Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body and, while that’s impressive in its own right, it’s not what has made collagen one of the most sought-after substances in health and beauty since the 80s. It’s the fact that collagen, along with the protein elastin, is what makes skin look young, supple, and plump.
Dermatologists and cosmetic surgeons have been injecting collagen into faces for decades to get fuller lips and tighter skin. But the benefits of collagen go far beyond getting a People magazine-worthy pout. Collagen provides the building blocks for healthy and strong joints and bones and it is also a primary component of the lining of the gut.
The body makes its own collagen, but, around age 35, (gasp!) this production begins to decline and signs of aging start to show.
Sad news, indeed. But there is hope! Rather than sit by and watch the wrinkles set in, you can actually feed your body the collagen it’s missing.
Here is our guide to the best dietary sources of collagen.
Bone Broth Provides Bioavailable Collagen
Not to toot our own horn, BUT, bone broth is, by far, one of the best whole food sources of collagen, as it contains high amounts of “bioavailable” collagen. “Bioavailable,” means the amount of a nutrient that gets absorbed and used by the body. You’ll see this term used frequently by vitamin and supplement companies because many processed or manufactured nutrients come in forms that can’t actually be used by the body.
Our bodies evolved eating food -
not man-made supplements and powders.
When we supplement with manufactured nutrients, the body doesn’t easily recognize them, and can have a hard time putting them to use in the same way it would with nutrients from whole-food sources.
Enter: bone broth. Bone broth is a real food source of collagen. Traditional bone broth is made by slow-simmering bones for 18+ hours. This allows the nutrients in the bones (i.e. collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin, and minerals) to breakdown and release into the broth, making them more digestible.
Drinking bone broth is like drinking liquid bone.
Or, as we like to call it, nutrient liquid gold.
Studies have shown that bioavailable collagen can, over time, improve collagen density in the skin. This will restore a smoother, more youthful appearance in the face and throughout the body. A cup a day of bone broth is all that’s needed to supply your body with collagen. And while many people just sip it straight (and it's delicious), you can use bone broth in just about any recipe that uses water - including cocktails. Seriously. Check out our recipe section to see some super creative ways to incorporate bone broth into your daily routine.
Foods That Boost Collagen
Enough about us. You can also support your body’s natural collagen production by eating certain kinds of foods. Foods high in vitamin C (like kale, broccoli, strawberries, spinach, and red peppers) have antioxidant properties that scavenge the free radicals which would normally break down collagen - protecting the collagen you already have while stimulating collagen production itself.
Eggs are another exceptional choice to add to your diet regularly, as they contain bioavailable collagen and zinc, a trace mineral that has been shown to assist in collagen production. Additionally, eggs contain the proteins proline and lysine which support collagen production.
Pro Tip: Make a super easy, collagen-packed meal in less than 10 minutes by adding a handful of green veggies and a cracked egg to your bone broth.
Which Collagen Supplements Work?
We’re not big fans of taking supplements if you can get the real food form instead. Has Hippocrates (the Granddaddy of medicine) said, "Let food be thy medicine." But, we get it, sometimes supplements are just easier. If you do want to take a collagen supplement, make sure that it is organic hydrolyzed collagen or collagen peptides (two different names for the same thing) and that your supplement is derived from organic, pasture-raised beef or wild-caught caught marine sources verified to be GMO free.
We also recommend that you balance your collagen supplement with a whole food source of collagen when you can, just to make sure you have all your bases covered.
How Long Does It Take for Collagen to Work?
Every body is different. When consuming bone broth, some may begin to experience the internal benefits, such as improved digestion, in a matter of days thanks to bone broth’s ability to help seal and heal the gut. Changes to the skin and hair may take longer, as it takes time for the body to assimilate nutrients. The main takeaway, though, is that collagen is not a one-and-done kind of thing. You have to regularly consume collagen over time in order to consistently experience benefits.
Need some inspo? Check out our recipe section for tons of ways you can get bone broth collagen into your diet every day.
Know someone who’s curious about collagen? Share this with them!