Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body[*]. It’s an essential building block for your connective tissue, skin, hair, bones, and more.
In the last few years, collagen supplements and collagen-rich foods have become increasingly popular. Both are good ways to increase your body’s collagen levels.
Which foods are rich in collagen? And should you take a collagen supplement, or should you get your collagen from your diet?
Here’s a look at collagen supplements vs. food, as well as the best foods to boost collagen production.
Both supplements and food are good ways to increase your body’s collagen levels. Let’s look at each one in-depth.
Collagen supplements contain collagen peptides (also called hydrolyzed collagen) — small strings of amino acids that your body can absorb quickly.
Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins, and collagen supplements contain the exact essential amino acids that your body — glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline — that your body needs to make its own collagen.
Research shows that your body absorbs collagen supplements well[*]. Taking a daily scoop of collagen boosts your natural collagen synthesis, and studies show that oral collagen supplements are great for skin care[*], joint pain[*], and bone strength[*].
You can also get more collagen from your diet.
Raw collagen is tough and fibrous, and your body can’t digest or absorb it well. But cooking collagen breaks it down into gelatin — a jelly-like substance that has all the amino acids you need to boost collagen formation.
Your body absorbs gelatin about as well as it does a collagen supplement[*].
When it comes to collagen, both supplements and collagen-rich foods are good choices. You’ll absorb them both, and they’ll both offer you similar benefits.
Adding more collagen-rich foods to your diet is a great way to support your skin health, joints, bones, and more.
The foods on this list either contain collagen or have compounds that support your body’s natural collagen production.
1. Bone Broth
Bone broth is one of the easiest ways to get more collagen in your diet.
Animal bones and connective tissue are rich in collagen, and boiling them for several hours gelatinizes the collagen so it’s easy to absorb.
High-quality bone broth has a jelly-like texture, which is a sign that it’s full of collagen protein. Bone broth is also a good source of magnesium, calcium, phosphorous, vitamin K, and several other nutrients.
Bone broth freezes well, so it’s easy to make a big batch of homemade keto bone broth that will last you for weeks.
You also have several pre-made options. Kettle & Fire bone broth is delicious, low in carbs, and made with 100% grass-fed beef bones.
2. Bone Marrow
Bone marrow is the fibrous tissue found inside many larger animal bones. It’s a good source of collagen protein, as well as B vitamins and animal fat.
You can add grass-fed marrow bones to your bone broth for extra richness and collagen content, or you can roast the bones and eat the gelatinized marrow.
Ask local butchers if they have any grass-fed marrow bones. Because most people don’t buy them, marrow bones are often inexpensive and a great way to get more collagen in your diet.
3. Skin-On Chicken
Chicken skin is another good collagen source, and chicken meat has essential amino acids that your body needs to make collagen[*].
The easiest way to get chicken skin is to buy a rotisserie chicken from your local grocery store. You can also roast your own whole chicken, or buy skin-on chicken thighs.
Make sure you save the chicken bones — they have even more collagen in them, and you can use them to make bone broth.
4. Skin-On Fish
Fish skin is a rich source of collagen. Pan-frying or baking a portion of skin-on fish is a great way to increase your collagen intake.
There are several types of collagen, and research suggests that collagen from fish may be especially good for your skin[*] (although collagen from chicken or beef is good, too).
For even more benefit, choose a fatty, wild-caught fish like salmon or mackerel. Fatty fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which may enhance collagen formation[*].
Try making this crispy skin salmon with pesto cauliflower rice to get more collagen in your diet.
5. Citrus fruits
Citrus fruits like lemons, limes, and oranges don’t contain collagen directly. However, they are rich in vitamin C, an essential cofactor for collagen production.
Without vitamin C, your cells can’t make collagen — and if you cut out vitamin C entirely, you’ll develop scurvy, which is where your collagen synthesis shuts down and you begin to have problems with your teeth, skin, hair, and nails.
Fortunately, most people meet the minimum requirements for vitamin C through a normal diet.
But eating extra vitamin C-rich foods may enhance your collagen production and give you additional benefits, especially when it comes to skin health[*].
Try adding lemon juice, lime juice, grapefruits, and oranges to your diet. The vitamin C boost may help your body make collagen more effectively.
Tomatoes are a dense source of lycopene, an antioxidant that protects your skin from sun exposure and prevents collagen breakdown[*]. Lycopene is also what makes tomatoes red.
You’ll get some lycopene from raw tomatoes, but cooking tomatoes increases the bioavailability of lycopene by more than 100%[*]. This keto tomato sauce recipe is a good way to get more lycopene in your diet.
Tomatoes are also a good source of vitamin C.
7. Dark Leafy Green Vegetables
In addition to high vitamin C content, leafy greens are rich in chlorophyll — the nutrient that gives veggies their green color.
Chlorophyll helps your cells make more procollagen, the precursor to collagen[*].
Leafy greens also contain antioxidants that protect your cells from free radicals, reducing inflammation and protecting against collagen breakdown[*].
Good dark leafy greens include:
- Collard greens
- Broccoli rabe
What is the Best Source of Collagen?
When it comes to collagen, both diet and supplements are good choices.
Studies show that your body absorbs both collagen peptides from supplements and gelatin from collagen-rich foods. Either one will work well for you.
Regardless of how you get your collagen, it’s worthwhile to add citrus fruits, leafy greens, and tomatoes to your diet. They’ll support your body’s collagen synthesis, helping you get the most out of the collagen you eat.
If you’re looking for a good collagen supplement, we recommend Perfect Keto Collagen. It’s pure, grass-fed collagen protein with no artificial sweeteners or fillers, and it comes in several delicious flavors.