Where to find collagen in our food?
Collagen is an important protein for its structural role in the body. If you want to know more about collagen, read our article “Collagen, more than a beauty asset”. In simple terms, collagen forms a complex of fibers that are present in tissues, bones, and various organs. Collagen is involved in the elastic properties of the skin. It also helps protect blood vessels and prevents their rupture. Finally, collagen is very present in joints, ligaments, and tendons.
Link between collagen and skin
Collagen is present in the skin. More specifically, it is mainly type I and III collagen. Type I collagen aids in healing and keeps the skin stretched.
Type III collagen acts in concert and reinforces the effects of type I collagen. With age, collagen fibers become shorter, their density and the production of elastin (protein responsible for elasticity) decrease. In the skin, this results in a decrease in elasticity and tissue dehydration.
Decreased collagen synthesis
Naturally, collagen is broken down in our body by enzymes (little soldiers essential to the proper functioning of the body). Collagen reserves can be maintained by a good internal synthesis. However, collagen regeneration decreases by an average of 1.5% per year with age, starting at age 25. The consequences are a decrease in skin tension, a decrease in elasticity and a reduced reactivity in the healing process.
Moreover, collagen is a sensitive protein and other factors besides age damage our collagen reserves even more. For example, smoking, alcohol consumption, or stress. Conversely, it is possible to help the body produce collagen by adopting a healthy lifestyle. A healthy and balanced diet with foods rich in collagen, as we will see below, is also beneficial.
Food sources of collagen in our diet
In our diet, few foods are a source of collagen. However, it is also possible to consume foods containing nutrients that help the integrity and synthesis of collagen. Here are some recommended foods related to collagen:
Marrow bone: source of collagen
Marrow bone is no longer in fashion today. However, this ingredient, and more specifically marrow bone broth, is a food source of collagen. Tissues, bone, and marrow are rich in collagen which will turn into gelatin with cooking. In addition, bone marrow is rich in nutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino acids) that will help the body as a whole.
Fish: source of marine collagen
Collagen is also present in the skin, bones, and scales of fish. However, these are not the parts we consume the most. To benefit from fish collagen through food, it is possible to make broths. Marine collagen is even more interesting because it is very close to human collagen.
Moreover, type I collagen is also the most present collagen in the skin of fish, as in humans.
Eggs: source of proteins
Collagen is not present in the yolk or the white, but in the internal membranes surrounding these two components. In addition, eggs are known to be rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as proteins. Eggs contain proteins with high biological values and have a very good amino acid profile (protein components). For this reason, eggs are used as a reference to evaluate the protein quality of other food sources. Some proteins are essential for collagen synthesis such as proline and glycine.
Kiwi, red fruits and citrus fruits: source of vitamin C
Apart from the plant characteristic of these foods, another common point is their high vitamin C content. Kiwi fruit contains 81.9 mg/100g of vitamin C, blackcurrants 181 mg/100g and strawberries 54 mg/100g of vitamin C. Finally, citrus fruits such as oranges (47.5 mg/100g) and lemons (45 mg/100g) are also sources of vitamin C. Vitamin C is important because it contributes to the normal formation of collagen and thus ensures the normal function of bones, cartilage, gums, skin, teeth, and the normal functioning of blood vessels.
Oleaginous fruits and avocado: source of vitamin E
Vitamin E has antioxidant properties. This means that it helps to protect cells, but also proteins and DNA. This is interesting in the sense that collagen is a rather fragile protein. Vitamin E is fat-soluble, meaning that it is present in fats. Thus, vitamin E is mainly found in foods such as vegetable oils or in oleaginous fruits. For example, avocado contains 2.23 mg/100g of vitamin E, almond 23.9 mg/100g, hazelnut 16.3 mg/100g, and olive oil 22.3 mg/100g of vitamin E.
Collagen is a protein mainly known for its role in maintaining tight skin. However, it also plays an essential role in blood vessels, tendons, and other organs. The best food source is marrow bone broth, but other foods also provide elements involved in collagen protection and synthesis.
Key take-home messages
- Collagen is a protein present in the skin, organs, and tendons
- Collagen synthesis decreases by 1.5% per year starting at age 25
- Marrow bone broth is an excellent source of collagen
- Eggs provide essential proteins for collagen synthesis
- The vitamin C contained in kiwi, red fruits, or citrus fruits, contributes to the normal formation of collagen
- Oleaginous fruits and avocado are good sources of vitamin E known for its antioxidant properties that can protect collagen
CIQUAL, Table de composition nutritionnelles des aliments, 2020