy products, sprouted mung beans, green split peas, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, lentils and buckwheat.
Proline

soybean products, wheat, barley, triticale, almond butter, all sorts of beans, millet, peanuts, oats
Hydroxyproline

There are no good plant sources of hydroxyproline. Alfalfa sprouts contain some hydroxyproline, but in such small quantities that it would not be practical to use it as a dietary source.
Lysine
pea protein, lentils, split peas, soy products, amaranth, nutritional yeast, hemp seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, pistachios, walnuts

Vitamin C

You need vitamin C to convert proline to hydroxyproline, an important step in building a collagen molecule. Vitamin C also is involved in reactions that fold the collagen molecule into it’s trademark triple helix shape (4).   

Here are some good plant-based sources of vitamin C:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Papaya
  • Bell peppers
  • Strawberries
  • Camu camu
  • Guava
  • Kiwi
  • Tomatoes
  • Mustard Greens
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts

Minerals

Zinc, copper and sulfur are three of the minerals that are important for collagen production. Here are some ways to get these minerals from foods (3).  

NutrientPlant Food Sources
zincpumpkin seeds, sunflowers seeds, cashew, lentils, peanuts, dark chocolate, teff, soy products, shiitake mushrooms, pine nuts, pecans, almonds, wheat, quinoa
copperspirulina, shiitake mushrooms, almonds, cashew, sesame seeds, Swiss chard, dark chocolate
sulfuronion, garlic, mushrooms, beans and legumes, kale, shallots, scallions, broccoli, cabbage, other cruciferous vegetables

Learn more about how to get enough zinc on a vegan diet.  

Putting it all together

Does it just seem complicated to fit all of these foods into your meals? It’s easier than it sounds, when you eat a variety of different plant-based foods.

Here are some main categories of collagen boosting foods to eat each day:

  • Beans and legumes provide sulfur, zinc, and most of the amino acids you need for collagen production.
  • Nuts and seeds provide zinc, copper and amino acids.
  • Whole grains provide zinc, copper and amino acids.
  • If you eat at least 5 different vegetables and a fruit every day, you are likely filling your need for vitamin C.
  • Try to eat a sulfur rich food every day from the list above.

The key is variety. Eating a lot of different types of fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and legumes gives you a different range of nutrients, and more complete nutrition.

What other foods are good for your bones? Get my freebie 7 Superfoods to Strengthen Your Bones. Just click on the link below!

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