By now we all know that collagen is our best bet to everlasting youth - or the closest thing to it.
It's the building block of skin, a protein that holds the dermis up, keeping it elastic, bouncy and supple. The more collagen we have, the less wrinkles and sagging we have.
And it starts decreasing at age 12. 12!! Life is cruel.
Which is why we put together a 3-part Collagen Building Guide. So you can optimise what collagen you do have and encourage your skin to grow more collagen internally.
Because the jury is out as to whether topical application of skin products containing collagen actually do anything, it's much more effective to increase your intake of foods that build collagen than to slap it on your skin.
Part 1 is all about what food to put on your shopping list so you can naturally begin to increase your skin's collagen levels, just by tweaking what you eat. It's actually very easy once you know what vitamins and minerals to look for, then you can start spotting food on your own. Here goes.
COLLAGEN SHOPPING LIST
1. Red meat
Red meat has all the components to give you a healthy boost of collagen. It's high in zinc which is an essential ingredient to collagen production and contains three of the amino acids that make up collagen: glycine, proline and hydrixyproline. We know that everyone is trying to cut down on red meat so once a week or a fortnight is enough, because there are loads of other options on this list.
2. Line caught salmon - with skin
It's the tastiest part anyway, so the next time you buy fish ask your fishmonger to leave the skin on. The fish already has lots of amino acids in collagen, but the skin is also rich in Type 1 collagen which is the majority of the collagen in skin. To cook crispy skin salmon, rub the whole piece in olive oil and salt and pepper. Cook skin side down on a hot pan, turning only once the skin is crispy.
3. Red Capsicum
You need vitamin C to make collagen, lots of it. So fill up your shopping basket with red capsicum because they contain more vitamin C than the yellow and green varieties. Vitamin C is one of the primary nutrients involved in collagen synthesis and is essential if you want to build collagen.
1 cup of strawberries provides 89mg of vitamin C (whereas one medium orange gives you 70mg) and blueberries, raspberries and blackberries are all high in vitamin C. If you don't want to spend on fresh berries, buy frozen organic berries and throw them in your breakfast or a smoothie.
These are the ultimate whole food. The yolks contain collagen and the whites contain the amino acids needed to make it. They're good any which way - scrambled, fried or poached.
Whenever you are out at a fresh seafood place, order the oysters. They contain high levels of zinc and copper both of which help to make collagen.
Like fish and beef, chicken is loaded with the connective tissue that contains collagen. Many researchers use chicken as a collagen source and it's one of the most common food source of collagen we have.
8. Leafy greens
This includes spinach, baby spinach, kale and broccoli. They all contain the essential vitamin C but also have chlorophyll, which may the amount of procollagen (the precursor to collagen).
9. Citrus fruits
You can't go past oranges and lemons for a great vitamin C source, especially over winter when other fruit is hard to come by. Regular munching of the whole fruit is the key and lemon juice over pretty much everything is a great way to add flavour to dishes.
10. Chickpeas and beans
Legumes are a great source of protein and some beans contain the amino acids needed for collagen production while chickpeas contain zinc and vitamin C, both essentials in collagen production.
A great snack when they are raw and unsalted (you should get used to eating all nuts this way), cashews are good for collagen production because they contain both zinc and copper, both of which boost the body's ability to create collagen. I literally eat handfuls of cashews a day - probably way too many, sure, but I keep them in the fridge so they're super crunchy and delicious.
A WORD ON BONE BROTH
It was a collagen superstar for many years but recent research has pointed to bone broth not being as collagen rich as once thought, when compared with collagen supplements. So while it's still super healthy and contains a bunch of minerals we need, it's not the answer to everything. Still, if the choice is this or plain water to cook soup in - bone broth is most definitely the winner for being a rich source of nutrients and good health.
What to avoid
SUGAR AND ALCOHOL
Sugar and refined carbohydrates (biscuits, cakes, crackers, chips, lollies, chocolate, white bread, sliced bread, too much white pasta and rice etc) are known to cause inflammation in the body which breaks down collagen faster. Ditto alcohol. Avoid added sugars and cut back on alcohol to see a difference in your skin.