13 Foods That Boost Your Body’s Natural Collagen Production


Eating collagen-rich foods, such as chicken, and foods that promote collagen production, like berries, may benefit your skin and overall health.

“Diet plays a surprisingly large role in the appearance and youthfulness of your skin,” Krista Goncalves, CHN, a certified holistic nutritionist, told Healthline. “And that all comes down to collagen.”

Collagen is the protein that gives skin its structure, suppleness, and stretch. As we age, we produce less collagen in our skin every year — hence the tendency toward wrinkles and thinning skin we see the older we get.

This explains the boom of collagen supplements touted in our social media feeds and store shelves these days. But are collagen supplements better than the collagen you get from food? Which foods are high in collagen, anyway?

The key difference between collagen in supplements and food comes down to bioavailability — your body’s ability to use a nutrient.

“Foods like bone broth contain a bioavailable form of collagen your body can use right away, making it arguably superior to supplements,” said registered dietitian Carrie Gabriel, MS, RDN. However, it’s important to note that research is limited in supporting the claim that collagen in food sources is more bioavailable.

Since over-the-counter (OTC) supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it’s probably safer to stick with a dietary approach to boosting collagen.

Eating collagen-rich foods or foods that boost collagen production may also help create the building blocks (amino acids) you need for your skin goals.

“There are three amino acids important for collagen synthesis: proline, lysine, and glycine,” said registered dietitian and beauty expert Katey Davidson, MScFN, RD. This means all three contribute to the process of your body producing more collagen.

Many people think that bone broth is a good source of collagen, but it’s actually not particularly high in it. According to a 2019 study, bone broth usually doesn’t contain enough collagen to make a noticeable difference.

Bone broth is made by simmering animal bones in water, and this process is believed to extract collagen.

“Since bone broth is made of bones and connective tissue, it contains calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, collagen, glucosamine, chondroitin, amino acids, and many other nutrients,” Davidson said. “However, each bone broth is different because of the quality of the bones used along with other ingredients.”

If you’d still like to add bone broth to your diet, try making your own with bones obtained from a reputable local butcher. This way you can guarantee the quality of your broth. Season the broth with spices for flavor.

There’s a reason why many collagen supplements are derived from chicken — it’s relatively high in the protein. If you’ve ever cut up a whole chicken, you’ve probably noticed how much connective tissue poultry contains. These tissues make chicken a rich source of dietary collagen.

A 2022 study in mice used chicken bone and cartilage as a source of collagen to relieve arthritis, inflammation, and more.

Collagen content varies throughout the chicken, though. For example, the thigh meat contains more collagen than breast meat.

Like other animals, fish have bones and ligaments made of collagen. Some people have claimed marine collagen is one of the most easily absorbed. According to a 2023 review of studies, this form of collagen may be more bioavailable and particularly helpful for skin health and elasticity.

But while your lunchtime tuna sandwich or dinnertime salmon can certainly add to your collagen intake, be aware that the “meat” of fish contains less collagen than other (less desirable) parts.

“We don’t tend to consume the parts of fish that are highest in collagen, like the head, scales, or eyeballs,” said Gabriel. If these don’t sound particularly appetizing, you may want to try a marine collagen supplement instead.

Although eggs don’t contain connective tissues like many other animal products, egg whites do have relatively high amounts of proline. This is one of the amino acids necessary for collagen production.

Vitamin C plays a major role in the production of pro-collagen, the body’s precursor to collagen. This means it can help with collagen synthesis.

Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes are full of this nutrient. Try a broiled grapefruit for breakfast, add orange segments to a salad, or saute yellow peppers in a stir-fry.

Learn more about foods high in vitamin C.

Though citrus tends to get all the glory for its vitamin C content, berries are another excellent source. Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are all high in the nutrient.

“Berries are also high in antioxidants, which protect the skin from damage,” said Davidson.

Rounding out the list of fruits rich in vitamin C are tropical fruits like mango, kiwi, pineapple, and guava. Guava also boasts a small amount of zinc, another co-factor for collagen production.

Garlic may add more than just flavor to your stir-fries and pasta dishes. It could boost your collagen production, too.

According to Gabriel, “Garlic is high in sulfur, which is a trace mineral that helps synthesize and prevent the breakdown of collagen.”

It’s important to note, however, that how much you consume matters. You probably need a lot of it to reap the collagen benefits, she said. This may not be practical, but with its potential benefits, it’s worth making garlic part of your regular diet.

Is there such a thing as too much garlic?

Garlic is safe in regular amounts, but too much garlic (especially raw) may cause heartburn, an upset stomach, or increase your risk of bleeding if you take blood thinners. Avoid eating more garlic just for collagen purposes.

Leafy greens are a key player in a healthy diet. As it turns out, they may offer skin benefits, too.

Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and other salad greens get their color from chlorophyll, known for its antioxidant properties.

“Some studies have shown that consuming chlorophyll increases the precursor to collagen in the skin,” Gabriel said.

Beans are a high protein food that often contain lysine, one of the amino acids necessary for collagen synthesis. Plus, many beans are rich in copper, another nutrient necessary for collagen production.

The next time you reach for a handful of nuts to snack on, make it cashews. These filling nuts contain zinc and copper, both of which boost the body’s ability to create collagen.

Another hidden source of vitamin C, one medium tomato can provide a significant amount of this important nutrient for collagen synthesis. Tomatoes also boast large amounts of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant for skin support.

While you’re adding tomatoes to a salad or sandwich, toss in some bell peppers, too. These veggies are high in vitamin C and contain capsaicin, an anti-inflammatory compound. Studies in mice show that capsaicin may reduce collagen loss and skin damage.

To help your body do its best to produce collagen, focus on high collagen animal or plant foods or vitamin- and mineral-rich fruits and vegetables.

And if you don’t like the foods listed, remember, there’s no one source. A diet full of protein-rich foods, whether from plant or animal sources, can help supply these critical amino acids.

Other nutrients that aid collagen production include zinc, vitamin C, and vitamin E. So, fruits and vegetables high in vitamins and minerals are also good for supple skin.

It’s also a good idea to avoid consuming too much sugar and refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pastries. These can cause inflammation, potentially inhibiting collagen synthesis.

Sometimes, it’s hard to get a wide variety of foods in your diet — and some experts have questioned whether consuming collagen-rich foods actually translates to firmer skin.

It’s possible that stomach acid may break down collagen proteins, preventing them from reaching the skin.

And since dietary collagen for pro-aging skin health is still a relatively new area of research, many experts hesitate to draw definite conclusions.

Still, some research does look promising. A 2023 meta-analysis looking at 26 studies concluded that oral collagen could have positive effects on skin health, but more research is necessary to know for sure.

Consuming more foods high in collagen may help your skin, hair, and nails. Some options include chicken, fish, bone broth, and egg whites. Plant foods high in vitamin C, like citrus fruits and leafy greens, can also aid in collagen synthesis.

While research on just how helpful oral collagen can be is limited, it may be worth focusing on adding more of these foods into a varied, balanced diet.

Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a nutritionist, freelance health writer, and food blogger. She lives with her husband and three children in Mesa, Arizona. Find her sharing down-to-earth health and nutrition info and (mostly) healthy recipes at A Love Letter to Food.


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