Collagen is a hot topic in today’s health, fitness, and beauty circles for its ability to regenerate and rejuvenate the skin. It is one of the most common proteins found in the human body; making up 90% of connective tissue and 90% of the organic bone matrix. To maintain tight skin, connective tissues, as well as contributing to the health of joints and the lining of one’s gut, ensuring the production of this protein within the body is central.
Bodies make less collagen as they grow older, hence why many people start to see wrinkles, joint discomfort and aches, intestinal problems, and drooping skin when they age. There are many products available on the market that contain collagen, which is only able to be derived from animals, including hair and skin products, bone broth, and moisturizers. However, collagen molecules are too large for the skin to absorb, so applying collagen-containing skincare products poses no benefit to the skin.
Humans don’t actually need to eat, nor apply, collagen from another being to have healthy levels of the protein within their bodies. A wealth of plant-based foods promote collagen production. Here are some tips for getting glowing skin as a vegan, thanks to your own collagen.
How to Increase Collagen Production Without Eating Animals
1. Plate Up The Nutrients
Vitamins such as A (beta-carotene precursor) and C (high levels of antioxidants that reduce inflammation) work harmoniously to make collagen within the body. While many plant-based foods contain both these vitamins, some are more concentrated than others. Papaya, kale, berries, almonds, spinach, citrus fruit, mushrooms, pumpkin seeds, and carrots are a few of the many examples. To start off the day with a nutrient-loaded and collagen-promoting meal, try a supplemented smoothie.
2. Protect The Body From Cellular Damage
Cellular decay is what causes aging when mitochondria (part of a cell responsible for a specialized task) are damaged. The damaged cells produce toxic molecules, dubbed “free radicals,” that are very reactive with other non-toxic molecules, says Stephanie Liou for Huntington’s Outreach Project for Education, at Stanford. Consuming deep-fried food, alcohol, pesticides, tobacco smoke, and polluted air can all lead to free radicals present within the body.
“Free radicals can cause damage to parts of cells such as proteins, DNA, and cell membranes by stealing their electrons through a process called oxidation. (This is why free radical damage is also called “oxidative damage.”),” explains Liou. “When free radicals oxidize important components of the cell, those components lose their ability to function normally, and the accumulation of such damage may cause the cell to die. Numerous studies indicate that increased production of free radicals causes or accelerates nerve cell injury and leads to disease.”
Liou adds that antioxidants react with free radicals to neutralize them. That’s why eating an abundance of antioxidants, whether to promote healthy skin, with fewer effects of aging, or to decrease the chance of developing disease, is critical for cellular health.
Verywell Health reports that UV radiation can lead to collagen breaking down at a faster rate than normal aging. To lessen this chance, non-toxic sunscreen can help prevent premature aging.
Further, while the acute effects of little sleep are obvious to an individual, sleeping well is important to promote healthy collagen, according to Patricia Wexler, MD, a dermatologist in New York. Wexler told Web MD that the body makes collagen during sleep, as a repair process. A study published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine affirms that both the quality and duration of sleep plays a role in cellular aging telomere length. The longer the telomeres, the less chance there is at developing diabetes, found a study published the American Diabetes Journal.
3. Make Diets Rich in Anti-Inflammatory Foods
A 2010 study published the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found participants that followed a vegan diet for three-and-a-half months experienced a “significant improvement in tender and swollen joints, pain, duration of morning stiffness and grip strength than the people in a control group who consumed an ordinary [non-vegan] diet,” according to the Arthritis Foundation.
Vegan diets generally contain more plants than omnivorous diets, and plants are rich sources of anti-inflammatory properties. Low-starch foods, cruciferous vegetables, almonds, beans, olive oil, and avocados are some examples of foods that can help reduce inflammation; therefore promoting collagen production.