Smooth, firm, youthful complexions are that way—all smooth and firm and youthful-looking—because of a protein fiber called collagen, "one of the main components that make up our skin," Dr. Dana Hunnes, Ph.D., MPH, RD, senior dietitian at UCLA Medical Center, told Byrdie.com. It's also found in our hair, skin, even our teeth, and it helps keep them healthy and strong. Unfortunately, collagen and another key protein, elastin, begin decreasing in your 20s (your 20s!) which can result in a loss of skin elasticity and firmness. Here, the nutrients you need to help slow collagen loss and keep skin looking beautiful.
Gimme a C!
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, vitamin C is essential to the production of collagen and elastin, proteins which help keep your skin firm and supple. The recommended daily intake of is between 75 to 90 milligrams to support overall health—collagen synthesis included. Try incorporating a variety vitamin C-packed fruits and vegetables into your diet. Citrus fruits, red peppers, strawberries and sweet potatoes will all give your vitamin C intake a boost.
Get Enough of this Amino Acid
Lysine, an essential amino acid, is one of the main building blocks of collagen—but your body can't produce it by itself. Instead, it comes exclusively from your diet. The typically recommended amount of lysine is in the range of two to three grams a day, says Dr. Joel Kahn to mindbodygreen.com. And you can easily get that amount by eating red meat, cheese or nuts—all of which are high in lysine. For vegans or those watching their weight, Kahn suggests lentils, peas or soy products which are also high in lysine but lower in fat.
Mind Your Minerals
The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University reports that you need ample amounts of the mineral manganese to increase production of collagen and elastin—especially for wound healing. If you've had surgery that left scarring, manganese may help. Men should aim for 2.3 milligrams daily from their diet; women, 1.8 milligrams daily. Foods such as pineapple, pecans, whole grains, leafy greens and sea vegetables such as seaweed are all high in manganese.
Another skin-firming mineral: copper. Studies have found that your body needs a small amount—0.9 milligrams—of this essential mineral in order to knit together collagen and elastin to form strong skin. Although it's found in a wide variety of foods, you'll find the highest concentrations of copper in meat from animal organs, shellfish, nuts and seeds. Whole grain foods, such as breads and pastas, are also high in the mineral. Copper is less frequently found in fruits and vegetables, but you can reach the RDA by adding nuts and seeds—cashews, almonds and sunflower seeds—as well as lentils and mushrooms to your diet.
What Do You Think?
Did you know about these collagen-boosting foods? Anything you're going to work on adding to your diet? Let us know in the comments below.