In the name of beauty and natural anti-aging, the importance of collagen should not be underestimated. In fact, when it comes to maintaining the integrity of the skin and that coveted youthful glow, collagen is arguably key.
A naturally-produced protein, collagen is essentially responsible for structuring and holding together 80 percent of all connective tissue and 75 percent of skin. When we are younger, we produce enough collagen to meet these needs. As we grow older, however, the supply of collagen manufactured by our bodies naturally declines as part of the aging process, leading to wrinkles, sagging skin, lackluster hair, brittle nails, stiff joints, digestive issues, and more.
Thankfully, there are ways to support your collagen levels naturally, which in turn can have a highly anti-aging result. According to clinical nutritionist Sarah Newland, you can incorporate these easy but effective practices in both your diet and general lifestyle to help support collagen and keep you looking and feeling younger from the inside out.
1. Pay extra attention as you age
Women, who produce less collagen than men, lose it at a rate of about 1 percent each year from age 25 onwards. By the age of 50, women naturally will have lost almost half the collagen from their skin.
When it comes to aging and collagen production, it’s a seemingly double-edged sword.
“It’s a supply and demand thing!” says Newland. “As we age our collagen production slows down, while simultaneously our need for collagen increases.”
Sounds unfair, but that’s just the way our bodies naturally function and why it’s imperative to pay extra attention to looking after your collagen supply and stores. Doing so is key to an effective anti-aging protocol, according to Newland.
2. Include real food sources of collagen
“Our bodies lap up nutrients from real food sources first and foremost,” according to Newland, who recommends her clients consume bone broth regularly as part of their health regimen — and especially for its high collagen content.
Unfortunately for vegetarians and vegans, there isn’t a plant-based source which is comparable as an alternative.
“Collagen comes from the tissues it is found in, like ligaments, bones, bone marrow, and skin. Animal foods that contain these components therefore contain collagen that we use as the building blocks to create our own collagen,” Newland explains.
However, if you are not able to accommodate bone broth into your diet, Newland does have some tips for plant-based eaters. “Hydrate, ensure sufficient protein with each meal and snack, stay away from trans fats and unhealthy oils, and instead load up on plenty of essential fatty acids.”
3. Consume collagen-boosting vitamins
Vitamin C is the key nutrient required to help support collagen production naturally in the skin, so making sure your diet is rich in it is beneficial to supporting collagen.
“It helps the body increase precursors to collagen building blocks, and generally comes in high-antioxidant foods like densely colored vegetables, so it provides the additional support of fighting free radicals that lead to signs of aging,” says Newland, who suggests loading up on high vitamin C foods such as kiwi, berries, citrus, raw peppers, broccoli, and kale.
4. Add a quality supplement
Taking a pure collagen powder as a supplement is an easy way to provide your body with a dose of this anti-aging protein.
“I am big fan of marine collagen supplements or bovine collagen powder,” says Newland. The benefit to marine collagen is its superior bioavailability, meaning it is more easily absorbed by the body, due to the smaller particle size of fish collagen peptides.
There are a variety of collagen powder supplements available on the market, which can usually be easily dissolved in water or added to your favorite juice or smoothie without any taste. Alternately, you can get it in capsules if you prefer to take it that way.
5. Don’t forget lifestyle factors
Make sure you look at the bigger picture, too, when it comes to looking after your collagen levels naturally. “Staying out of the sun, reducing toxic overload on your system, keeping hydrated, and having a diet high in richly pigmented fruits and vegetables — which are loaded with antioxidants that help scavenge free radicals and reduce inflammation and oxidation of cells, which can be detrimental to skin and joints — are practices that can have a really positive impact on our collagen levels and the way we age,” says Newland.