10 Natural Foods High in Collagen for the Skin, Hair, and Joints

This article is based on scientific evidence

Since the hype about collagen as a dietary supplement increases, here are the best foods high in collagen as a natural alternative.

Not only are natural foods cheaper than expensive collagen supplements, but they are often accompanied by nutrients that give your collagen production an extra boost.

What Foods Are High in Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body (Stefanovic 20131).

It‘s an essential building block for teeth, joints, connective tissue, skin, hair, and bones. In short, collagen is the substance that holds the body together.

Accordingly, it gives strength to bones and muscles and alleviates skin aging.

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What Do Collagen-Rich Foods Do?

This powerful protein helps maintain essential body functions. Accordingly, collagen supports the body in building up the following regions:

  • Skin: Collagen can slow down skin aging and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Accordingly, a study shows that people who took collagen preparations for eight weeks were able to significantly improve the elasticity of their skin (Proksch et al. 20142).
  • Muscles and joints: Collagen has a positive effect on bones, muscles, and joints. It increases the elasticity and mobility of the connective tissue and thus prevents brittleness. It also relieves joint pain and makes bones stronger (Clark et al. 20083).
  • Intestine: Special amino acids in collagen, help to maintain the barrier function of the intestine by promoting the renewal of the intestinal wall (Rao et al. 20124).
  • Cartilage and tissue: Since arthritis is a disease characterized by the breakdown of cartilage and connective tissue, collagen can naturally counteract it (Bagchi et al. 20025).

How Can Foods Help With Collagen Production?

Two types of food can increase collagen production in the body:

  • Foods that are natural sources of collagen
  • Food containing nutrients that increase collagen production

First, collagen-rich foods such as fish, meat, chicken, eggs, and dairy products can help build collagen in the body.

Second, you can increase collagen production by eating the following foods with collagen-enhancing nutrients:

  • Copper
  • Zinc
  • vitamin C

These nutrients act together on the connective tissue and make the collagen strong and elastic.

Therefore, the consumption of foods containing one or more of these nutrients helps to increase collagen production.

How Much Foods Should I Eat That Are High in Collagen?

Since there is no consistent scientific opinion on the topic, and the amount depends heavily on the person’s physical condition, I have to state my personal view.

And this is more about ensuring all collagen-promoting aspects than a certain amount of collagen per day.

Therefore, it makes sense to include copper, zinc, vitamin C, essential amino acids, and omega-3 fatty acids in the diet, in addition to foods high in collagen.

Best Natural Foods High in Collagen

Since it occurs naturally in bones, skin and other tissues of living organisms, the following foods are rich in collagen:

  • Bone Broth
  • Bone marrow
  • Fish with skin
  • Chicken with skin
  • Eggs
  • Gelatine
  • Spirulina

Here are the details of these collagen-rich foods:

1. Bone Broth

Not only is bone broth an excellent source of electrolytes, but it‘s also one of the easiest ways to get more collagen into your diet.

Because animal bones and connective tissue are rich in collagen, it gels when cooked for several hours so it can be easily absorbed.

If the bone broth has a jelly-like texture, this is a sign that it is full of high-quality collagen. Bone stock is also a good source of magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin K.

After you can simply freeze the bone broth, it is easy to cook a large portion that will keep for weeks.

Bone marrow and bone broth are natural foods high in collagen

2. Bone Marrow

Bone marrow is the fibrous tissue inside the bones. Therefore, it‘s one of the best sources of collagen, healthy fat, and B vitamins.

Either you add the marrow bones to your bone broth to make it more collagenous, or you roast the bones to eat the pure bone marrow.

Since the demand is not high, marrow bones are a cheap way to add more collagen to your diet.

The best thing to do is to ask your local butcher if he has marrow bones from grazing cattle.

3. Gelatine

Gelatine is also obtained from the connective tissue of cattle or pork. Therefore, gelatine is a natural source of collagen, which you can add to a wide variety of meals.

Furthermore, gelatine is a keto-friendly baking ingredient. Hence it’s a cooking staple on my low carb food list.

4. Fish With Skin

Similar to chicken, fish is also rich in collagen.

If you fry the fish in a tube or pan on the skin side, you can increase the collagen intake.

According to studies, collagen from fish, in particular, is good for the human skin (Chai et al. 20106).

To further increase collagen production, try using wild-caught fatty fish such as mackerel or salmon. Since omega-3 fatty acids from fish promote collagen formation, that’s a successful strategy (Hankenson et al. 20007).

Furthermore, the omega-3 fatty acids EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) in seafood boost fat burning and stop fat accumulation (Mater et al. 19998).

5. Chicken With Skin

Chicken skin an excellent natural source of collagen. Also, chicken meat contains essential amino acids that the body needs to boost collagen production (Leon-Lopez et al. 20199).

If you need it quickly, you can buy a whole roast chicken in the local supermarket. Otherwise, you can also get a good amount of chicken skin by roasting thighs or wings in the oven.

As the chicken bones contain a lot of collagen, you can also use them for bone broth.

6. Pastured Eggs

Notably, the egg whites contain glycine and proline, the essential amino acids that build up collagen.

Also, the shells of eggs contain collagen. In total, an egg white contains 18 different amino acids. Among them are all nine essential amino acids.

Nevertheless, this is no reason to skip the egg yolk because the egg yolk has a higher nutrient density. In addition to A, B, and D vitamins, it is full of healthy fats that help maintain and renew skin, bones, and muscles.

Moreover, researchers have recently discovered that the membranes of eggshells can counteract skin aging and protect against UVB radiation (Yoo et al. 201510).

7. Spirulina

Over 60% of spirulina consist of amino acids that form collagen.

Hence, the blue-green microalgae, found in both fresh and marine water, is a natural source of collagen.

According to recent studies, spirulina prolongs cell life and promotes wound healing (Gunes et al. 201711).

Also, spirulina is excellent for muscle gain. Accordingly, one tablespoon of spirulina powder provides about 6 grams of pure protein.

The spirulina alga belongs to the food with collagen

Natural Foods That Boost Collagen Production

Having already learned about the three essential nutrients for collagen synthesis, here are details of their effects on collagen:

  • Zinc helps in collagen production by acting as a cofactor (biochemical activator of crucial proteins).
  • Copper boosts collagen production by activating the lysyl oxidase enzyme for collagen maturation. Additionally, copper promotes compounds within collagen to maintain its functionality. When collagen is damaged, copper helps to make it elastic again.
  • Vitamin C synthesizes collagen.

Also, protein complements these powerful nutrients.

Thus, by supplying sufficient protein together with zinc, copper, and vitamin C, you can significantly boost collagen production.

Unlike the previous natural foods high in collagen, the following ones have combinations of these nutrients that help with collagen production:

1. Citrus Fruits

Although citrus fruits such as lemons, limes, or oranges do not contain collagen, they increase collagen synthesis. As an essential cofactor, the vitamin C in citrus fruits boosts collagen production.

Because without vitamin C, cells cannot produce collagen.

If you do not take up any vitamin C through food, cells can develop scurvy. This vitamin deficiency interrupts collagen synthesis, which is problematic for skin, hair, nails, and teeth.

Nevertheless, most people cover the minimum requirement of vitamin C through their diet.

However, the consumption of food rich in vitamin C can increase collagen production. It also brings additional health benefits to your skin (Boyera et al. 201912).

If you add a splash of freshly squeezed lemon juice, lime juice, or grapefruit juice to your water or mineral water, you get a keto and fasting friendly change. This vitamin C boost can also help the body to produce collagen more effectively.

2. Leafy Greens

In addition to a high vitamin C content, chlorophyll is particularly rich in chlorophyll, which gives vegetables their green color.

This nutrient helps the cells to produce more procollagen, the precursor of collagen (Cho 201413).

Green vegetables also contain antioxidants that protect against collagen degradation, free radicals, and inflammation (Ganceviciene et al. 201214).

Among the best green vegetables for collagen synthesis are:

  • Broccoli
  • Collard greens
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Swiss chard

3. Oysters

Oysters are the most abundant natural source of zinc.

Accordingly, 100g of oysters provide about 40mg of zinc, which easily covers the recommended daily intake. Already two oysters include the daily requirement of zinc

Also, oysters provide you with copper for collagen production. Here, too, less than 100g already cover the daily requirement.

So the arsenal of natural foods to increase collagen production is perfect, and you are no longer dependent on expensive food supplements.

Oysters can cover the daily requirement of copper and zinc

Best Foods High in Collagen Are All Natural

Although I prefer natural foods, you can also get collagen from supplements.

My personal favorites are bone broth due to its easy preparation and shelf life, and fatty fish due to its extra amino and omega-3 fatty acids.

However, you should also not underestimate those foods that increase collagen production.

That’s why a dash of lemon can’t be wrong, or spinach is worthwhile as a side dish to complement the food with natural collagen. This way, you can use the naturally absorbed collagen more efficiently.

What is your favorite food with collagen?

Tell us at the very bottom of the page as a comment!

👇👇👇👇

Foods High in Collagen FAQ

Which foods are high in collagen?

Especially bone broth and marrow 🦴, chicken with skin, and fish 🐟 with skin are foods high in collagen.

What is the best source of collagen?

🦴 Bone broth and marrow are among the best natural sources of collagen.

How do you increase collagen naturally?

🍋 Vitamin C, copper, and zinc increase collagen production naturally.

How can I rebuild collagen in my face?

Natural foods high in collagen (i.e., spirulina) and foods that boost collagen production (i.e., leafy greens 🥬) can significantly improve your skin.

Studies

#1-7

1Stefanovic B. RNA protein interactions governing expression of the most abundant protein in human body, type I collagen. Wiley Interdiscip Rev RNA. 2013 Sep-Oct;4(5):535-45. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1177. Epub 2013 May 28. Review. PubMed PMID: 23907854; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3748166.

2Proksch E, Segger D, Degwert J, Schunck M, Zague V, Oesser S. Oral supplementation of specific collagen peptides has beneficial effects on human skin physiology: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Skin Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;27(1):47-55. doi: 10.1159/000351376. Epub 2013 Aug 14. PubMed PMID: 23949208.

3Clark KL, Sebastianelli W, Flechsenhar KR, Aukermann DF, Meza F, Millard RL, Deitch JR, Sherbondy PS, Albert A. 24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain. Curr Med Res Opin. 2008 May;24(5):1485-96. doi: 10.1185/030079908×291967. Epub 2008 Apr 15. PubMed PMID: 18416885.

4Rao R, Samak G. Role of Glutamine in Protection of Intestinal Epithelial Tight Junctions. J Epithel Biol Pharmacol. 2012 Jan;5(Suppl 1-M7):47-54. doi: 10.2174/1875044301205010047. PubMed PMID: 25810794; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4369670.

5Bagchi D, Misner B, Bagchi M, Kothari SC, Downs BW, Fafard RD, Preuss HG. Effects of orally administered undenatured type II collagen against arthritic inflammatory diseases: a mechanistic exploration. Int J Clin Pharmacol Res. 2002;22(3-4):101-10. PubMed PMID: 12837047.

6Chai HJ, Li JH, Huang HN, Li TL, Chan YL, Shiau CY, Wu CJ. Effects of sizes and conformations of fish-scale collagen peptides on facial skin qualities and transdermal penetration efficiency. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2010;2010:757301. doi: 10.1155/2010/757301. Epub 2010 Jun 8. PubMed PMID: 20625414; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC2896882.

7Hankenson KD, Watkins BA, Schoenlein IA, Allen KG, Turek JJ. Omega-3 fatty acids enhance ligament fibroblast collagen formation in association with changes in interleukin-6 production. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med. 2000 Jan;223(1):88-95. doi: 10.1046/j.1525-1373.2000.22312.x. PubMed PMID: 10632966.

#8-14

8Mater MK, Thelen AP, Pan DA, Jump DB. Sterol response element-binding protein 1c (SREBP1c) is involved in the polyunsaturated fatty acid suppression of hepatic S14 gene transcription. J Biol Chem. 1999 Nov 12;274(46):32725-32. doi: 10.1074/jbc.274.46.32725. PubMed PMID: 10551830.

9León-López A, Morales-Peñaloza A, Martínez-Juárez VM, Vargas-Torres A, Zeugolis DI, Aguirre-Álvarez G. Hydrolyzed Collagen-Sources and Applications. Molecules. 2019 Nov 7;24(22). doi: 10.3390/molecules24224031. Review. PubMed PMID: 31703345; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6891674.

10Yoo JH, Kim JK, Yang HJ, Park KM. Effects of Egg Shell Membrane Hydrolysates on UVB-radiation-induced Wrinkle Formation in SKH-1 Hairless Mice. Korean J Food Sci Anim Resour. 2015;35(1):58-70. doi: 10.5851/kosfa.2015.35.1.58. Epub 2015 Feb 28. PubMed PMID: 26761801; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4682498.

11Gunes S, Tamburaci S, Dalay MC, Deliloglu Gurhan I. In vitro evaluation of Spirulina platensis extract incorporated skin cream with its wound healing and antioxidant activities. Pharm Biol. 2017 Dec;55(1):1824-1832. doi: 10.1080/13880209.2017.1331249. PubMed PMID: 28552036; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC6130752.

12Boyera N, Galey I, Bernard BA. Effect of vitamin C and its derivatives on collagen synthesis and cross-linking by normal human fibroblasts. Int J Cosmet Sci. 1998 Jun;20(3):151-8. doi: 10.1046/j.1467-2494.1998.171747.x. PubMed PMID: 18505499.

13Cho S. The Role of Functional Foods in Cutaneous Anti-aging. J Lifestyle Med. 2014 Mar;4(1):8-16. doi: 10.15280/jlm.2014.4.1.8. Epub 2014 Mar 31. Review. PubMed PMID: 26064850; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC4390761.

14Ganceviciene R, Liakou AI, Theodoridis A, Makrantonaki E, Zouboulis CC. Skin anti-aging strategies. Dermatoendocrinol. 2012 Jul 1;4(3):308-19. doi: 10.4161/derm.22804. PubMed PMID: 23467476; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3583892.

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