If you’ve ever looked into supplements that are aimed to boost your hair, skin, and nails, you’ve likely heard of collagen. This protein is found in animal connective tissue, and it’s a building block for skin, hair, muscles, bones, and more. Those who are looking to improve their skin’s appearance or get thicker hair often turn to collagen supplements to help boost the production of this essential protein.
“Collagen benefits are striking because this protein is what helps give our skin strength and elasticity, along with replacing dead skin cells,” says Registered Dietitian Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN. “When it comes to our joints and tendons, in simplest terms, it’s the ‘glue’ that helps hold the body together.”
But, taking collagen in powder form isn’t the only way to reap its benefits—you can turn to your diet to get more of the protein, as well. Our bodies can make collagen naturally out of the food we eat, and eating a balanced diet can help ensure that you’re getting the nutrients your body needs in order to form collagen. “Collagen is made up of amino acids, the building blocks of protein, such as glycine, proline, and lysine, which are needed to repair muscles, bone, and joints, and support healthy hair and skin,” says Aguirre.
Your body’s production of collagen declines as you age, which is what’s responsible for wrinkles, sagging skin, and joint pain. And, if you’re someone who likes to work out, especially on the Aaptiv app, you’ll want to protect both your joints and muscles. Thankfully, proper nutrition can help ensure that your collagen production stays steady. Here are six foods that can naturally boost your collagen levels.
Bone broth is a nutritious liquid containing brewed bones, cartilage, and connective tissue. “Since collagen is found in bones, bone broth is a good source of it,” says Registered Dietitian Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. “It’s made from boiling down animal bones, which contain ample amounts of collagen.” Since bone broth contains gelatin, which may break down into collagen in the body, it may help protect joints from stress.
Meat and Other High-Protein Foods
“Collagen is a protein, meaning [that] it’s made up of different amino acids,” says Registered Dietitian Carrie Walder, MS, RD. “In order to create collagen, we need to make sure [that] we’re getting in these amino acids by eating a variety of protein-rich foods.” Since collagen is found in animal tissue, eating meat is a great way to get it in your diet, says Rizzo. Other protein-rich foods include: poultry, seafood, eggs, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
Citrus, Leafy Greens, and Other Vitamin C-Rich Foods
Vitamin C plays a critical role in collagen production, so any food that’s high in the nutrient can help boost levels of the protein. Citrus fruits are known for their vitamin C, so including those in your diet can help with collagen production. Other vitamin C-rich foods include: bell peppers, berries, tomatoes, broccoli, guava, and cherries. “Leafy greens like kale, swiss chard, and spinach are [also] really rich in vitamin C,” says Rizzo.
Oysters and Other Zinc-Rich Foods
“Zinc is another nutrient that is needed for collagen production, and oysters are one of the richest sources of zinc,” says Rizzo. They are also particularly rich in the mineral copper, which also plays a role in collagen synthesis. Other foods rich in zinc and copper include: cashews, almonds, and meat.
Plant-Based Foods, Like Nuts and Grains
Although meat contains the protein needed for collagen, many plant-based foods are necessary for making the protein, as well. Like zinc and copper, silicon is a mineral needed for collagen production, and it is abundant especially in plant-based foods. “Silicon-rich foods include foods like oats, whole wheat, nuts, root vegetables, seafood, and organ meats,” says Aguirre. Additionally, threonine is another amino acid needed for collagen production that is also commonly found in plant-foods. “Foods rich in threonine include: lentils, peanuts, chickpeas, beans, and asparagus,” she says.
Like meat, dairy is high in certain proteins essential for collagen stimulation. Certain dairy products contain both the amino acids lysine and proline, which both help to form collagen. “Proline, the amino acid, is found in cheese, beef, soy protein, cabbage, yogurt, asparagus, bamboo shoots, seaweed, mushrooms, sunflower seeds, and more,” says Aguirre. “Lysine-rich foods are found abundantly in animal proteins and dairy. Lysine is also found in plant-based sources like avocados, apricots, mangoes, tomatoes, potatoes, pears, peppers, leeks, beets, legumes, soy, pumpkin seeds, cashews, pistachios, and grains like quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat.”
Eating a well-balanced, protein-rich diet can help ensure that your body is producing enough collagen. Part of optimizing your workouts on the Aaptiv app involves eating a balanced diet, including collagen-boosting foods that can strengthen your joints and improve your skin, hair, and nails.