Collagen is all the rage in the beauty world right now. This animal byproduct has been touted for its skin-boosting benefits. You can find collagen powder, pills, and the messier version—“bone broth”—rich in animal collagen, which is the gelatin produced from the connective tissues, bones, and hooves of livestock animals. But if downing bone juice isn’t your thing, you don’t have to worry about your skin suffering. There are plenty of animal-free collagen boosting foods and treatments out there. All you need is a healthy diet that includes these foods.
Why We Need Collagen
Our bodies naturally produce collagen—it’s what makes our skin look young and strong. But over time, we lose collagen, our skin starts to sag and wrinkle. Add to time environmental factors like excess sun exposure, pollution, and even smoking can deplete collagen. Our diet plays a role, too—refined sugars and carbs, too much alcohol, and processed food in general can take a toll on our collagen production.
But even though collagen supplements are incredibly popular right now, some doctors say the science isn’t conclusive about its benefits for skin. It may seem obvious, but just because you drink collagen doesn’t mean your body will produce more of it or assimilate it any more than eating a tomato makes you sprout one out of your elbow.
Fortunately, there are many vegetarian foods and supplements that can help your body boost its own collagen production naturally. Here are a few.
7 Vegetarian Collagen Boosters
- Silica – Perhaps the most important ingredient in collagen production is silica. It’s abundant in bananas, whole grains, carrots, and raisins. But the best plant source is horsetail (not from actual horses). Silica supplements are available in most health food stores and are relatively inexpensive, too.
- Vitamin C – We think of vitamin C as the cold and flu buster, but it’s also critical for collagen production in the body. It’s readily available in a diet rich in fruits and veggies—no supplements needed. But if you think you need a vitamin C boost, plenty of supplements are available. Note that vitamin C can be destroyed in the cooking process, so if you’re adding more C-rich fruits and veggies to your diet (bell peppers are an excellent choice as are kiwis), try eating them raw.
- Beta Carotene – Another fruit and veggie superstar, beta carotene is abundant in carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, spinach, kale, cantaloupe, and apricots. This vitamin is also important in collagen production – did Bugs Bunny or Popeye ever look sallow?
- Anthocyanins – Hard to pronounce but not hard to love, anthocyanins are the chemicals in deeply colored berries and cherries that help our bodies not only fight off free radicals that can damage the skin, but also to boost its collagen production.
- Copper – Bust out the chocolate covered almonds because this combo is rich in the mineral copper, which is critical for collagen production. Vitamin C aids in the uptake of copper (which is where the “C” comes from), so it’s no wonder both chemicals play a role in getting your glow on. Other foods high in copper include sunflower seeds, lentils, apricots, and asparagus.
- Soy – The versatile soybean may be controversial because of the ubiquity of genetically modified soybeans, but there’s no denying its heath benefits, specifically the presence of genistein, the isoflavone that increases collagen production. Genistein may also help to quash free radicals which can damage and age the skin.
- Proline – An amino acid essential to the collagen process, proline is found in a number of delicious plant foods including peanuts, watercress, chickpeas, beans, cabbage, asparagus, cucumber, and even chives.