Aging is just a fact of life. On the other hand, no one’s going to blame you if you want to put it off as long as possible. Whether you’re concerned about looking young or simply feeling good, it’s worth monitoring your collagen intake.
Collagen is important for skin elasticity, healthy joints and muscle health. In fact, it makes up about three quarters of your skin. As we age, we start to lose collagen. It’s harder for your body to make more. That’s why people turn to collagen-boosting foods and supplements.
If you’re feeling a little older than you want to (who isn’t?), it’s time to increase your collagen intake. Here’s how collagen can help you look and feel great—and which foods will get you there.
Why you need collagen
Collagen is essential to your overall health. Here are some of the benefits of improved collagen intake:
- Thicker hair: Although we usually associate hair loss with men, women’s hair can thin, too. If your hair is thinning, you may notice thicker hair, more scalp coverage and increased hair quantity with collagen supplements.
- Stronger nails: If your nails are brittle and constantly breaking, collagen can help improve their strength. With regular collagen-boosting foods or supplements, you’ll notice a difference within weeks.
- Stronger bones: As we age, our bones become more brittle. They can break easier and take longer to heal. Increasing collagen intake can help make your bones denser and healthier, so there’s less chance of suffering later in life. It may also reduce osteoarthritis pain.
- Increased skin elasticity and hydration: Wrinkles and sagging skin can be quite depressing—no one wants to look in the mirror and wonder who’s the old person looking back. If you want to keep your skin looking youthful and hydrated, collagen can help. (Don’t forget to wear sunscreen every day, too!)
- Improved muscle mass: Finally, collagen can increase your muscle mass. Adding more collagen to your diet, along with strength training, will make it easier to build muscle.
The older you are, the more important it is to get enough collagen. However, it’s never too early to start increasing your intake.
Collagen food sources
Generally, collagen supplements are safe and effective. However, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding—or you’re not good at remembering to supplement—you may want to focus on collagen-boosting foods, instead.
In fact, getting collagen from foods might be better than using supplements. “Foods like bone broth contain a bioavailable form of collagen your body can use right away, making it arguably superior to supplements.” Ask your doctor to help you determine how much collagen you should be adding to your diet.
Here are some natural sources of collagen or collagen-boosting foods:
- Chicken: Chicken contains a lot of collagen, especially in the cartilage and connective tissues. In fact, many supplements are made from chicken.
- Fish and shellfish: Similarly, fish bones and ligaments contain a lot of collagen. (So do other parts we don’t eat, like scales and eyeballs.)
- Bone broth: Bone broth is simply meat bones (and meat) boiled until the bones release their collagen. You can make it yourself to ensure high quality—save the bones from your chicken, beef and more. Alternatively, you can buy bones from your local butcher.
- Citrus: Citrus helps your body produce collagen, thanks to its high amount of vitamin C.
- Berries: Berries are another good source of vitamin C. Strawberries contain more C per ounce than oranges. Since they have antioxidants, they’re also great for your skin.
- Egg whites: Egg whites contain proline, an amino acid that helps produce collagen. Go ahead, enjoy an omelet for breakfast.
- Beans: Beans aren’t just the musical fruit—they also contain many amino acids and copper, which are necessary for creating collagen.
- Garlic: If you already eat a lot of garlic, you’re helping boost your collagen retention. The sulfur in garlic helps prevent collagen from breaking down.
- Leafy greens: Chlorophyll, which is present in dark leafy greens like spinach, chard and kale, is another precursor to collagen production.
Whether you choose to supplement or eat collagen-rich foods, monitoring your collagen intake can be helpful. It’s an important ingredient that will keep your joints feeling good, and your skin, hair and nails looking better than ever.