Health & Wellness

Top 5 Vegan Collagen Sources for Better Skin, Hair, Nails, and More!

There’s one question I’ve received a lot over the last few months: Are there any good vegan collagen sources out there?

In an answer: Yes, but maybe not in the way you’re expecting.

When it comes to vegan collagen sources, your best bet is to go right to the original source—meaning that instead of turning to powders and supplements for this one, go straight to the food itself.

That’s right—there are whole food-based vegan collagen sources that will give you all those hair, skin, and nail benefits you’re wanting.

 

What is Vegan Collagen—and Why Does It Matter?

For purposes of simplicity, collagen is the structural protein that keeps your skin plump and wrinkle-free. But it does much more than that.

As we’ve discussed before, this structural protein is also vital for maintaining the structure of many parts of your body, including your bones, muscles, tendons, skin, and more. In fact, it makes up almost 80 percent of the protein found in your skin! [1]

Without proper collagen, you’ll begin to experience joint discomfort, signs of aging, stiff muscles and tendons, and more.

While collagen is typically found in abundance in animal-based products, such as bone broth made from beef or chicken, and fish, I recommend choosing vegan collagen sources to avoid the inflammatory effects of animal-based foods.

Fortunately, there are some great vegan collagen sources, largely thanks to the high amounts of vitamin C found in many plant-based foods.

Curious about how vitamin C plays a role in collagen? Well, interestingly, vitamin C has been shown to be a very important factor in the synthesis of collagen (the body’s natural ability to produce collagen).

Not only is vitamin C a powerful antioxidant, but it’s also responsible for helping to maintain activity in the enzymes that are part of collagen synthesis. [2]

Here’s why that’s important: As you age, your natural collagen production decreases. In fact, research has shown that after age 20, your body produces about 1 percent less collagen in your skin each year. [3]

But aging isn’t the only factor to consider. There are other lifestyle factors that impair the amount or quality of collagen in your body.

For example, according to a 2009 review, stress impairs the quality of collagen. The authors of the review state that stress affects collagen synthesis through glucocorticoid-mediated processes. [4]

In fact, it’s been shown that stress not only damages that collagen you have but also lowers your collagen production!

But the good news is that by eating certain plant-based sources rich in vitamin C, you can counteract these effects!

Not only does vitamin C help to reduce your stress levels but it also supports your collagen production.

A 2019 study confirmed that those who took 500 mg of vitamin C daily for a week prior to speaking publicly were less stressed than speakers who didn’t take vitamin C. [5]

And when it comes to collagen, according to a study published in 2015, vitamin C significantly induced collagen synthesis in women of all ages, but especially in those under age 50. [6]

Given this information, it makes sense that eating foods rich in vitamin C would promote greater collagen production in your body, right?

Well, that’s exactly what we’re going to focus on next—the top vegan collagen sources that are rich in vitamin C and promote collagen synthesis. So, let’s dive right in!

Top 5 Vegan Collagen Sources

Here are five of the top vegan collagen sources that you should be consuming on a regular basis.

1. Berries

In terms of vegan collagen sources, berries may very well give you the most bang for your nutritional buck!

Specifically, one cup of blueberries contains 14.4 mg of vitamin C. And with the average recommended daily amounts (RDA) ranging from 65 to 90 mg, that one cup puts you well on your way! [7]

But here’s more proof about how blueberries impact your collagen: According to a 2013 study, consuming blueberries has been shown to actually prevent collagen loss. [8]

This is important because collagen, which is the most abundant protein in the human body, is necessary for skin elasticity. Plus, the more collagen you have, the more youthful your skin appears.

But blueberries aren’t the only vitamin C-rich berries available. In fact, a 2018 study showed that the vitamin C abundant in strawberries actually increases type I collagen synthesis. [9]

This is important because type I collagen is the most abundant type of collagen in the body and helps to minimize wrinkles and fine lines as well as improve the elasticity and hydration in your skin.

It really isn’t surprising that strawberries have this benefit, considering that one serving actually contains more vitamin C than an orange. [1011] Shocking, right?

Believe it or not, that’s not the only surprising food fact I have in store for you! Keep reading to learn about more surprising foods that help boost your body’s natural collagen production.

2. Cinnamon 

When you think of cinnamon, you probably think about that versatile spice in your kitchen spice rack. But, believe it or not, cinnamon is also known to help promote the production of type I collagen, making it one of the best vegan collagen sources around!

According to a 2012 study, cinnamon extract displayed anti-aging properties for skin. It did so by up-regulating both mRNA and protein expression levels of type I collagen in the skin! [12]

But there’s more. According to a 2014 study where researchers tested the anti-inflammatory activities of 115 foods, Ceylon cinnamon was one the most potent anti-inflammatory foods of all that were tested. [13]

Chronic inflammation is known to break down collagen, so eating foods with anti-inflammatory properties can be very beneficial for collagen synthesis and maintenance.

Couple the anti-inflammatory effects of cinnamon with its ability to promote collagen, and you have a win-win!

3. Citrus fruits

Given that they’re known for their vitamin C content, it’s really no surprise that citrus fruits would make the list of top vegan collagen sources, is it?

But did you know that citrus fruits are the main fruit group grown and consumed throughout the world, with world production sitting at approximately 108 million tons?!

The major citrus fruits in production? Oranges, mandarins, lemons, and grapefruits. [14]

And citrus fruits are known to be made up of about 51 percent of vitamin C, making them a powerhouse for collagen synthesis. [15]

So, how effective are citrus fruits, specifically, at promoting collagen production? Well, according to a 2016 study, extracts of mandarin oranges were shown to help prevent collagenase and elastase activity. [16] (Collagenase is an enzyme that breaks down collagen while elastase breaks down elastin.)

Looking for some simple ways to add citrus fruits to your diet? Consider adding citrus fruits to your daily diet by using freshly squeezed lemon juice in your salad dressings or sauces, snacking on oranges, or drinking freshly-squeezed juice.

4. Garlic

Perhaps the most surprising food on this list of top vegan collagen sources? Garlic!

Did you know that a single clove of garlic contains 2.81 mg of vitamin C? [17]

And in addition to its vitamin C content, garlic has some other pretty incredible collagen-focused benefits as well!

In fact, garlic is known to be rich in sulfur. Why does this matter? Well, sulfur is actually a trace mineral that’s been shown to promote collagen synthesis by helping to prevent collagen fibers from weakening and breaking down! [18]

Personally, I like to add garlic to different foods, such as soups, sauces, and dips. One of my favorite dishes featuring garlic? My Golden Garlic Smashed Potatoes! They’re absolutely delicious and an easy way to get some more vitamin C and collagen-boosting benefits.

5. Ginseng

Finally, the last in my list of vegan collagen sources is ginseng, which is commonly used in herbal therapies for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

It’s widely touted to help support healthy blood sugar levels, brain health, and even immune health. But were you aware that it’s been proven to help support collagen synthesis as well?

According to a 2012 study, ginseng actually increased the production of type I collagen in human skin. [19] And another study published in 2020 revealed that red ginseng supported collagen synthesis and even restored elasticity in skin. [20]

To consume more ginseng, you can drink it as a tea by steeping a few slices in hot water for a few minutes or add it to soups or stews. You can also take it in supplement form; just be sure to talk to your doctor first.

Regardless of which vegan collagen sources appeal most to you, there are a variety of options available for you to choose from.

 

Vegan collagen sources - Dr. Pingel

 

As always, the best thing you can do is to make sure you’re eating a diet featuring a variety of fruits and vegetables, and remember to include those vitamin C-rich and collagen-promoting sources along the way!

 

Key Takeaways

  • While collagen is typically found in abundance in animal-based products, such as bone broth made from beef or chicken, and fish, I recommend choosing vegan collagen sources to avoid the inflammatory effects of animal-based foods.
  • Fortunately, there are several plant sources of collagen, thanks to the fact that vitamin C is known to promote collagen synthesis.
  • Some of the top vegan substitutes for collagen include: berries, cinnamon, citrus fruits, garlic, and ginseng.

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