Collagen is quite the hot topic these days - especially in supplement form. Even though supplements may be helpful to your body in a couple of different ways that I'll later explain, what you may not realize is that you can encourages the production of collagen in your own body by eating foods with certain nutrients! On the the flip side, there are foods that stop collagen production in its tracks. This article is all about collagen - and the best and worst foods that affect this protein's production. 

If you have achy joints or want to improve the tone of your skin - you'll want to read through this article to take notes for the next time you go to the grocery store.

Collagen: The Best and Worst Foods

Collagen is your body's scaffolding and provides structure to your body. Your ligaments and tendons in your joints are made up of collagen. Your muscles, including your heart, are partially made up of collagen. By now, you can probably guess that your skin is a hotbed of collagen, too.

Collagen is the most abundant protein within your body. It's made up of 19 different amino acids, which is what separates this protein from the rest. Like protein is a building block of muscle, amino acids are the building blocks of collagen. Some amino acids are non-essential, meaning your body can make them, and other amino acids are essential, meaning your body can not make them, and you have to get them from other foods sources.

Natural Collagen in Your Body

When you're young, your body produces a lot of collagen. This makes sense as your body is in a growth phase and needs plenty of support to help create structure for your ligaments, joints and skin, but also connective tissue found in other parts of your body. 

When you hit your mid-20s, collagen starts to diminish. This may be noticeable through fine lines around your face. The drop in collagen, however, isn't profound. Skin should still be elastic and, unless you're injured through sports or an accident, age-related achiness is still years away. 

When you hit your 40s, collagen does a swan dive. Wrinkles really start to show up and skin starts to sag more. The connective tissue within your skin starts to breakdown a little more, creating a lack of elasticity. Especially around delicate skin areas, like the eyes, you skin doesn't "bounce back" the way it once did. This is also the decade when a lot of people start to notice aches and pains in joints and ligaments.

As you continue to age, your body's collagen production naturally decreases.

This all sounds pretty depressing, but you can do a lot about diminishing collagen levels by eating foods that support the production of this protein naturally.

Healthy Collagen Levels: Eat The Right Foods and Avoid The Bad Foods

You can't reverse the clock, but you can sure make sure you body looks and feels as young as it can. The foods you eat have a lot to do with this. 

When it comes to the foods you eat, there are specific nutrients and anti-nutrients that help or hinder collagen production. For simplicity's sake, I'll call these the "collagen producers" and the "collagen robbers". Eat more of the collagen producers and try to steer clear of the collagen robbers as much as possible. 

Collagen Producers

These are the foods that help to produce more collagen in your body. It's important to note that the connective tissue, bone marrow, skin and scales (on fish) are primary food sources of collagen. You don't have to eat these to get the benefits of collagen production.

Vitamin C, Zinc, certain types of amino acids and hyaluronic acid are all co-factors of collagen. In other words, the foods that contain these nutrients help your body synthesize more collagen. Getting more of these foods will help to bolster collagen in your body - at any age.

Vitamin C (especially in food form)

Berries, Leafy Greens, Broccoli, Tomatoes, Sweet Potatoes, Bell Peppers, Kiwi and Brussels Sprouts are among the best foods you can eat to bolster vitamin C in your body, helping to produce more collagen.

Zinc

Oysters, Oats, Pumpkin Seeds, Peanuts, Brown Rice, Lentils, Kidney Beans, Nuts (especially peanuts)

Specific Amino Acid-Rich Foods

Fish, Chicken, Eggs, Beans

Hyaluronic Acid

Lemons, Limes, Grapefruit, Oranges, Sweet Potatoes, Leafy Greens

Collagen Supplements (i.e. collagen peptides)

Even though I don't take a collagen supplement, I'm not giving you a fair picture if I don't mention this as an option.

Other Factors

Stretching! When you stretch you activate fibroblasts in your muscles which stimulate the production of hyaluronic acid. Taking 10 or 15 minutes of relaxing stretching could be the fountain of youth for you!

But what about organ meat, red meat and cheeses?

You may have heard that organ meat, red meat and cheeses either contain collagen or produce collagen. While they may, they also produce something called AGEs in your body. AGEs stands for Activated Glycation End Products. These work in opposition of collagen production and essentially "rust" your body from the inside out.

Collagen Robbers

It should come as no surprise that there is one food that does a great job robbing your body of valuable collagen by making it stop working!

Sugar

"Free" or "Added" sugars make collagen inert. In other words, added sugars attach to collagen and makes those proteins stiff. They lose their elasticity and stop working for you. You don't need to worry about the sugar in fresh fruit, but cut back on fruit juices, pastries, candies, energy bars, energy drinks, sugary coffee drinks, ice cream, sugary yogurts, etc.

Other Factors

Smoking and Excess Sunlight do the same as sugar!

So what do you think? You can see that the big thing for you to do - even if you don't care about collagen, is to cut back on sugar, avoid food that create AGEs and avoid smoking. For a lot of people, this is so much easier to say than do.

Meal Plans That Build Collagen

My meal plans are all no-sugar added, anti-inflammatory and loaded with the co-factors that help produce your collagen production.

It's no wonder that people who stick with the meal plans tend to look and feel better in just a few weeks.

The meal plans aren't a wrinkle-eraser, but the meal plans help to stop wrinkles and achy joints in their tracks.

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