Collagen is the most prevalent protein in the human body, playing a key role in the structure and function of bones, muscle and skin.
Quite literally, it is the protein that holds our bodies together – making it essential that we get enough collagen.
The topic has led to a growing interest in foods that increase collagen, along with supplements and regimes. And indeed, there is considerable merit to the concept.
For example, there is evidence that collagen can help improve skin appearance, making it particularly common in beauty treatments. This includes the ability to reduce wrinkles, improve skin elasticity (1,2) and lead to a better complexion overall (3). Doing so may be particularly important as people age because collagen levels start to decrease as a person gets older.
This is why collagen is frequently promoted as an anti-aging product – but there are other benefits too. After all, collagen does play many roles in the body.
For example, research has indicated that collagen can decrease joint pain and deterioration (4,5,6) – which is particularly relevant for arthritis.
Collagen may also help in promoting gut health, partly because decreased collagen concentration is associated with inflammatory bowel disease (7).
There are also implications for weight loss, as collagen can help to increase lean muscle mass, which can boost the metabolism This effect is related to the action of amino acids, particularly glycine and glutamine (8,9). Likewise, collagen has been linked to improved heart health, which is associated with the amino acid proline (10).
You can also find out much more information about collagen and its implications for health in this article by Dr. Axe, which goes into the benefits in more detail, along with the various types of collagen. But, we’re not going to consider any more depth here, as we’re interested in ways to boost collagen.
So, what’s the best way to raise collagen levels?
The most obvious solution is simply to use a supplement and there is a range of collagen supplements currently on the market. This includes collagen supplement powders and also collagen supplement pills.
At the same time, our bodies do produce collagen. As such, food or treatment approaches can also increase collagen levels by impacting production. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the different options.
Foods That Increase Collagen
Food is always the best first step for increasing your intake of almost any nutrient (with vitamin D being one of the few exceptions). For that matter, relying on a range of whole foods is a key component of promoting overall health and wellbeing.
With that in mind, food is the perfect first step if you’re interested in collagen.
Without a doubt, bone broth is the most popular food choice for raising collagen levels. For that matter, bone broth has become incredibly popular for health overall and is sometimes considered a superfood.
Basically, bone broth is a type of liquid that involves boiling bones, along with various other ingredients, including herbs and spices.
The process infuses the liquid with some of the nutrients that the bones contain, including collagen and high levels of calcium and magnesium. Bone broth is also a source of hyaluronic acid, which offers many health benefits.
As a result, bone broth acts as a key source of nutrients and is one of the simplest ways to raise your collagen levels.
Another advantage is that bone broth is inexpensive. You can, of course, buy it online and there are even examples of dehydrated bone broth out there. But, you can also make it yourself relatively easily. After all, the main ingredient is simply bones and soup bones are much less expensive than meat.
Katie from Wellness Mama offers a great bone broth recipe that you can try, along with a range of images to help you along the way. Likewise, Bon Appétit has a post on bone broth mistakes, which can help you get the most benefits out of your bone broth.
And, if you want more detailed information, you can always turn to options like this bone broth cookbook:
While the book itself is about a diet and does contain a significant amount of hype, it is still a useful tool. If nothing else, it can teach you more creative ways of making bone broth and turning it into a meal for your family.
Do be aware that there is some debate about the implications of bone broth (11). But, even if the benefits are less than many believe, the dish is healthy overall and is certainly a key source of nutrients.
And, as one observer mentioned, bone broth does help get people back in their kitchens making homemade food and this outcome alone has health implications.
Get Enough Nutrients
The other food-based approach is associated with nutrient intake, rather than a specific type of food.
Basically, our bodies produce the compounds they need from building blocks. These building blocks include the various vitamins and minerals that we consume in our diets.
As a result, getting enough of these is essential for promoting overall health and reducing disease risk. That pattern is also why issues like vitamin B-12 deficiency can have a range of symptoms and implications for health.
For collagen, some of the key nutrients that you need to consume enough of are vitamin C, manganese, lysine and copper (12). These are all found in a variety of foods, although red meat and nuts can be particularly good choices of lysine and copper.
Various authors also promote specific foods that may help produce collagen production (13), such as:
- Dark leafy greens
- Avocado oil
The scientific evidence linking these foods to collagen production isn’t substantial and some of the recommendations are just based on theory, not proof. So, they’re not radical solutions.
But, all of those items are healthy additions to your diet anyway and offer a range of vitamins and minerals. This makes them a good choice regardless of whether or not they significantly influence collagen levels.
Whole food is great for health but there aren’t that many ways to get collagen from your food directly. This is why many people end up turning to collagen supplements, either in the pill or in the powder form.
Of the two approaches, powdered collagen supplements tend to be considerably more popular. The brands that offer this form also have a much stronger focus on quality and this alone makes the style work checking out.
For example, two brands that provide collagen powder are Natural Force and Vital Proteins. Both products come from grass-fed and pasture-raised cattle, with a strong emphasis on purity. As a result, they can be powerful ways to get your collagen, especially if you don’t want to rely on bone broth.
Another option is the Bulletproof brand.
Bulletproof is the brainchild of Dave Asprey, who developed the Bulletproof Diet, along with the idea of Bulletproof coffee. The brand also focuses on various other products to promote health.
While I don’t agree with every claim that Dave Asprey makes, his focus on quality and purity makes the products exceptionally good for health benefits. As such, this is another viable option for collagen, especially as the supplement is reasonably priced.
And honestly, as good as bone broth is, the dish won’t always be practical. After all, it takes time to prepare and having it as a hot soup or beverage won’t be appealing in the warmer months. It is possible to drink it cold or include it as an ingredient in a different dish.
But, that idea simply won’t suit everyone.
In particular, collagen powders are normally unflavored, so it’s easy to add the powder to a range of foods, including protein smoothies and pretty much any meal.
This is much more practical overall, especially for anyone short on time.
If you are interested in the supplement route, then the site Well and Good has an interesting collagen supplement buying guide you can check out. The information mostly focuses on impacts for the skin but is still relevant for other reasons to use collagen.
Alternatively, any of the three brands mentioned above can be a perfect place to start.
Other Ways to Increase Collagen
There are also other ideas that may help to raise collagen, by increasing the collagen production in our bodies.
For example, some theories suggest that massaging your skin can help boost collagen in that area. The idea is most relevant for the skin benefits and some people recommend around 15 to 30 minutes of massaging twice per day.
You can use a basic face massager to stop your hands from getting tired in the process. Some creams are also meant to increase collagen levels.
Another option is red light therapy. The process is also meant to decrease acne scars, increase collagen and promote better skin health overall.
There is some research supporting this outcome as well (14), although there haven’t been many studies on the topic. This is a service that you can find at some beauty therapy companies but it is also fairly inexpensive to get a product and do so at home.
On a related note, burning your skin in the sun or on a tanning bed may harm collagen production, so this is something to be aware of.
One interesting piece of advice is to simply increase the amount of sleep you get. Our bodies use sleep as a time to repair and sleeping too little can limit some of these processes.
Some authors suggest that you need at least 7 hours of sleep each night to effectively produce collagen (15). The association does make sense, as limited sleep promotes stress and inflammation, which aren’t good for the skin anyway.
At the same time, sleep is associated with the production of human growth hormone (HGH) and this has a role in collagen production (16).
In a similar way, getting enough exercise can help increase HGH production and may improve collagen as a consequence (17). Again, there are associated health benefits, especially as exercise can help you lose weight and gain lean muscle.
Which Approach is Best?
As with many things, the best option for collagen is going to vary depending on who you are. If you have the time and the energy, bone broth is a powerful choice – giving you access to a wide range of other nutrients at the same time.
But, for people who don’t, collagen supplements make another good option. The supplements are much more practical overall, especially as they can be easily added into meals. There are also multiple high-quality brands to choose from, so you’re bound to find one that works for you.
Finally, ideas like getting enough sleep, nutrients and exercise are all critical for health overall. These are things that you should already be doing. If you’re not, then they are the best places to start.
Want to Improve Your Health?
Better health starts in the kitchen, with the food that you eat and the meals you prepare. Getting the best outcomes involves making good choices about the food and the ingredients that you use.
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