Collagen - what is it & how to support it

There is so much talk of collagen in skincare and supplements but what is collagen and how can we make more naturally?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, accounting for up to one-third of its protein composition. Having enough collagen is essential for your health. It’s the major building block for bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments and skin. Think of it as the glue that holds everything together or the beloved family pet.

Collagen and your skin

Collagen plays the essential role in skin elasticity. When collagen is abundant, our skin remains elastic and firm.Beginning at approximately at 35 years of age our collagen production begins to decrease. Still so young! Tell me about it.

Loss of collagen leads to a loss of elasticity and our skin begins to age and wrinkle.

Enough of the bad news.

The good news is that you can dramatically slow this process down by supporting your body with the correct foods and by increasing your skin's natural collagen production with the application of high quality skincare actives. More on the latter in another post.

What collagen does for your skin

Reduce Wrinkles - If your skin has the necessary amount of collagen, it will have more elasticity and firmness. This helps to reduce wrinkles and make your skin look firmer.

Nourishes and moisturises the skin - Another benefit of collagen is that it moisturises the skin and provides the necessary nutrients for it. This helps to provide a protective layer against environmental impacts like UV rays and general daily exposure to pollutants.

Heal wounds - Increased collagen is also beneficial to heal wounds more quickly, as well as reduce the marks that leave scars.

What does your body need to make Collagen?

Your body needs three things to make collagen: vitamin C, minerals, and amino acids. With a balanced whole food plant based diet you will get more than enough of the above to support your collagen production as you age.

Vitamin C is how our bodies synthesise the other elements to produce collagen.

We know that without vitamin C that your body falls apart. Does anyone remember talking about scurvy during their middle school history class? If not look here: the scurvy epidemic. Scurvy is what happened to seafarers during the 1500s to the 1800s. These seamen ate plenty of meat while they were at sea, but they didn’t eat any fresh fruits and vegetables. There was no way to preserve vegetables on the boats of that time.

What happened is their bodies lost collagen rapidly and couldn’t produce more collagen without vitamin C from vegetables and fruits.

They lost their teeth. Their gums bled. (EWWW!) Their skin broke out in rashes. Their hair fell out. (OMG) Their muscles weakened. Aren’t we thankful to be born now...

Simply put, without vitamin C, your body just can not produce collagen.

Why plant based collagen?

Plant-based ingredients have been proven to be far more effective at increasing collagen production than animal sources because they support our body’s natural ability to create collagen.

Animal sources can only replace lost collagen, though, this speculation more than science as there are very few studies which prove it. Assuming they do work, the analogy that best suits this approach is - pouring water into a bucket with a hole it in. Rather than fixing the hole you keep pouring water in.

Animal based collagen sources

The majority of the collagen supplements are animal-based collagen supplements. This means these supplements come from the ground up hooves, hides, bones, fish scales and the joints of animals.

Most animal collagen is a by-product of factory farming, where pesticides and herbicides like glyphosate are stored in the bones.

Companies that make these animal-based collagen supplement powders or skincare and transform from these animal by products and people put them in their smoothies or rub them on their skin.

The idea behind these supplements is that by taking animal collagen, you can replace the collagen levels in your body which are supposed to replace the collagen you’ve lost. As we’ve said before, this isn’t an effective way of maintaining your collagen.

There are other issues with these supplements, too. The first issue is contaminants are often found in animal-based collagen supplements. These contaminants include antibiotics, prescription drug metabolites, steroids, insecticides, and parabens. None of these are good for your body.

Secondly, the we all know of the environmental impact to our planet of animal farming and the devastation to our oceans with overfishing.

Eat your way to more collagen

Support your on collagen production with whole plant-based foods. Nothing has been proven to be more effective for collagen production.

Below are foods from the plant kingdom that promote collagen production.

Include these daily -

Citrus fruits - oranges, lemons, and grapefruit.
Berries - blueberries, amla berries and goji berries.
Seeds - sesame and pumpkin seeds.
Algae - spirulina, chlorella, Irish sea moss, watercress and nori.
Leafy greens - kale, collards, broccoli, arugula, and spinach.
Root Vegetables - brussels sprouts and beetroot.
Nuts - Cashews, pecans, walnuts and almonds.
Green tea (especially matcha) and cocoa (YES!).
Spices - coriander leaf, thyme fresh, dried parsley, fresh dill weed, saffron, cloves, pepper, red or cayenne, paprika, chilli powder, dried rosemary, dried basil etc.
Plant-based staples - oats, beans, legumes, whole grains, tofu, tempeh, and nutritional yeast.
Shiitake mushrooms