Here’s why it matters: Collagen is a protein in the body that makes up joint-supporting connective tissues, is responsible for skin elasticity (AKA wrinkle defender), and helps maintain the lining of the digestive tract. In other words, it’s really important.
The body makes collagen on its own, but production slows down as you get older (no, surprise there), so getting some in your diet is a good idea to make up for a potential deficit.
The problem is that it’s really only found in animal skin and bones, hence the popularity of bone broth. Bone broth , however, is not that easy to find, and making it at home requires…well…bones. Not to mention hours upon hours of simmering.
You can also now buy collagen as powder to add to smoothies (although there are conflicting opinions on how much value you get from this method because of the way the body has to break down and rebuild the protein).
There’s one other tactic: eating foods that boost collagen. These foods don’t contain the protein itself, but they deliver nutrients your body uses to make it. It’s like if your body were a bread factory that kept running out of ingredients, so you sent it a bunch of flour and sugar and yeast to help it out.
Keep reading for the nutrients and foods that contribute to collagen production.
Vitamin C plays a major role in collagen synthesis, and foods like leafy greens, citrus fruits (plus broccoli, broccoli rabe and red peppers!) are filled with it. Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant, so you get the added benefit of protecting your skin from free radical damage.
Oysters are rich in minerals, specifically zinc and copper , both of which activate molecules that are required for collagen synthesis. Bonus: oysters are one of the most sustainable seafood choices you can make.
The protein in meat is made up of essential amino acids the body can’t make on its own. But meats like beef and chicken also contain non-essential amino acids, some of which make up collagen. Eating meat, then, provides your body with additional stores of the amino acids it needs to produce collagen.
The bottom line? Sipping quality bone broth or adding collagen powder to your smoothies are both great strategies. But if you can’t make that happen all of the time, make sure you’re incorporating these foods and nutrients into your diet.
This piece was originally published on Keri Glassman’s Nutritious Life.
Dr. Robin Berzin is the founder and CEO of Parsley Health. A Summa Cum Laude graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Robin completed medical school at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons, and trained in Internal Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.