Well, here’s the thing: collagen gets a lot of hype usually because of its ability to strengthen hair, nails, to offer a glowing skin and for nourishing cell and connective tissues. But since most of the collagen production sources are animal or animal products based, many vegans find it tempting to skip on collagen supplements.
However, hear me out! There are several vegan-friendly collagen supplements available in the market now plus you can always opt for consumption of food based collagen sources, such as a bowl of yogurt, to free yourself from the hassle. Hence, keep on reading to find out more about collagen and how to obtain it from plant-based vegan diets.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the structural protein present in the body in bones, muscles, ligaments, cartilage, skins and tendons. As the principal component of connective tissues, collagen is the most abundant protein in mammals. It usually consists of various amino acids bound together to form a collagen helix. Collagen tissues may be rigid or compliant or sometimes may be in between, depending upon the degree of its mineralization. The fibroblast is the most popular cell that produces collagen.
Generally, collagen is known to form a scaffold to provide the strength and structure. Collagen can be of two types-
- Endogenous collagen is a natural collagen synthesized by the body. They possess a lot of health benefits.
- Exogenous collagen is a synthetic collagen which has to come from an outside source. They are usually used in medical and cosmetic purposes, as well as for body tissue repairmen.
What Are The Perceived Benefits of High Collagen Levels?
Often, the best source of endogenous collagen is considered to be obtained from animals. However, in today’s world with the increase in number of people adopting the vegan lifestyle, vegan collagen is not something alien. Therefore, let’s take a quick glance at the health benefits that collagen offers:
1. Stronger Bone Health: With age, our bones become brittle and less dense, making them easily breakable at a given situation. Collagen helps to keep the bones stronger and healthier to prevent any fatal situation by slowing the aging process and participating in the growth of new bones.
2. Improved Skin Health: Collagen supplements help to improve skin hydration and elasticity, especially for old people.
3. Stronger and Thicker Hair: Collagen can help boost hair growth and thickness, and prevent from hair loss as well as thinning of hair.
4. Reduce Osteoarthritis Pain: Oral collagen supplement have proven to act as a pain reliever for people with knee osteoarthritis, by improving their joint functioning.
5. Increase Muscle Mass: With a combination of collagen peptide supplements along with proper exercise regimes, building muscle mass and strength becomes easier and interesting.
Signs That May Indicate A Collagen Deficiency
Some of the most common signs and symptoms that indicate your body may require collagen are enlisted below:
1. Wrinkly Skin: Collagen is responsible for making your skin look younger, along with providing it with proper structure and strength. Therefore, wrinkles and saggy skin indicate a lack of collagen.
2. Aching Muscles: Collagen deficiency usually causes weakening of collagen fibers. Hence, aching muscles and additional friction.
3. Cellulite: Since collagen is also responsible for skin firmness, elasticity, cell renewal, etc., lack of collagen will depict signs of cellulite.
4. Thin or Float Hair: Lack of collagen may result in duller and thinner hair, as collagen is usually found in your hair follicles that provide your hair with the shine and necessary nutrients.
5. Hollow Eyes and Face: Collagen helps to keep your skin looking younger and thus, with age when the natural glowing skin starts to fade away, collagen deficiency is common to see. Symptoms include hollowed eyes and wrinkled face.
What Are The Traditional Sources of Collagen?
Collagen sources are widely animal or animal by-products. Therefore, with the vegan concept mostly gaining its popularity in the recent past years, the traditional sourced of collagen remain non-vegan food item. Some of the most common traditional non-vegan collagen food sources are:
1. Bone Broth
Bones contain the maximum level of collagen, along with calcium and phosphorus, making it one of the best items to include in your diet. Apart from that it also provides glucosamine, amino acids, magnesium, etc. It’s also possibly the best lubricant which helps to better joint movements.
2. Organ Meats
Organ meat contains the highest amount of fat and protein, which is extremely beneficial for your skin and body. Organs are mostly made up of collagen and hence, you can only imagine how rich in collagen they are. Organ meats usually contain approximately 1.5-3x amount of collagen in comparison to muscle meat.
3. Meat on the Bone (with cartilage, skin, joint material)
Basically, you can find it anywhere, in fishes, chicken legs, lamb shanks, etc. Like I have mentioned before, collagen is typically the principal protein present in bones, in cartilage, skin, etc, it becomes quite obvious as to why the meat on the bone is an excellent source of collagen. They contain a lot of other health beneficiary nutrients and although it cannot be included in your everyday diets.
Eggs contain a lot of collagen as well. However, it’s not the egg white or the yolk but the shell membrane that contains high levels of collagen. Many studies and researches have expressed that although there might be very little amount of collage present in egg yolk, there is none present in the egg white.
Can Collagen Be Vegan?
With the growing vegan community where people mostly focus on comprehensive and strict approach to plant-based diets, scientists have developed techniques to incorporate genetically engineered microorganisms in vegan diet to obtain vegan collagen. Since veganism usually refers to a lifestyle free of animal products and by-products, it can be quite difficult sometimes to search for the available options in the market.
Therefore, there are many oral collagen supplements available for vegans, which provide the benefits of-
- Improved hydration
- Enhanced elasticity
- Reduced roughness
- Better density
- Improved cardiovascular performance
- Joint repair
- Boosting lean muscle strength
- Shortening recovery time after strenuous workouts
- Reduced pain, swelling, and stiffness for people with rheumatoid arthritis
Most Supplement Companies Sell Collagen Boosters As Collagen Supplements
The principal difference between collagen boosters and collagen supplements (mainly targeted for vegan customers) is that collagen boosters offer to provide the experience of collagen without ingesting collagen. To elaborate, collagen boosters are basically an assurance of obtaining equal benefits of that of a collagen supplement, whereas a collagen supplement provides natural collagen to the body.
When the body makes collagen, it combines with amino acids like glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, along with Vitamin C to turn into a well formed collagen helix. Therefore, collagen boosters contain similar nutrients to support collagen production in the body, however, they don’t actually contain collagen.
And this is exactly what manufactures strategize and confuses the mass leading them to take wrong decisions. Often, many companies sell collagen boosters in the name of collagen supplements and people who are less enlightened about the difference between the two, end up falling into the trap. Hence, you must be well aware of what you’re receiving, when you go collagen supplement shopping.
A Guide To Vegan Collagen Boosting Foods
If you’re someone who has adopted the vegan lifestyle, some of the best vegan sources of collagen are Lysine, Vitamin C, Zinc, Manganese, etc. Therefore, you must opt for foods that contain the same to obtain high levels of collagen for your body.
Collagen is made up of a number of amino acids, and your body goes through a process called hydroxylation, where Vitamin C adds hydrogen and oxygen and partners with the amino acids to produce collagen. Hence, the intake of lysine improves the production of collagen since your body cannot produce lysine on its own and has to be obtained from outside. Best vegan sources of lysine include tomatoes, bell peppers, avocados, beets, etc.
2. Vitamin C
It is well-known for its role of promoting connective tissue healing after an injury, which is also a result of better collagen production in the body. Vitamin C is a necessary micro nutrient for the formation of collagen helix. Best vegan sources of Vitamin C include leafy vegetables, broccoli, sprouts, strawberries, kiwi and all other citrus fruits.
It is known as an immune system powerhouse mineral that helps to proliferate cells and also seal wounds. Zinc activates the proteins that are essential in collagen production and therefore, it is an essential component of collagen production. Best vegan sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds, hemp, sesame seeds, etc.
It is yet another important mineral that acts as a co-factor for an enzyme that is necessary for collagen production. Best vegan sources of manganese include a variety of grains, nuts, beans, and brown rice.
To sum up, there are plenty of vegan options available as well, when it comes to plant-based collagen supplements or food courses. However, one has to have a clear insight between the differences of a collagen booster and a collagen supplement to help provide your body with the best nutrients possible. Being said that, make sure you take good care of yourself and keep a good eye on your body’s needs and requirements to maintain a healthy and active mind and body.