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15 collagen rich foods and drinks

Lady with red hair smiling in front of ocean
Collagen is great for our skin, bones and joints. Discover the best collagen rich foods, including vegetarian, vegan or lactose intolerant options today.

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.

This may lead to the signs of skin ageing that we are all familiar with, as well as a breakdown of cartilage between the joints, plus slower recovery times for injury and wound healing.3

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

Summary

  • 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.

  1. Bone broth

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

  1. Fish

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

  1. Chicken

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

  1. Egg white

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

  1. Citrus fruit

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.

This helps to produce pro-collagen, so citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes and grapefruits are great. For example, an orange contains approximately 81.9mg of vitamin C.10

  1. Berries

Berries also contain substantial amounts of vitamin C, with strawberries actually providing the most with 58.8mg.11

You can also turn to raspberries, blueberries and blackberries for added collagen, as well as the skin protecting antioxidants you need.

100g of raspberries contain approximately 26.2mg, blueberries contain 9.7mg and blackberries provide 21mg of vitamin C.12,13,14

  1. Tropical fruit

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.

Mango, kiwi and pineapple should also be added to your shopping list.

Mangos provide approximately 76.4mg of vitamin C, kiwis contain 56mg and a whole pineapple contains approximately 433mg of vitamin C.15,16,17

  1. Garlic

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

  1. Leafy greens

Mum always told you to eat your greens, and now we know why!

The dark green leaves of spinach, kale and Swiss chard contain chlorophyll, which increases the precursor to collagen in the skin.

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.

  1. Cashews

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

  1. Peppers

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

  1. Broccoli

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

  1. Coriander

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

  1. Orange juice

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.

  1. Green tea

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:

  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Swiss chard
  • Broccoli
  • Red pepper
  • Potatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Garlic

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

Sources

  1. https://foodinsight.org/collagen-supplementation-is-it-all-hype/
  2. https://www.riversol.com/pages/is-lost-collagen-lost-forever
  3. https://www.medicinenet.com/collagen_diet/article.htm
  4. https://www.versusarthritis.org/about-arthritis/complementary-and-alternative-treatments/types-of-complementary-treatments/collagen/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3583891/
  6. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/551729/nutrients
  7. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1098991/nutrients
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK21582/
  9. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1100199/nutrients
  10.  https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102597/nutrients
  11.  https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102710/nutrients
  12. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102708/nutrients
  13. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102702/nutrients
  14. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102700/nutrients
  15. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102670/nutrients
  16. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102667/nutrients
  17. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102688/nutrients
  18. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3731019/
  19. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4556990/
  20. https://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/nut-and-seed-products/3095/2
  21. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103372/nutrients
  22. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25314004/
  23. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103170/nutrients
  24. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1103350/nutrients
  25. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25019675/
  26. https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102614/nutrients
  27. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6680489/
  28. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4783894/
  29. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579659/
  30. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4390761/
 

Disclaimer

The advice in this article is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP or healthcare professional before trying any supplements, treatments or remedies. Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle.
 

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