The Top Five Collagen Rich Foods

June 5, 2024

When it comes to youthful looks and dewy skin, it sometimes seems like everyone online is looking for a miracle. Many believe collagen is close to miraculous. Collagen is one of the vital proteins, an essential nutrient that the body does not produce in sufficient quantities. In fact, people produce less collagen as they age and the collagen they do produce is of lower quality. 

That’s why many consider food to be one of the best collagen sources. The challenge is that it’s most often found in the parts of an animal that people generally don’t eat – the skin, the bones, and the cartilage. Still it’s important to get sufficient quantities because of all the vital proteins, collagen is the one most responsible for healthy hair, nails, and skin.

Although collagen supplements may help, because they are loosely regulated many are produced with inferior ingredients. Doctors generally recommend food over supplements and dermatologists are no different. Here’s a list of the top five food sources, along with some information on choosing the best collagen supplements and how one company is on the leading edge of technology designed to limit aging both outside and in.

All About Collagen

Nearly one-third of your body’s protein is made up of collagen. Sometimes called the body’s glue, collagen is made of amino acids, protein’s building blocks. These vital proteins are essential for building and maintaining connective tissue like cartilage and tendons. In fact, collagen is skin, muscles, tendons and ligaments primary building blocks. A trio of amino acids create collagen’s triple helix: proline, glycine, and hydroxyproline. In order to form this structure, the body needs at least the recommended amount of Vitamin C along with zinc, copper, and manganese. Collagen also helps replace dead skin cells, helps new cells grow, and even aids clotting. 

Collagen production declines as people age – which makes consuming foods high in this vital protein even more important. As Tennessee dietician Monique Richard told Everyday Health, “You want to consume a variety of foods that themselves contain collagen, as well as the amino acids from protein-rich foods, which build collagen you produce internally.”

Keep in mind that eating collagen rich food won’t bring immediate benefits to the skin. That’s because during digestion it’s broken down into component amino acids. These amino acids travel throughout the body assisting areas that lack protein. Some foods that don’t contain collagen have the protein’s key components, proline and glycine which means they can help in its development.

  1. Chicken and Fish

Most collagen comes from animal products. Chicken and fish are some of the best collagen sources. However, many calorie-conscious people inadvertently eliminate the main repository of collagen in fish or poultry. How? By removing the skin. Some of the best animal sources include the skin on meat like chicken or salmon. One quintessential meal with mythological healing properties is chicken soup. Made traditionally with bone broth it contains a fair amount of grease, calories, and fat. It’s also laden with collagen. So too is any broth that involves cooking the bones of chickens, ducks, or any other foul. Whole roasted chickens are also a great source of collagen.  

Small fish like smelt, sardines, or mackerel can be eaten whole – bones and all. This gives an enormous collagen boost, not to mention getting a decent amount of calcium and Vitamin D – perfect for strengthening bones.

  1.  Red Meat 

The toughest meats have the highest amount of collagen. This makes sense, considering that collagen protein is meant for strengthening. Beef brisket, ribs, and some steaks are some of the best collagen sources.   As with chickens and fish, skins have the greatest abundance of the vital proteins. Since few people want to chew on a piece of leather, bovine collagen like that found in skins, hooves, and bones is frequently used in supplements. In fact, pretty much all the parts of a cow that people don’t eat are rich sources of bovine calcium

  1. Gelatin

The favorite of the elementary school set, gelatins are made from the bones and hides of animals like pigs and cows. The bones and hides are bathed in acid, filtered to extract collagen, and then dried, ground into a powder, and sifted. The end result is a protein-rich gelatin. This alternative source of bovine collagen is more palatable for many. Plus, studies have demonstrated that gelatin is not only one of the best collagen sources but that consuming it can promote healthy skin. Instead of getting store bought, sugar-laden gelatins try some homemade. Just mix gelatin and juice, pop in the refrigerator and have a delicious, collagen rich snack.

  1. Pork Rinds and Organ Meats

Some of the more unconventional but best collagen sources include organ meats like tongue, brain, or liver. Rich both in collagen protein and essential nutrients like iron and zinc along with vitamins D and B, organ meats are a great collagen source. So too are pork rinds, which are basically boiled pig’s skin that’s then fried or baked in an oven. Despite being a good source of collagen, like organ meats, pork rinds are very high in saturated fats. 

While there’s no test to make sure collagen levels are high, at-home testing technology allows people to take a wide variety of tests to check their health. While some companies charge hundreds of dollars for similar tests, Kyla offers tests of cortisol, thyroid, hormone levels and much for just $99. Hormones are a vital component  of skin health and because they rarely stay level, Kyla’s holistic approach allows people to improve their body inside and out through simple lifestyle changes. Plus it’s possible with the Kyla app to track vital health indicators like primary care and hormone levels while conveniently monitoring the data while visualizing progress through graphs for better insights.

  1. Collagen Boosting Foods

Not every food that supports collagen production actually contains collagen. Citrus fruits and berries that are high in vitamin C help the body synthesize pro-collagen, which is the body’s precursor to collagen. Egg whites contain one of collagen’s three amino acids, proline. Dairy products can also help boost collagen production as can nuts and garlic. 

Discovering food sources rich in collagen protein can be challenging and some wonder what are the best collagen supplements. Some studies have shown that oral collagen supplements help improve skin health. However, many of these studies have been co-sponsored by manufacturers of collagen supplements. Most products that go directly on the skin are unlikely to work because they have to penetrate multiple epidermal layers in order to be effective. 

It’s also important to note that people whose faith forbids consumption of certain foods, including those who keep halal or kosher, can’t eat some of items on this list. Certified kosher for collagen has had some challenges in the past because the manufacturing process for supplements is so complex. However, there are supplements that are approved — as is grandmother’s chicken soup. 

Lifestyle changes can also improve collagen production. Studies show that excessive UV exposure (either from the sun or tanning beds) can inhibit collagen production. So can stress, alcohol, and tobacco consumption. A diet that includes sugar-laden or processed foods can also affect collagen. There’s no question that curtailing these collagen-reducing habits can help boost production. So will eating a diet rich in foods with vitamin C and D, calcium, copper, and zinc.

Collagen is just one component to having healthy skin and a healthy body. The key is relying on a trusted partner like Kyla. Kyla unites AI and healthcare providers to combat disease and aging while transforming the way healthcare is delivered, making it more personalized, efficient, and effective. Collagen is just one component of looking and feeling young; Kyla makes sure all of the elements for a long and healthy life are included. 


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  6. Lang, Ariane, BSc, MBA. “Should You Choose Collagen or Gelatin?” Healthline. September 25, 2020.
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