In this article, find out:
- What collagen is
- Why we need it
- Natural sources of collagen vs. supplements
- The importance of picking food rich in collagen
- And 15 foods and drinks high in collagen
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein that is found within the body, and it gives strength and structure to the skin, bones, joints and muscles.1
There are many different types of collagen, however those most commonly found in the human body are types I, II and III.
Why do our bodies need collagen?
Collagen is vital for our health as well as influencing the way we look. But, perhaps surprisingly, from as early as the middle of our twenties, it starts to diminish.
In fact, from this point onwards, we lose up to 1% of our collagen each year meaning that by middle age, we are likely to have experienced significant loss.2
Not only this, but the quality of the collagen your body is producing will be lower.
It can therefore be helpful to try and replenish the levels of collagen in your skin.
Natural sources of collagen vs. supplements
So what are the best sources of collagen? Natural sources of collagen in food or supplements?
While taking supplements is generally considered safe (providing you stay within the recommended dosage) some people have reported mild stomach complaints after taking collagen supplements, such as loose stools and a feeling of heaviness in the stomach.4
The good news is that for those looking for an alternative to a collagen supplement, there are some terrific natural sources of collagen that can be worked into your everyday diet.
The importance of picking collagen rich foods
The importance of eating collagen rich foods when it comes to your skin health is a key area to think about. For example, a lot of the vitamins found in natural foods may help with our collagen supplies.
Consuming vitamin E through our food choices highlights this, as it helps to protect against ‘collagen cross linking’ and lipid peroxidation, both of which are linked to signs of aging.5
- Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the human body, and is important for supporting your skin, joints, muscles and bones
- Collagen levels start to diminish from your early twenties
- You can increase your collagen intake through your diet or with supplements
15 foods high in collagen
Collagen is made up of 19 different amino acids and the different types of collagen are found in the skin, tendon, organs, bones, cartilage and reticular fibres.
ou can read more on ‘Collagen: benefits, dosage, side-effects’ via our Health Hub. Find a list of foods that contain collagen and foods that support collagen production below:
It might sound like something you would make for Halloween, but bone broth is actually a great source of collagen!
Making the broth involves simmering animal bones in water in order to extract the collagen from them. You can then season this broth with herbs and spices to give it whichever flavour you prefer.
The quality of the bones will make a difference to the success of your broth, so make sure you speak to your local butcher to get the very best.
In terms of nutritional information, one cup of bone broth contains 9g of protein, 40mg of calcium, up to 4.8mg of magnesium, up to 19mg of phosphorous, collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin, and amino acids.6
Handpicked content: Nutritional vegan bone broth recipes
Fish and shellfish provide a lot of collagen, and it is believed that marine collagen can be more easily absorbed by the human body.
To get the main benefit of fish collagen, you will need to eat parts such as the head, scales or even the eyeballs, as these contain higher levels of collagen than the meat.
You can still get some collagen in the ‘meat’ or fish, however this will be less than the other less popular parts.
For example, in 100g of sea bass, you’ll eat approximately 23.2g of protein, 13g of calcium, 46mg of magnesium, 220mg of phosphorous and 548mg of potassium.7
For more information, check out our article ‘What is marine collagen?’
When you buy collagen supplements, you might find that many of them are derived from chicken, due to the amount of connective tissue contained within it. While they’re not popular in western diets, chicken feet are a great source of collagen.
In two chicken feet, you’ll receive approximately 13g of protein (70% of which is collagen) 60mg of calcium, 3.5mg of magnesium, 58mg of phosphorous, 21µg of vitamin A and 21.6mg of potassium.8
Collagen is largely found in connective tissues, so it is only natural to question why an egg features in this list.
The reason is that one of the amino acids needed for collagen production is called proline and it is found in large quantities in egg whites.
As well as this, 100g of egg whites also provide approximately 10.9g of protein, 7mg of calcium, 11mg of magnesium, 15mg of phosphorous and 163mg of potassium.9
We should all be aiming to get as much fruit as possible into our diets, but different fruits can help with our quest for collagen too, thanks to the quantities of vitamin C contained within them.
Berries also contain substantial amounts of vitamin C, with strawberries actually providing the most with 58.8mg.11
100g of raspberries contain approximately 26.2mg, blueberries contain 9.7mg and blackberries provide 21mg of vitamin C.12,13,14
Again if you’re vegan or vegetarian and you want to try and support your collagen production through your diet, tropical fruit is a great vegan source of collagen.
Mangos provide approximately 76.4mg of vitamin C, kiwis contain 56mg and a whole pineapple contains approximately 433mg of vitamin C.15,16,17
Garlic is well-known for having a large number of health benefits, and because it is high in sulphur – containing approximately 33 different sulphur compounds as well as 17 amino acids.
Sulphur helps to slow the breakdown of collagen and amino acids help with collagen production as mentioned above. However, you may need to consume quite a lot to actually see a tangible benefit.18
Mum always told you to eat your greens, and now we know why!
When it comes to any kind of diet, it is important to remember to keep everything in moderation. You should discuss any major changes to your diet with your doctor and be aware of any potential allergy concerns.
Cashews are another great source of collagen supporting ingredients, namely copper. Copper plays an important physiological role in our skin, as it upregulates three different types of collagen - I, II and V.19
100g of cashews contain approximately 2.2mg of copper, 110% of our daily value.20
The reason why peppers are a great collagen rich food is because they’re packed with vitamin C, which as stated earlier in the article, helps with the production of pro-collagen.
One average sized pepper contains approximately 154mg of vitamin C.21
As well as being high in vitamin C which supports collagen production, broccoli is also high in calcium – another mineral that is linked to lowering the blood levels of the proteins that are known to promote bone breakdown.22
100g of broccoli provides approximately 47mg of calcium and 89.2mg of vitamin C.23
Another way you can increase your collagen production through eating ingredients with vitamin C, is by introducing coriander into your diet.
Just one cup of coriander provides approximately 0.7mg of calcium, 4.16mg of magnesium and 4.32mg of vitamin C.24
Not only this, but coriander also contains linolenic acid, and the antioxidants within it have been said to combat free radicals in your bloodstream, preventing the breakdown of healthy skin cells.25
You might have guessed it by now, but orange juice is another great source of vitamin C which helps with collagen production.
The juice of one orange contains approximately 43mg of vitamin C26 – so it may be worth adding the odd glass to your diet to up your vitamin C intake.
And finally, another source of collagen boosting substances is green tea. This is largely due to the level of phenols and anti-oxidant properties found in the drink.27
Phenols in particular, have been said to have a beneficial influence on the effects of skin aging.28
What vegetables are high in collagen?
Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan or just love getting veggies into your diet – good news. There are a range of different vegetables high in collagen-producing ingredients such as vitamin C, chlorophyll and sulphur.29,30
Here are some of the best natural sources:
- Swiss chard
- Red pepper
- Brussel sprouts
Find out more about vegan and vegetarian collagen alternatives online.
The final say
- Eating and drinking natural sources of collagen, or food and drink that contains ingredients beneficial to collagen levels, it’s important for looking after the health of your skin, bones, muscles and joints
- While purely collagen rich foods come from animal parts, there are still a variety of other foods that can have a positive effect on collagen production levels
- If you struggle to get enough collagen rich foods in your diet, there is also the option to take collagen supplements
Last updated: 21 June 2021