Foods High In Collagen

Foods High In Collagen
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Healthy Foods High in Collagens

Collagen is a protein that is essential to the health and function of connective tissues in your body. Connective tissues weave your different body parts — skin, bones, and organs — together and give your body shape. Without collagen, your body might look very different.

There are approximately 28 different types of collagen in the human body, but four are considered the most common. They are:

  • Type I collagen – forms fibers and is found in connective tissue associated with bones, ligaments, tendons, and skin
  • Type II collagen – forms fibers that are less organized than type I and is found mainly in cartilage
  • Type III collagen – forms thinner fibers than type I and contributes to cell organization in organs
  • Type IV collagen – found in the “basement membrane,” a sheet-like structure of collagen cells that surround different tissues

Our bodies create collagen by breaking down the protein we eat into amino acids, which are the building blocks from which our bodies can form new proteins.

You can get collagen through foods as well as dietary supplements. Research is ongoing as to the specific health benefits of collagen supplements versus food collagen. However, it’s clear that collagens add essential elements to your diet.

Why You Need Collagens

As you age, sustaining collagen levels becomes more difficult. This is particularly true for women who have already gone through menopause. This is because, over time, your body increasingly struggles to absorb adequate amounts of the nutrients needed to make collagen.

However, eating collagen-rich foods can help your body overcome some of this absorption problem. As a result, your body can stay stronger and healthier even as you get older.

Some of the main health benefits of collagens include:

Type I collagen is responsible for giving your skin a plump, youthful appearance. It is the core structure of the tissue.

Several studies have linked the consumption of collagen supplements to improved skin elasticity in women 35 years of age and older.

Bone Health

Bone mineral density tests measure bone strength and are used to help diagnose people with osteoporosis. A decreasing bone mineral density level can lead to an increased risk of bone fracture or worse bone breaks.

Research indicates that taking collagen peptide supplements can increase bone mineral density in women who have gone through menopause.

For older people experiencing muscle deterioration, collagen may help strengthen muscles. One study of 72 male participants showed that an exercise regimen combined with collagen supplements produced greater improvements than exercise alone.

Foods With Collagens

Foods rich in collagen come from animals. This includes chicken, fish, or cows. The following three foods contain high levels of collagen:

1. Bone Broth

Bone broth is made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue for an extended period of time. The process extracts collagen from the bones and skin and places it into the broth. Common animals used to make bone broth include chickens, cows, turkeys, and deer (venison).

2. Fish With the Skin On

Fish are an excellent source of collagen from food, as long as you leave the skin on. That’s because much of the collagen found in fish is stored in the skin. Other benefits of fish include omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D.

3. Chicken

If you’ve ever prepared a whole chicken, you know there’s quite a bit of connective tissue in the meat. This makes chicken a good option for adding more collagen to your diet. Chicken feet in particular — while not a common food in some parts of the world — are a good source of collagen.

Fruits and Vegetables

For vegetarians and vegans, consider eating foods high in vitamin C. Eating foods rich in this nutrient encourages the body to make its own collagen and keep you healthy and strong.

Examples of foods with high amounts of vitamin C include fruits such as papaya, or citrus, and vegetables like broccoli, leafy greens, and cauliflower.

Show Sources

British Journal of Nutrition: “Collagen peptide supplementation in combination with resistance training improves body composition and increases muscle strength in elderly sarcopenic men: a randomised controlled trial.”

Cedars Sinai: “Collagen for Your Skin: Healthy or Hype?”

Cleveland Clinic: “The Best Way You Can Get More Collagen.”

Cleveland Clinic: “Bone Broth: How to Make It — and Why You Should.”

Dr. Axe: “Chicken Collagen Benefits Digestion, Immunity & Skin Health.”

Encyclopedia of Respiratory Medicine: “EXTRACELLULAR MATRIX | Collagens.”

Marine Drugs: “Effect of Fish Collagen Hydrolysates on Type I Collagen mRNA Levels of Human Dermal Fibroblast Culture.”

Nutrients: “A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind Study.”

Nutrients: “Specific Collagen Peptides Improve Bone Mineral Density and Bone Markers in Postmenopausal Women—A Randomized Controlled Study.”

Skin Pharmacology and Physiology: “Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study.”

The Best Collagen-Rich Foods

Collagen isn’t just for wrinkles anymore. The trend has spread from cosmetic injections to products you see every day on grocery and drugstore shelves. Food, skin creams, pills and powders all tout collagen as the way to a healthy, vibrant body.

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But are these collagen-rich products worth your money — or even necessary?

“Your body has been making collagen your whole life,” says Elizabeth Bradley, MD, Medical Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine. “Products to boost your collagen levels may be helpful, but you first need to consider if your body needs more.”

When collagen levels drop

Collagen is a protein — the most plentiful protein in your body. It’s in your muscles, bones, tendons, ligaments, organs, blood vessels, skin, intestinal lining and other connective tissues.

While you can’t measure your collagen level, you can tell when it’s falling. Collagen decreases as you get older, contributing to:

  • Wrinkles and crepey skin.
  • Stiffer, less flexible tendons and ligaments.
  • Shrinking, weakening muscles.
  • Joint pain or osteoarthritis due to worn cartilage.
  • Gastrointestinal problems due to thinning of the lining in your digestive tract.

Foods that can help boost collagen production

“Aside from aging, the top reason people don’t have enough collagen is poor diet,” Dr. Bradley says. “Your body can’t make collagen if it doesn’t have the necessary elements.”

Start by having healthy servings of foods packed with protein, vitamins and minerals.

Bone broth

Dr. Bradley says her favorite collagen-boosting brew is bone broth.

Bone broth draws collagen out of beef, chicken or fish bones, leaving a flavorful liquid that you can drink straight up or use in other dishes. Most bone broth recipes require slowly simmering bones in water — on the stove or in a crockpot — for one or two days.

You can buy it in grocery stores or make it yourself. “I recommend buying only organic bone broth, or cooking broth from the bones of only organically raised animals,” Dr. Bradley says. “You don’t want the residue of pesticides, antibiotics and other contaminants in your broth.”

Protein-rich foods

When your body makes collagen, it combines amino acids — nutrients you get from eating protein-rich foods.

Foods packed full of proteins include:

  • Beef.
  • Chicken.
  • Fish.
  • Beans.
  • Eggs.
  • Dairy products (milk, cheese).

Foods rich in vitamin C

Making collagen also requires vitamin C. You can get vitamin C by eating fruits and veggies, including:

  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits).
  • Red and green peppers.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables (broccoli, kale, Brussels sprouts).

Foods rich in zinc and cooper

Your body also needs zinc and copper. These minerals are found in:

  • Meats.
  • Shellfish.
  • Nuts.
  • Whole grains.
  • Beans.

Should I try a collagen supplement?

“As you age, however, your body may no longer absorb nutrients as well or synthesize them as efficiently,” Dr. Bradley notes. “To make sure your body has enough ingredients to make collagen, you may need to change what you eat or take dietary supplements.”

If you’re eating a healthy diet and feeding your body all the nutrients it needs to make collagen, you probably don’t need a supplement, Dr. Bradley says.

But if you do want to try a collagen supplement, ask your doctor first. A promising 2019 systematic review found that oral collagen supplements could help heal wounds and with keeping skin elastic, but more research was needed on the best dosage to take.

At any rate, hydrolyzed collagen (or “collagen peptide”) powder usually has no flavor and dissolves easily in beverages, smoothies, soups and sauces.

As for skin cream with synthetic collagen, it may work. It will add a film-like layer to your skin to reduce water loss and act as a barrier from environmental elements.

But using skin cream is probably not as effective as healthy eating — and protecting your skin from excessive sun exposure and sunburns, especially early in life, Dr. Bradley states.

“Your skin is your body’s largest organ,” she says. “The same way you nourish collagen stores throughout your body will nourish your skin, too.”

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy