Collagen is one of the most prominent beauty buzzwords out there, but do you actually know what it is or what it does? 

Put simply, collagen is a bit like the “glue” that holds your teeth, joints, connective tissue, skin, hair, and bones together. 

It actually comes from the Greek word, “kólla,” which means glue, but that’s a broad definition, so let’s take a closer look. 

Collagen is the main structural protein in the body’s connective tissues and is the most abundant protein found in mammals. In addition to maintaining skin elasticity, collagen can also aid in keeping the gut lining healthy, allowing our bodies to fully absorb additional nutrients that affect our overall health. It can also aid in things like stronger nails, longer hair, and more supple and supported joints. 

Over time, the body produces less of this fibrous protein and our collagen breaks down, causing things like wrinkles, brittle hair and nails, and worn down cartilage in our joints. Yikes!  Now, you may be surprised to learn that foods containing collagen won’t increase the amount of collagen in your body. Why? Because it breaks down into basic proteins/amino acids during the digestion process, and so to increase natural collagen production, you should eat foods that contain the nutrients your body needs to produce it. makes sense?

Foods containing high levels of vitamins A, C, and zinc, for example, are most effective, so let’s look at some options.

Citrus. Grapefruit, lemons, and oranges all contain high levels of vitamin C, which is an essential collagen synthesizer.

Fish. Wild-caught salmon, for example, is loaded with zinc, which we know to aid in collagen production. 

Sweet Potatoes. Like carrots, their bright orange color comes from beta-carotene (or vitamin A), which is an essential nutrient for creating collagen in the body. 

Nuts and Hemp Seeds. These are both great sources of healthy fats, but their other superpower is collagen-boosting zinc.

Chicken. This popular lean meat is rich in certain, non-essential amino acids that your body can use to increase collagen production. 

Yellow Peppers. Nothing against red and green, but yellow peppers are especially good for boosting collagen in the body thanks to high levels of vitamins A and C. 

Beef. Just like chicken, beef also contains non-essential amino acids that aid the body in making collagen. Consuming bone broth made from beef (and other animals) is a popular means of increasing collagen production for many people. 

Edamame. Did you know this popular bean is bursting with zinc? Next time you’re craving this healthy snack, you can feel good knowing that it’s also helping your body produce more collagen.

Strawberries. You may already eat strawberries for their antioxidant benefits, but these juicy fruits are also packed with vitamin C, helping your body make more of that coveted collagen.

Egg Whites. This protein-packed food is also chock-full of proline, an amino acid necessary for collagen production. 

Bonus! Garlic, which has a host of other health benefits, is high in sulfur, a mineral that helps synthesize and prevent the breakdown of collagen in the body. So, while it may not be ideal for a first-date dinner, it is fantastic for your skin. 

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