Collagen-rich and collagen-boosting foods

by Hannah de Gruchy November 03, 2021

Collagen-rich and collagen-boosting foods

Collagen is an important protein in the human body that plays a structural role in the skin, blood vessels, connective tissues, joints and bones. In fact, it’s the most abundant protein in the human body, accounting for around 30% of our total protein.

Collagen fluidThis abundant protein helps to keep our ligaments, tendons, muscles and bones healthy and strong, as well as supporting plump, hydrated, youthful looking skin.

However, as we reach our mid-20s, our collagen levels decline, leading to common tell-tale signs of ageing such as fine lines, wrinkles, sagging skin as well as weakened bones and joints.

For this reason, many people turn to natural ways of boosting collagen levels through their diet.

Collagen-rich foods: fast facts

  1. Collagen is responsible for youthful skin and healthily functioning joints and bones.
  2. As we age, our collagen levels naturally drop.
  3. Collagen levels can be supported by taking collagen supplements.
  4. Collagen levels can also be supported by eating different types of collagen-boosting and collagen-rich foods.
  5. Research supports the theory that collagen levels can be boosted by consuming certain foods, and studies into the topic continue.

Natural collagen vs collagen supplements

Natural collagen powders

Our collagen levels can be supported by eating a wide variety of different collagen-boosting and collagen-rich foods. However, in conjunction with this and as part of a healthy overall approach to diet and lifestyle, collagen supplements can also be beneficial.

Many collagen supplements are derived from animal sources, such as this award-winning, organic collagen powder made using bovine collagen from free-range, grass-fed Argentinian cows by Planet Paleo. Fish scales, fins and bones are also a good source of collagen, and the marine collagen powder by Planet Paleo is easy to digest and ethically and sustainably sourced.

New, innovative ways of developing non-animal derived, plant-based collagen supplements are being developed from algae that are suitable for vegans.

Collagen-boosting foods and collagen-rich foods

Supplements aside, our collagen levels can be boosted by the foods we eat in two different ways.

Collagen-boosting foods are foods that help the body produce its own by being rich in the nutrients the body needs to manufacture collagen.

Collagen-rich foods are foods that naturally contain collagen that when consumed help to directly boost our own levels.

Collagen-boosting foods and nutrients

MSM and vitamin C capsules

Vitamin C is one of the most beneficial nutrients required to boost collagen production. Therefore, consuming vitamin C rich foods such as berries, citrus fruits, peppers, broccoli, brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes will aid your body in producing its own.

If you think your diet may be lacking in vitamin C rich foods, a vitamin C capsule can be used instead. These also contain Methylsulphonylmethane (MSM) that helps to improve absorption of the vitamin C.

The minerals zinc, manganese and copper support the production of collagen within the body. Animal products such as meat, shellfish and dairy are all rich in zinc. If you don’t eat animal products, make sure you’re eating plenty of plant-based zinc rich foods like nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and chickpeas. Zinc and vitamin C taken together act as a powerful combo for manufacturing collagen.

Nuts, green leafy vegetables and wholegrains are good sources of manganese while copper rich foods include nuts, shellfish and offal.

Finally, proteins are made up of amino acids, so a full spectrum amino acid supplement can also help support healthy collagen levels.

Collagen-rich foods

Bone broth - one of the richest sources of natural collagen is bone broth, made from slowly boiling the bones and connective tissues of animals. If you don’t have time to make your own Planet Paleo makes an organic bone broth using the bones of grass-fed Scandinavian cattle. 

Collagen-rich foodsChicken - If you’ve ever chopped up a raw chicken breast, then you may have noticed the thin strands of connective tissue within the meat. It’s these that make chicken a valuable source of natural collagen.

Fish and shellfish – a rich source of marine collagen, fish and shellfish make another healthy, low fat, collagen-boosting food. If you can, try to eat the skin of your favourite fish, as this is one of the most collagen-rich parts.

Eggs – specifically the white part, are also helpful for boosting collagen due to their high level of the amino acid proline.

You’ll notice that collagen-rich foods all come from animal sources. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, eating plant-based protein sources is important for good overall health and energy levels. But a wide variety of plant-based protein rich foods such as beans, pulses, nuts and quinoa will provide the full complement of amino acids required for collagen synthesis.

Things to consider when boosting collagen levels naturally

A varied diet, rich in fruits and vegetables along with lean protein sources is beneficial for our overall physical and mental health and wellbeing as well as supporting our collagen levels for healthy skin and joints.

However, this good work can be undone by eating a lot of highly-refined, high-sugar foods. Cakes, sweets and pastries along with refined carbohydrates such as white bread, pasta and rice can lead to inflammation.

boosting collagen levels

Long-term chronic inflammation can lead to a range of illnesses and diseases and it can also damage collagen levels. For this and for many reasons, these foods are best avoided or swapped for wholegrain, brown versions of bread, pasta and rice.

Also, some studies have found a potential link between stomach acid and the degradation of collagen, rendering collagen-rich foods and collagen supplements ineffective at boosting collagen levels within the body.

However, further studies have since found that taking collagen supplements can improve skin elasticity within four weeks and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles after 12 weeks of supplementation, suggesting that stomach acid degradation of collagen isn’t always an issue.

Therefore, if collagen levels, ageing skin and potentially weakened joints and bones are concerning you, boosting your collagen through diet and supplements could well be the answer you’re looking for.

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Collagen boosting foods

Hannah de Gruchy
Hannah de Gruchy


Health and wellness author and biologist specialised in sustainability, nutrition and eco-living.

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