Just like the bricks on homes, collagen is what supports and protects our skin’s outer layer. And unfortunately, as we age, both time and gravity take a toll on our dermal layer, and we start to see unwanted wrinkles and sagging [source].
Our skin gets thinner (if only our waists did instead, right?) because we start to lose collagen. This is caused by an increase in free radicals and toxic compounds over time [source]. This aging process is largely due to sun exposure, pollution, chemicals, smoking, chronic stress, and nutritional deficiencies [source].
So, while you are working on eliminating some of the other factors, skip the plastic surgeon and makeup counter, and help boost collagen naturally with these 11 best collagen foods. Your face will thank you!
Multiple factors can be to blame, but the good news is, collagen can be boosted with the right diet. Sure, you may not get back the same youthful look you had when you were 20, but there are many natural remedies to increase and strengthen collagen to make you feel and look your best.
Amino acids are the building blocks of collagen, so it’s important to incorporate foods loaded with vitamins and protein—and vegans, don’t worry—as you all know, there is plenty of protein in plant foods and meat alternatives.
Even more importantly, the natural antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients in whole plant foods have been shown to slow down the aging process as well as eliminate toxins and repair cellular damage [source].
11 Best Foods for Collagen Building
Believe it or not, cabbage is one of the most well-known foods for increasing collagen production. This leafy and versatile vegetable is chock full of vitamins A, B, C, and E [source].
Red cabbage, in particular, contains a heavy dose of colored pigments that act as powerful antioxidants that can help fight free radicals [source].
Cabbage is a popular fermented ingredient, and we have the perfect kimchi lunch wrap to help you get your fill of this collagen-boosting vegetable. Or you could mix it with rice and cheese for the tastiest dinner.
Here, again, our knights in shining armor—avocados! As we know, avocados are amazing for natural skincare. They are rich in vitamin E, which helps fight free radicals, especially in the skin [source].
They also provide omega-3 fatty acids, which increase collagen production. While many of us can go for a bowl of guac day or night, try expanding your horizons with our recipe for creamy avocado soup or an avocado fudge.
Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial to maintaining healthy skin [source], and fish are loaded with them—especially tuna and salmon. Our skin cells are surrounded by fatty, protective membranes, and omega-3s are essential to supporting these cells.
To help you get started on the omega-3 journey, try this pesto baked salmon recipe.
4. Red fruits + vegetables
Here’s another example of how the rainbow of foods plays different roles in our health. In particular, red vegetables contain the antioxidant lycopene, which essentially acts as a natural sunblock and collagen booster [source].
Beans are well known to be a good protein source, but they are also rich in polyphenols—antioxidants that protect the skin, which ultimately lead to slowing down collagen loss. This is particularly true for dry beans, such as kidney, navy, black, and pinto beans [source].
Soybeans (actually, all soy products and root vegetables) contain hyaluronic acid that works to keep your skin hydrated, plump, and firm [source]. And when the skin is well-hydrated, it’s easier to prevent fine lines and wrinkles. Beans are delicious in many recipes, like our vegan green bean casserole.
Garlic packs a real punch for such a small veggie. Full of sulfur, lipoic acid, and taurine, garlic helps stop the breakdown of collagen and works to rebuild collagen fibers that have been damaged over the years [source].
You can add garlic to just about any dish, so next time you’re cooking up a big meal, throw in an extra clove for your skin. Or try this garlic herb sauce for a week of flavorful dinners.
Not only are they great acne fighters, but carrots are also great collagen boosters due to their high vitamin A content [source]. Carrots increase our skin’s elasticity, helping to naturally restore collagen, as well as increase blood flow to the skin’s surface.
There are a million ways to use carrots in cooking, but have you ever tried a coconut carrot smoothie?
Lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruit are all great ingredients for our skin’s health. From acne to dark spot treatment, they can surely protect against virtually any skin concern, including decreasing collagen.
Dosing up on vitamin C stabilizes the collagen’s structure to naturally improve your skin’s texture [source]. Like many of the other plant compounds, citrus fruits are loaded with antioxidants that fight those aging free radicals.
A perfect additive to smoothies and salads, flaxseeds are a great source of fiber and skin-friendly omega-3 fatty acids. Our bodies can’t produce these guys, so it’s important that we eat plenty of foods with omega-3 fatty acids like flax, hemp, and chia seeds.
Their effect on skin is related to an impressive anti-inflammatory action, which stabilizes collagen and helps to prevent its breakdown with aging [source]. Check out our strawberries n’ cream smoothie bowl to deliciously enjoy this important ingredient or make some energy balls.
10. Dark, leafy greens
We know that dark, leafy greens are absolutely great for our internal organs, but they also work wonders for our skin. Filled with phytonutrients, vitamins, and minerals, veggies like collard greens, spinach, and kale all have high water content to keep skin hydrated.
They are packed with antioxidants and anti-inflammatories that help to prevent the breakdown of collagen. For a real collagen-boosting meal, try our baby kale salad that incorporates a few additional collagen promoters, oranges, blueberries, and pomegranate seeds.
Soy-containing foods are excellent options for boosting our skin’s collagen production [source]. Soy contains a plant hormone called genistein, which increases collagen, strengthens skin, and blocks enzymes that can age skin [source]. For a healthy dose of soy, try our chocolate chip banana muffins made from dairy-free soy yogurt.
This post was medically reviewed by Dr. Kimberly Langdon, M.D., a university-trained obstetrician/gynecologist with 19 years of clinical experience. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical review board here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.458