What the heck is collagen and why is it so important to our health, particularly as we age? According to Meital James in her online article, How to Naturally Increase Collagen Production in Your Skin, “collagen is the most abundant protein in our bodies, especially type 1 collagen. It’s found in your skin, bones, muscles, tendons, gut, blood vessels and even your teeth. It’s what keeps your skin elastic and is responsible for replacing dead skin cells. As we age, Collagen production is reduced, leaving us with sagging skin, wrinkles and joint pain.”
While you can certainly spend a lot of money buying collagen creams to apply topically, it’s far better to use foods and herbs to help rebuild your collagen from the inside out. After all, every part of your body needs collagen support, not just your skin. Here are a few of the best:
FOODS THAT BUILD COLLAGEN
Proline & Lysine-packed Foods – these are amino acids that help build tissue in the body. Lysine is an essential amino acid, meaning it cannot be manufactured by the body so it must be consumed. Proline is manufactured in the body with the assistance of vitamin C, which acts as a co-factor of enzyme prolyl-hydrolase, which converts proline into hydroxyproline, a component of collagen. Examples: gelatins, meat, fish, vegetables and low-fat dairy, eggs and shark cartilage (complete data on Proline and Lysine sources)
Foods Rich in Vitamin C – As one of many antioxidants, vitamin C reduces free radicals, the damaging chemicals responsible for aging, while it also has a primary role in building and repairing tissues, such as skin, blood vessels, tendons and ligaments, bones, teeth and cartilage, according to PubMed Health. Vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin required for cell repair and growth throughout the body. Examples: oranges, grapefruits, lemons, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, among others.
Foods Rich in Niacin -The American Academy of Dermatology says Niacin (vitamin B-3) has been found to raise the formation of collagen and decrease dark spots on the skin. Examples: brewer’s yeast, beets, liver, swordfish, tuna, sunflower seeds, salmon, beef liver and beef kidney
Red & Dark Purple Fruits – They are rich in anthocyanidin, which protect us against the effects of free radicals.They also increase levels of vitamin C in cells, and help prevent collagen destruction in skin and connective tissue. Examples: cherries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries
Orange Foods – orange vegetables, like carrots and sweet potatoes, are rich in vitamin A, which restores and regenerates damaged collagen.
Iron-rich Foods – A study in the 2009 edition of the “Journal of the Korean Society of Food Science and Nutrition”, says iron can aid in collagen formation. Iron is a building block and co-factor, along with ascorbic acid, silicon, proline and lysine, in the production of collagen. Therefore, consuming iron-rich foods may help boost your collagen levels. Examples: meat, poultry, fish, spinach, kale, whole grains and nuts
Copper-rich Foods – The mineral copper aids in the formation of red blood cells, melanin and collagen in the body. Increasing your intake of copper-rich foods can help boost your collagen levels. Examples: organ meats, dark leafy greens, dried legumes and nuts
Sulfur-rich Foods – Sulfur has been called nature’s “beauty mineral” because it keeps your complexion clear and youthful and hair glossy and smooth. Collagen production in your body depends on sulfur to create healthy skin and heal scars. When you have enough sulfur in your body, your skin and hair are more flexible, softer, and smoother. Garlic is a great example; plus it contains taurin and lipid acid, which support damaged collagen fibers. Other Examples: egg yolks, meat, poultry, fish, onions, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, and kale, as well as fermented foods like sauerkraut. Note that over-cooking foods can greatly reduce sulfur and the health benefits it provides!
White Tea (my favorite!) – according to research by Kingston University, white tea can protect the structure of the skin proteins, specifically collagen.
Avocado Oil – A 2006 study published in the Journal of Rheumatology found that avocado oil “significantly increased type II collagen”.
HERBS THAT BUILD COLLAGEN
Bilberry – Bilberry contains anthocyanosides, which are potent antioxidants which strengthen blood vessels and capillary walls, improve red blood cells, and stabilize collagen tissues (tendons, ligaments and cartilage).
Calendula – The University of Maryland Medical Center reports research indicating topical application of calendula cream helps to heal wounds. Researchers believe calendula helps the body produce collagen. Creams or ointments containing calendula may be applied several times daily.
Gotu Kola – Research shows that gotu kola contains substances that increase collagen production, and this is the reason it has been used for centuries to heal wounds and reduce the formation of scars. It is also used in Ayurveda to help reduce rashes on the skin.
Hawthorn – Hawthorn is an antioxidant that helps to stabilize collagen. Its unique blend of phytonutrients fend off specific classes of free radicals that are known to damage tissue collagen resulting in arthritic conditions, thus improving the health of joints, skin, hair, & nails.
Horsetail – The herb horsetail is rich in silica, which the body needs to produce collagen and to repair other connective tissues. According to the University of Virginia Health System, horsetail also strengthens bones by helping the body to utilize calcium.
With such a wealth of natural collagen protectors and synthesizers available, all you need do to protect the youth of your body’s tissues is eat a wide variety of real food. Add to that a little support from Mother Nature’s herbs and elements, like sulphur and copper, and you can seize your youth internally and externally without spending a fortune.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide information about the tradition of Ayurveda. This information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure or prevention of any disease. If you have an acute or chronic health concern, please consult a trained health professional who can fully assess your needs and address them effectively. If you are seeking the advice of a trained ayurvedic expert, call or email Karen Callahan at firstname.lastname@example.org.