10 Best Foods to Eat for a Collagen Boost
The foods you eat can help your body make more collagen. Here's what the science says about top foods to include in your diet.
Is it just us, or are you seeing collagen everywhere, too? In our Instagram feeds, at the grocery store, and even in the checkout aisle of natural foods stores—most of which is in supplement form, of course.
Collagen is popular, alright: the industry is supposed to be worth $7.5 billion by 2027, according to market research company, Grand View Research. It's sharp rise to fame is mostly for its anti-aging skin benefits. And the science supports this boom: in studies where participants consumed collagen supplements regularly, researchers have reported successful anti-aging benefits (reduced fine lines, wrinkles, crow's feet, etc.). Collagen has also been found to help with exercise recovery in college athletes, as well as joint stiffness in folks with osteoarthritis and in athletes.
Awesome and legit benefits aside, the reality is that regular collagen supplements aren't for everyone. They can also be pricey. And, truthfully, some of us prefer to try a food first approach, first. Even if younger-looking skin or joint pain relief aren't of interest to you, collagen should still be on your radar: we start to lose collagen in our mid-20s, and after the age of 40, our bodies lose about 1 percent of collagen each year.
So, with that said, here are the 10 best foods to eat for a collagen boost.
1. Beef Bone Broth
Bovine—aka cattle—is one of four top sources of collagen on the market. And if you're looking for more collagen type I (the type of collagen that plays a big role in skin, hair, and nail health), then beef bone broth is a worthy go-to because it's a great source of collagen type I. Make your own with our Beef Bone Broth recipe.
2. Skin-on Chicken
When middle-aged women (39 to 59 years) took oral collagen supplements made from chicken cartilage, they improved their fine lines, wrinkles, crow's feet, and skin elasticity, according to a study in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. So if you want a food first approach, go for skin-on chicken. Or, if it's ground chicken that you like, ask your butcher if the ground chicken includes the skin and, if not, ask them to grind it for you from skin-on thighs or breasts. Try one of our healthy chicken thigh recipes for dinner.
3. Pork Bone Broth
Another common and rich source of collagen is porcine, or pig, byproducts. Interestingly, porcine collagen closely resembles human collagen, which is why it's often used in healthcare settings for skin, wound, and tendon repair and reinforcement. We didn't find any research to suggest that its human collagen likeness made it superior to other collagen for beauty or fitness purposes.
Related: Is Bone Broth Good for You?
Not unlike other animal sources of collagen, fish collagen is concentrated in the bones, skin, and scales. So, if you're going the whole food route for collagen, choose a fish where you'll actually eat most or all of the fish, such as sardines. Also, if you cook your other fish—like salmon fillets, etc.—with the skin on and then eat the skin, you should get a little collagen boost from that, too. Try our healthy sardine recipes for inspiration.
5. Organ Meats
Collagen type I is naturally concentrated in organs. If animal organs, like liver, heart, brain and kidneys, aren't a part of your diet, don't worry: there are other ways to get collagen type I into your diet, as it's also found in skin, bone, and ligaments.
6. Collagen-Infused Drinks
Yes, bone broth, but we covered that already. Think: collagen water, collagen lattes, collagen smoothies etc. Beverages with hydrolyzed collagen are easily digested and well-absorbed in the body, per research published in 2019 in the journal Molecules. But what is hydrolyzed collagen? It's a supplement form of collagen—aka smaller collagen molecules, called peptides, that have been extracted from their original source (chicken, beef, fish, etc.). You can add your own collagen powder at home but many coffee and smoothie shops are carrying collagen-rich beverages.
7. Gummy Candy
OK so not the healthiest way to get collagen—because it comes with a decent dose of added sugars, so don't make this your go-to collagen food—but a lot of gummy candy is made with gelatin, and gelatin is made from partially hydrolyzed collagen. Not all gelling agents come from animal sources, and what's used to make vegetarian- and vegan-friendly gummies won't contain collagen. Vegan gelatin is made from agar-agar or other plant-based sources.
Pick your favorite—blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, blackberries. They're all a great way to add vitamin C to your diet, a nutrient that helps your body build collagen. Vitamin C is also a vitamin that we have to eat because our body doesn't make it naturally. A cup of strawberries has 150 percent of your daily target for vitamin C and a cup of raspberries or blackberries has 50 percent of your daily C goal. Sidenote: vitamin C has been found to have its own skin health benefits: research has found that those who have vitamin C-rich diets have better skin appearance, and fewer wrinkles.
Another tasty, easy way to add vitamin C to your diet is broccoli. A cup of cooked or raw broccoli delivers a full day's dose of vitamin C, which plays an essential role in building collagen. And while vitamin C is needed to synthesize collagen, you don't have to consume it at the same time as your collagen-rich food or collagen supplement. Including both in your diet over the course of the day is sufficient.
10. Aloe Vera Juice
Aloe has been shown to encourage collagen synthesis, in animal studies and also in the lab (so-called "in vitro" studies). And aloe itself may have anti-aging benefits: in a small study of Japanese women, which was published in the journal Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology, those who were 40 years or older and took aloe vera supplements for 8 weeks saw the wrinkles on their face shrink and appear less pronounced. (Learn more about the health benefits of aloe.)