Collagen Rich Foods

fresh ripe lemons on wooden table
From gelatin and bone broth to certain fruits, collagen occurs naturally in various foods. (Image: Magone/iStock/GettyImages)

Nowadays, collagen-based products are all the rage. From collagen supplements and anti-aging creams to hair masks and shampoos, there are thousands of options available. As the most abundant protein in the human body, collagen is the building block of your cells and tissues. It keeps your skin elastic, supports joint health and slows the aging process. However, dietary supplements are not the only sources of collagen. This protein occurs naturally in various foods, such as gelatin and bone broth.

Read more: Collagen Functions

How Sources of Collagen Benefits Your Health

Collagen can take years off your face, keep your joints strong and improve overall health. According to a 2017 study published in the journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism, this natural compound may relieve activity-related knee-joint discomfort. Athletes with knee problems who took 5 grams of collagen peptides for 12 weeks experienced a significant reduction in exercise-related knee pain.

The best collagen pills and collagen-rich foods may benefit your skin too. A 2014 study published in Skin Pharmacology and Physiology has found that this protein increases skin elasticity and moisture in as little as four weeks. Research also indicates that dietary supplements containing a mix of collagen, vitamins, minerals and hyaluronic acid may reduce wrinkles and boost skin hydration.

If you're an athlete or fitness enthusiast, collagen can help you build and preserve lean mass. When combined with strength training, collagen supplements may increase muscle strength and improve body composition. Furthermore, this protein keeps your heart healthy by reducing bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol levels, according to a 2017 study that appeared in the Journal of Atherosclerosis and Thrombosis.

Wondering "What's the best collagen supplement?" Before popping pills, make some changes to your diet. There are plenty of foods and herbs rich in collagen, from egg whites and bone broth to spirulina. Some contain zinc, sulfur, vitamin C and other nutrients that boost collagen production and prevent free radicals from breaking down this protein.

Collagen From Bone Broth

Bone broth has emerged as one of the best natural sources of collagen. However, the research regarding its benefits is mixed. As Harvard Medical School notes, most claims surrounding this superfood lack scientific evidence. Scientists say that the collagen in bone broth is poorly absorbed in the body and, therefore, doesn't reach your skin and joints.

Other sources claim that bone broth is unlikely to provide sufficient amounts of amino acids and other collagen precursors and that it may be inferior to supplements. Its nutritional content, though, varies from one recipe to the next.

Gelatin Boosts Collagen Synthesis

Along with bone broth, gelatin is touted as one of the healthiest collagen foods. Animal skin, bones and cartilage, the main ingredients used to prepare this food, are all rich in collagen. When boiled, collagen becomes gelatin, which is a good source of protein and amino acids.

A 2017 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition indicates that vitamin C–enriched gelatin may improve collagen synthesis and promote tissue repair when consumed before exercise. Other claims, however, lack scientific support.

Fill Up on Citrus Fruits

Grapefruits, oranges, lemons, lime and other citrus fruits are all high in vitamin C. This nutrient stimulates collagen synthesis and promotes skin health. It also scavenges oxidative stress, protecting your skin from free radicals.

Citrus fruits contain no collagen. However, they can increase collagen levels in your body due to their high content of vitamin C. Plus, they can lower your risk of developing dementia by a whopping 23 percent, as a 2017 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition points out. The antioxidants in these fruits have been found to reduce oxidative stress, blood sugar levels and cholesterol.

There are many other foods that either provide collagen or increase its levels in your body. However, most studies indicate that dietary supplements may work better. In the end, the choice is up to you. If you decide to take collagen supplements, discuss your options with a medical professional.

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