Collagen is a natural protein found in your skin, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues. Collagen makes up 30-40% of the protein in your tissues, making it the most abundant protein in your body (* , *).
Collagen is incredibly sturdy due to its unusual structure (*). It’s no exaggeration to say that your body holds its shape thanks to collagen!
In the last few years, collagen supplements have become increasingly popular. However, you can also support your body’s collagen levels by eating collagen-rich foods or foods with collagen-boosting micronutrients.
In this article, we’ll review why you should consider collagen, whether it’s better to get collagen from supplements or food, and the best foods to boost collagen production.
High collagen levels offer the following health benefits:
- Decreased signs of aging
- Better skin elasticity (*)
- Relief from joint pain (*)
- Supports bone strength (*)
Normally, your body makes collagen with nutrients from the foods you eat. The ingredients needed to produce collagen are the amino acids glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, alanine, and arginine. Vitamin C and copper are also used as cofactors, or helpers, to produce collagen (* , *).
Getting collagen in your diet can help support healthy collagen levels, but is it better to take a supplement or include more food sources of collagen?
Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of getting collagen from food versus supplements.
Collagen supplements are convenient, easy to use, and mess-free. They contain large amounts of hydrolyzed collagen peptides, or amino acids, needed to make collagen, so they’re highly effective at boosting your body’s collagen production (* , *).
Studies show that oral 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 (* , *, *, *, *)
However, supplements aren’t everyone’s top choice for enhancing nutrition. You may choose to source collagen from food due to budget, personal preference, and/or concerns about the quality and purity of collagen supplements.
Food has the advantage of giving you more nutrients than collagen supplements alone, so you get more bang for your buck.
Even if you choose to take a daily scoop of collagen peptides, you still need to include collagen booster foods to ensure your body has an adequate supply of vitamin C and the trace minerals needed for healthy collagen synthesis.
So, what should you eat to get more collagen in your diet? Glad you asked.
The foods on this list either contain collagen or have compounds that your body can use to produce collagen. Furthermore, all the foods on this list are keto-friendly.
1. Bone Broth
Bone broth is one of the easiest ways to get more collagen in your diet. It’s made from animal bones, which are rich in collagen. Simmering the bones for several hours breaks the collagen down into gelatin so it’s easy to absorb.
Bone broth is also a good source of magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin K, and several other nutrients.
You can sip on bone broth or use it to cook soups and sauces. Bone broth is simple to make, but there are also good pre-made options, such as Kettle & Fire bone broth.
For homemade bone broth, brown beef or chicken bones, and then cover them with water. Add salt and optional add-ins like carrots, mushrooms, garlic, onions, apple cider vinegar, and bay leaves for extra flavor. Simmer on low heat for 24-48 hours. Store your broth in the fridge or freeze a big batch to last several weeks.
2. Fish Stock
If you prefer to eat more seafood over beef or don’t have time to simmer bone broth, fish stock is a fast and convenient alternative.
To make it, select a whole fresh fish from the market, minus the filet. Then cover the entire fish (head, skin, and all) with water and simmer on medium heat for 20 to 30 minutes. You can add salt and other spices, like turmeric, black pepper, cayenne, parsley, cilantro, tarragon, or bay leaves, to taste.
Use fish stock the same way you would use bone broth.
3. Chicken with Skin
Chicken can be a good source of collagen if you eat it with the skin-on. Chicken skin contains collagen, while the meat itself has essential amino acids that your body needs to make collagen (*).
To boost your collagen production, opt for chicken wings, thighs, drumsticks, or other skin-on cuts — which also offer plenty of healthy fat to fuel your keto lifestyle — and use them to make Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings or Crispy Chicken Thighs.
When there’s no time to cook, pick up a rotisserie chicken from your local grocery store and enjoy the meat with the skin on.
Make sure you save chicken bones, which contain collagen, and use them to make chicken bone broth.
Beef is another excellent source of protein and is rich in glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline — the same amino acids that form collagen (*).
For the most collagen, choose cuts of beef that contain a lot of connective tissue like chuck roast. These cuts will need to be cooked low and slow (think BBQ Pulled Beef and Beef Stew) to break down the tough connective tissue, but you’ll be rewarded with tender, collagen-packed meat.
5. Salmon with Skin
Fish is another excellent protein source, which means it supplies amino acids for your body to make collagen. Fish skin is a rich source of collagen. Try pan-frying or baking a portion of skin-on salmon, like this Crispy Skin Salmon with Pesto Cauliflower Rice.
Salmon is also an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may enhance collagen formation (*).
Egg whites are rich in collagen-boosting amino acids and egg yolks are a decent source of collagen. Eggs are a versatile ingredient. Whether you snack on hard-boiled eggs or prep a batch of Keto Egg Muffins for breakfast, eggs are an affordable and versatile ingredient that can help you meet your collagen needs.
When collagen is cooked, it turns to gelatin — that’s why bone broths, bone marrow, and some meat dishes take on a jellied texture.
8. Organ Meats
Organ meats, also known as offal, include animal liver, kidney, or heart parts. They contain collagen, as well as a long list of micronutrients that rival most multivitamins. If the thought of eating organ meats is tough to swallow, try mixing them into other dishes along with ground beef or chuck.
Canned sardines contain skin and bones, both of which contain collagen. Try adding a few sardines to salads, mix them into tuna, and stuff the mixture into an avocado, or chop and saute them into sauces for a collagen boost.
Copper is an essential cofactor for collagen synthesis, and there’s no easier way to get copper than throwing back a few oysters. Just one small raw oyster contains a whopping 0.4 milligrams — that’s over 25% of the RDA (*). Whether you enjoy them raw, grilled, or smoked, oysters can support collagen creation.
11. Low-Carb Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables don’t contain collagen, but many are excellent sources of vitamin C. They’re also an excellent source of antioxidants that protect your cells from free radicals, reducing inflammation and protecting against collagen breakdown (*).
Without vitamin C, your cells can’t make collagen. A true vitamin C deficiency is rare but can lead to scurvy, which is when collagen synthesis completely shuts down and teeth, skin, hair, and nails suffer.
Eating extra vitamin C-rich foods may enhance your collagen production and give you additional benefits, like antioxidant protection, especially when it comes to skin health (*).
The best keto fruits and vegetables to get your vitamin C are:
- Bell peppers
- Leafy greens like kale, chard, spinach, collard greens, and broccoli
Green vegetables also contain chlorophyll, the green pigment, which helps your cells make more procollagen, the precursor to collagen in your body (*).
Getting more collagen in your diet is a great way to support the health of your skin, joints, bones, and more.
You can get collagen from both food and supplements. Animal foods made from or containing animal skin and/or bones, including bone broth, meat, poultry, and fish, are the best food sources of collagen.
Other foods, like eggs, citrus fruit, leafy green vegetables, and shellfish, are good sources of collagen “building blocks” like protein, vitamin C, zinc, and copper. Getting enough of these nutrients gives your body the raw materials it needs to create collagen from scratch.
Everyone should eat collagen-boosting foods, and people interested in massively increasing collagen synthesis should also consider supplementing collagen protein.
If you’re looking for a good collagen supplement, try Perfect Keto Collagen. Our collagen is sourced from grass-fed animals and contains no artificial sweeteners or fillers. It’s enhanced with MCT oil and acacia fiber and is available unflavored or in 6 delicious flavors.
If you have questions about collagen supplements, feel free to check out this ultimate guide to hydrolyzed collagen.
How do you increase collagen naturally?
Your body needs amino acids (aka protein), vitamin C, and trace minerals to form collagen. To support collagen synthesis, eat foods that are good sources of these nutrients regularly. You can also incorporate collagen-rich foods, like bone broth and gelatin, or consider a daily collagen peptide supplement.
What is the highest source of collagen?
Meat, poultry, and fish are the best food sources of collagen. However, not all cuts are created equal when it comes to collagen content. Choose cuts of meat that contain more connective tissue, like chuck roast, or organ meats for extra collagen. Poultry and fish eaten with the skin and/or bones contain more collagen than boneless and skinless.
What fruits and vegetables have collagen?
Fruits and vegetables don’t contain collagen, but they do contain other nutrients that are essential for your body to synthesize collagen. One of the most important nutrients involved in collagen production is vitamin C, which can be found in lemons, tomatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, and leafy greens.
What foods destroy collagen?
You can eat all the collagen-rich foods and collagen-boosting foods you want, but you could be jeopardizing your collagen supply if you’re also eating lots of refined carbohydrates and sugars. These foods tend to spike blood sugar levels which can lead to body-wide inflammation — two things that can damage collagen and contribute to premature aging.
Asserin J et al. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. 2015 September 12
Schauss A et al. Effect of the novel low molecular weight hydrolyzed chicken sternal cartilage extract, BioCell Collagen, on improving osteoarthritis-related symptoms: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. 2012 April 16