Collagen Rich Foods vs. Supplements: What You Need to Know
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Collagen Rich Foods vs. Supplements: What You Need to Know

Collagen is a proven choice for healing injuries, relieving pain, and decreasing signs of aging. 

But what’s the difference between obtaining your collagen protein from supplements compared to foods?

Keep reading to learn more about collagen, the pros and cons of supplements versus foods, and the best foods to promote collagen synthesis.

What Is Collagen?

Collagen a natural protein. It occurs in your skin, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues. 

And 30-40% of the protein in your tissues is collagen, making it the most abundant protein in your body[*].

Collagen is incredibly sturdy due to its unusual structure[*]. In fact, it’s no exaggeration to say that your body holds its shape thanks to collagen!

But aging, injuries, and health problems can reduce the integrity of your body’s collagen[*][*]. And wrinkles and joint pain are associated with decreased collagen levels[*][*].

Fortunately, you can enhance collagen synthesis by eating foods that contain collagen or collagen-promoting micronutrients, or by taking collagen protein supplements.

In the next section, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of each strategy.

Collagen-Rich Foods vs. Supplements: What’s the Difference?

Normally, your body makes collagen using raw materials from the foods you eat.

These raw materials include the amino acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, alanine, and arginine. Compared to typical proteins, collagen has an astounding 10-20 times more glycine and proline[*].

And along with amino acids, your body also uses vitamin C and copper as cofactors during collagen production[*][*]. 

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As a result, deficiencies of vitamin C or copper can cause decreased collagen synthesis[*][*].

In other words, eating the right foods that contain plenty of amino acids, vitamin C, and copper is necessary for healthy collagen synthesis.

On the other hand, collagen protein supplements are highly effective at boosting your body’s collagen production[*]. The reason is that they contain large amounts of all the amino acids necessary to make collagen.

For example, research shows hydrolyzed collagen supplements can slow skin aging, reduce the appearance of cellulite, and decrease symptoms of conditions such as exercise-related joint pain, osteoarthritis, and tendinopathy[*][*][*][*][*].

The bottom line: everyone should eat collagen-boosting foods, but people interested in massively increasing collagen synthesis should also consider supplementing collagen protein

(If you’re still not sure whether collagen supplements are the right choice for you, check out The Ultimate Guide to Hydrolyzed Collagen: Everything You Need to Know.)

10 Collagen-Boosting Foods to Add to Your Diet (Yes, They’re Keto!)

#1: Beef Bone Broth

Aside from supplements, beef bone broth is the very best way to obtain extra collagen in your diet.

To make it, brown beef bones, then cover them in water, salt to taste, and simmer on low for 24-48 hours.

Optionally add carrots, mushrooms, garlic, onions, apple cider vinegar, and bay leaves.

#2: Fish Stock 

If you don’t have time to make beef broth, fish stock is a fast and convenient alternative.

For best results, use a whole fish from the market, minus the fillet. Simply cover the entire fish (head and all) in water, then simmer on medium for 20-30 minutes.

Add salt and other spices to taste. Turmeric, black pepper, cayenne, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, or bay leaves are all delicious. 

#3: Fish With the Skin On 

Fish is rich in protein, meaning it provides the raw materials (amino acids) your body uses to produce collagen.

Better yet, fish skin is high in Type I collagen, the most abundant variety of collagen in your skin[*]. So next time you sit down to a meal with fish, consider leaving the skin on.

Add wild-caught salmon to your weekly menu to boost collagen production, as well as obtain plenty of omega-3 fatty acids for added health benefits.

#4: Beef

Beef is rich in glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline[*]. 

And a 100-gram serving of beef contains 2.8 milligrams of zinc, or approximately 25% of the US recommended daily allowance (RDA) of zinc for men[*].

Zinc deficiency may reduce collagen synthesis, so you may as well hedge your bets with a juicy steak[*].

#5: Chicken

Like fish and steak, chicken is high in protein. In other words, it’s an abundant source of amino acids that help support collagen formation.

Additionally, chicken skin and tendons are rich in collagen. 

To boost your collagen production, opt for chicken thighs, drumsticks, or other skin-on cuts (which also offer plenty of healthy fat to fuel your keto lifestyle).

#6: Whole Eggs

Egg whites are rich in collagen-boosting amino acids, while egg yolks are a decent source of collagen.

And of course, whole eggs are a keto breakfast staple.

#7: Oysters

Copper is an essential cofactor for collagen synthesis, and there’s no easier way to get copper than chowing down on some oysters.

Just one small raw oyster contains a whopping 0.4 milligrams, or over 25% of your RDA for copper[*].

#8: Bell Peppers 

A deficiency of vitamin C results in decreased collagen synthesis.

Fortunately, a single bell pepper can provide you with an astounding 209 milligrams of vitamin C, which equates to roughly 348% of your RDA[*].

#9: Leafy Greens

Leafy greens like kale, chard, and spinach are high in copper and vitamin C, meaning they’re practically a one-stop shop for supporting collagen synthesis.

And not only that, but chlorophyll found in dark green vegetables may also increase procollagen, the precursor to collagen in your body[*].

#10: Garlic

Garlic is high in sulfur, which some evidence suggests may support healthy collagen synthesis[*].

Conclusion

If you want to boost collagen synthesis dramatically, there’s no question that taking collagen protein supplements every day is the way to go. 

They’re less messy and more convenient than making bone broth and contain more collagen as well[*].

However, essential cofactors like vitamin C, copper, and sulfur can further elevate collagen synthesis, whether or not you use supplements. That’s where bell peppers, oysters, and garlic come in.

Also, don’t forget that eating plenty of amino acids and natural sources of collagen also gives your body the raw materials it needs for collagen synthesis.

So if you decide against collagen supplements, make sure you don’t neglect high-protein foods like beef, fish, and chicken.

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