Collagen products have been taking the supplement world by storm recently, and for good reason. Research shows that collagen, often found in animal proteins, is extremely beneficial for improving skin elasticity, helping hair and nails grow, and supporting joint health. But what if you follow a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle? It may feel like you’re sitting on the sidelines of this beauty revolution or left to rely on botox or surgery to get those desired results. Well, not anymore! That beauty FOMO is a thing of the past because vegan collagen-supporting powders are changing the game.
Collagen Supplements for Vegan and Plant-Based Eaters
How can vegans get collagen?
Spoiler alert: Naturally vegan collagen sources don't exist, but there are ways to increase your body’s collagen production without using animal products. In this article, we’ll look at vegan-friendly products that can help support collagen production and other factors that can support the creation of this coveted structural protein. So, let’s get to it!
What is collagen?
Collagen is the most plentiful protein in the body, accounting for 30% of its total protein.1 It’s the primary building block for your skin, muscles, tendons, bones, and ligaments, and it’s also found in our organs, intestinal lining, and blood vessels.
Emily Burger, PA-C at The Dermatology Clinic says, “Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body! It's the glue that holds it all together while also providing elasticity to structures like your skin and arteries.”
We know that proteins are made from combinations of various amino acids. The same goes for collagen. The amino acids that make up collagen include proline, hydroxyproline, and glycine. Together they form protein fibrils in a triple helix structure (three strands). Of course, your body also relies on other vitamins and minerals to create that triple helix structure, but we’ll get to that later.
There are 28 types of collagen currently accounted for, with type I accounting for 90% of your body’s total collagen.2 You can find this type of collagen in your skin, tendons, bones, and ligaments. We could talk all day about the different types of collagen, but for this article, we’re focusing on type I.
Type I collagen can be found in the middle layer of the skin, otherwise referred to as the dermis. It forms a fibroblast mesh shield that keeps the skin strong and wrinkle-free—until we age, and collagen production naturally slows.
Why do we need collagen?
Collagen, our body’s most abundant protein, has a significant presence because it has a large responsibility for our health. As a structural protein, it helps support our skin, joints, digestive system, tendons, and blood vessels.
Consuming collagen has been shown to enhance skin elasticity, which is why the collagen supplement industry is growing at such a staggering pace. If you consume animal products, this in-depth, highly researched guide to collagen can help you choose a collagen product that’s right for you.
As we age, our collagen production slows, which we may notice first in our skin. The wrinkles become a little more prominent, and certain areas of skin don’t have the same snapback they once had. While a decline in collagen production is a natural part of aging and wrinkles aren’t the end of the world, it’s perfectly understandable to want to keep them at bay. Nourishing our skin starts to hold a little more priority as we get older.
New York City-based dermatologist Dr. Julie Russak weighs in: “Hormonal aging is a change in hormone levels that occurs when you age. Women reach their peak level of hormonal vitality and fertility between the ages of 25 and 27. By your 30s, visible signs of aging appear, and collagen should be incorporated more aggressively.”
Is there a collagen that is vegan?
There is an abundance of collagen sources from animal products, but what about for vegans and vegetarians? Some vegetarians choose to eat seafood, and can opt for marine collagen peptides. But how can vegans get collagen? Not to worry! While those on a plant-based diet may have to be more intentional with their choices, it is possible to support collagen production without any animal products.
Unfortunately, actual vegan collagen is hard to come by. While most collagen is sourced from animals, vegan collagen is genetically engineered in a lab using yeast and bacteria. Super cool, but not yet readily available to consumers. Plus, research on their long-term effects is limited at best.
Is vegan collagen real collagen?
Many wonder, is it worth taking vegan collagen? When it comes to providing for vegan customers, most companies focus on collagen-supporting products. These products are meant to give your body the tools it needs to support its internal production of the structural protein.
Sophie Uliano, the New York Times best-selling author of Gorgeously Green, says you don’t have to consume collagen to support its production in your body. In fact, collagen doesn’t have to be a part of your beauty regimen at all.
So, if animal products aren’t on your menu, don’t be discouraged! According to beauty experts, you’ve got options, and we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorites below.
Vegan Collagen-Supporting Supplements
Aloe Gorgeous Plant-Based Collagen Support
This amazing vegan collagen-supporting powder supplement by Ora Organic is packed with aloe vera, protein, silica, and vitamins C and E. Aloe vera helps bring together amino acids to help produce collagen while also improving skin elasticity and the appearance of wrinkles. Silica and Vitamin C are vital for synthesizing collagen and supporting skin brightness, and Vitamin E fights aging skin. Put them together, and you get one glowing mixture. The added protein and yummy vanilla flavor make it a perfect addition to a smoothie pre- or post-workout. The cherry on top is that this product is Organic Authority Approved, which means we’ve vetted the company’s environmental practices, their product’s efficacy, and how they treat their employees—and we’re thrilled that they meet our standards.
FloraSil is vegetal silica, also known as plant-based silica (silicon), helps synthesize collagen, which the body already makes on its own. It helps to repair the collagen that gets damaged as we age by rebuilding and repairing the connective tissue. It comes in capsules, which can be taken or added to a fantastic smoothie.
Vegan Collagen Support Protein Powder by Amazing Grass
Amazing Grass makes this excellent vegan collagen product. It’s made with tons of vitamin B and vitamin C and 15 grams of vegan protein sources. Without vitamin C, collagen cannot be synthesized in the body. The chocolate rose flavor is great to add to water or a smoothie—might we suggest our favorite smoothie that tastes like a milkshake, a Chocolate Mint Shake with Spinach and Collagen?
How to Prevent Collagen Loss
Adjusting certain lifestyle habits can help maximize the impact your collagen supplements make. If you’re like most Organic Authority community members, you leave no stone unturned and don’t take your health for granted. Even small changes can make a significant impact when it comes to your collagen production and maintenance.
To help prevent collagen loss, consider these lifestyle tips:
- Reduce your exposure to ultraviolet light. Exposure to sunlight reduces collagen production and even causes collagen to break down more rapidly. 3 Ultraviolet sunlight has been linked to increased wrinkles. When outside, make sure you wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen.4
- Quit smoking. Smoking decreases collagen production and even damages existing collagen and elastin. Nicotine restricts blood flow to the skin’s surface, reducing the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients and contributing to increased wrinkles.5
- Reduce carbohydrates. Now, I’m not the dietitian who will tell you to avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates altogether. It’s unrealistic, and frankly, life is too short not to enjoy your favorite sweet treat now and then. However, with your collagen in mind, keep your portion sizes in moderation. Sugar attaches to various proteins to form advanced glycation end products, which can cause collagen to become weak, dry, and brittle.6
- Drink alcohol and caffeine in moderation. Same as I mentioned with your sugar intake, focus on moderation when it comes to alcohol and caffeine. You won’t catch me without my cup of coffee in the morning, so I certainly won’t ask you to give up yours. But try not to overdo it, and make sure you rehydrate. Dehydration can really work against collagen.7
How to Support Collagen on a Vegan or Plant-Based Diet
Our bodies produce collagen through their own mechanisms, but we can help support that production by way of our lifestyle choices. Research has shown that we can help our bodies by including other dietary supplements and certain foods in our day-to-day routines.
Other Supplements That Help Support Collagen Production
Taking your collagen supplements is excellent! Way to go! Want to take it one step further?
Our bodies often use more than one nutrient to get the job done. Think about how we are all connected at our jobs and in our families. We rely on our counterparts in more ways than we can count. Our bodies operate similarly.
Our collagen production can benefit from taking other vitamins and minerals in the system, otherwise known as cofactors.
Dr. Anthony Youn, a holistic anti-aging health and wellness expert, and host of The Holistic Plastic Surgery Show podcast, says that vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that protects your skin from free radical damage. “It’s very commonly used in serum form, but I also recommend it to be taken orally to assist with keeping our skin and other organs protected from free radical damage,” he says.
LivOn Laboratories Lypo-Spheric™ Vitamin C
Emily Burger, PA-C, echoes the same, “Unfortunately, collagen production steadily declines as we age, but by consuming more collagenous tissue and foods rich in vitamin C, we can actually increase our body's own production of collagen, ultimately improving our hair, skin, nails, joints, bones, and even the rate at which we heal!”
When vitamin C enters the body’s cells, it hydroxylates (adds hydrogen and oxygen) to two amino acids: proline and lysine. This forms a precursor molecule called pro-collagen that is packaged and modified into collagen outside the cell.8 This is one of the reasons why vitamin C is so important for your skin.
LivOn Laboratories Lypo-Spheric™ Vitamin C is one of our favorite Vitamin C supplements because it uses real liposomes with phospholipids to encapsulate the vitamin C, which enables nutrient transport to the cells. Also, every batch is tested at critical points throughout production and packaging for ingredient content, microbiological agents, heavy metals, and other potential contaminants.
Additionally, Dr. Youn says that probiotics are another excellent addition. “When our microbiome is damaged by processed foods, antibiotics, and inflammatory foods, it can show on our skin. Taking a daily probiotic can help maintain the health of the microbiome, potentially reduce inflammatory skin disorders and keep the skin healthy. It’s called the gut skin axis, and it’s a topic of much interest for holistic health experts.” If you need a great probiotic, check out our in-depth guide to The Best Natural Beauty and Skin Care Supplements to Nourish Your Skin.
Ora Organic Trust Your Gut Probiotic & Prebiotic Powder
Vegan Foods That Support Collagen Production
What we eat matters. Jenna Stangland, RDN, CSSD, LDN, and team dietitian for the Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA) and Minnesota Wild (NHL), offers this advice: “Prioritizing foods that contain the individual amino acids glycine, proline and hydroxyproline will help the body combine those to make collagen. Glycine sources include sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, and spinach. Proline can be found in cabbage, soy, and products like tofu and tempeh, cucumbers, and asparagus. For the micronutrients, incorporating bell peppers, berries, and citrus for vitamin C and then lentils, chickpeas, and seeds like chia seeds, flaxseeds, and hemp seeds are great plant-based zinc-containing foods.”
Let’s break it down even further and look at specific foods that support collagen production:
- Citrus fruits: Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C, which plays a major role in collagen production.8 Fruits such as lemons, limes, grapefruits, and oranges are rich in the vitamin.
- Berries: Citrus fruits tend to get all the hype regarding vitamin C, but berries offer a hefty dose too. And they are rich in antioxidants, which help protect the skin from damage as well!9
- Garlic: Garlic is rich in sulfur, a trace mineral that can help to prevent the breakdown of collagen.10 Note that you’d have to consume quite a bit of garlic to reap the collagen benefits, but if you like to cook with it, it’s worth including in your dishes.
- Leafy greens: Leafy greens such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard get their beautiful green color from chlorophyll. While chlorophyll is primarily known for its antioxidant properties, some studies have shown that chlorophyll increases the precursor for collagen.11
- Beans: Beans, beans, the more you eat, the more you… notice their collagen-supporting tendencies! Beans are rich in the amino acids necessary for collagen production, and they contain copper, which also benefits collagen production.
- Cashews: Cashews are rich in zinc and copper, both nutrients that play a role in collagen production.
- Tomatoes: Tomatoes add a delicious pop of flavor to your salad, but did you know they also contain quite a bit of vitamin C? Tomatoes are a great friend of skin health.12
What would you make with all of these ingredients? Comment at the end of this article with your ideas for a skin-supporting stir fry, soup, or salad!
Stangland also echoes the benefits of other lifestyle factors that can help make the most of your food intake. For example, she says being mindful of your sleep patterns, alcohol consumption, and smoking habits can help reduce collagen damage and maximize how much collagen your body makes.
Experts in the cosmetic industry expect collagen to be worth more than $6.63 billion by 2025.13 Yep, you read that right; $6.63 billion. There’s a reason it’s gaining so much momentum in the industry. It’s a key ingredient in many cosmetic and skin cream products, and they’re flying off the shelves because people like the results.
If consuming animal products isn’t for you, consider vegan support supplements that help support your body’s collagen production.
- Collagen makes up 30% of your body’s total protein.
- There are 28 types of collagen, with type I comprising 90% of it all.
- Collagen is found in your skin, tendons, digestive system, bones, and several other places.
- Our collagen production slows as we age.
- Poor dietary habits, smoking, and excessive exposure to sunlight can contribute to decreased collagen production.
- While most collagen sources are from animal products, vegan collagen can be genetically engineered.
- Since vegan collagen supplements can be hard to find, vegan collagen-supporting supplements are a favorite for those on a plant-based diet.
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