Collagen is one of the most common proteins that exists in our body. It provides a framework for almost everything, including healthy skin, hair, nails, bones, muscles, even teeth and eyes. As we age, our collagen levels decline, falling by about 1.5 percent per year for both men and women (although when women reach menopause, their collagen levels drop more sharply) . Declining collagen levels can mean everything from dull hair and more wrinkled skin, to brittle nails and slower muscle recovery.
Robust collagen, not surprisingly, is seen as the holy grail of beauty, with many of us prepared to go big for bouncy skin and a supple body. Hence the growing market for collagen supplements. But some are inevitably willing to go further than others in their quest for vitality.
Speaking on 5 Live’s Monday Night Club earlier this week, Luton Town footballer Andros Townsend, 32, says he reckons his daily intake is five or six feet of chicken – steamed for 20 minutes in the microwave – every night to maintain its collagen levels, which keeps it sprite (like hyperbaric chambers and red light therapy).
Nutritional therapist Sonia Wahlroos applauds the intake of protein from chicken feet, but says: “Although chicken feet are rich in collagen, eating it does not mean that it converts into collagen in the body . The synthesis of collagen is not just a simple matter of eating more protein or a product that contains collagen because it breaks down into amino acids in the stomach. Therefore, yes, a diet rich in protein contributes to the production of collagen, but to boost your collagen levels, your diet should also be rich in antioxidants, especially vitamin C, as well as a good range of fruits and vegetables. Regularity is also good, such as a daily top of certain food groups.”
The interesting thing about collagen is that once you produce more, it will cause a domino effect. The more collagen you have, the more your body is able to produce. Wahlroos is on the fence about collagen supplements, saying that he will always favor food over supplements, since nutrient absorption levels are always better. Many of her clients decide to take it, but she says a healthy diet comes first.
Here are 5 ways to boost your collagen levels naturally:
1. Vitamin C
Pharmacist Pupinder Ghatora and the founder of Ingenious Collagen Supplements says that a natural way to strengthen collagen is to increase your intake of vitamin C. “Studies have shown that vitamin C is essential to strengthen collagen and help our systems of blood clotting. In addition to citrus fruits, look for any orange vegetables – squash and sweet potatoes at this time of year are good sources of vitamin C.”
2. Bone broth
A daily cup of bone broth may be a more palatable option than chicken feet to boost collagen, says Wahlroos, who also includes vitamin C in your diet. “Bone broth is naturally rich in collagen. You don’t need to make the problem yourself, as there are many good ones available off the shelf, but also a simple broth made from a chicken carcass, peppers, leeks , celery and carrots is effective and tasty.”
Wahlroos is also a fan of collagen-boosting egg protein. “Eggs are a great source of protein. A two-egg omelet with a leafy salad and some pepper is one of my favorite meals for protein and vitamin C,” she says.
4. Avoid too much sugar
Ghatora says it’s also important to avoid certain foods that destroy collagen; sugar is one of the worst offenders. “There are two types of sugar. There is fructose sugar in fresh fruits and vegetables, which is easy for the body to process, and then there is glucose sugar also known as refined sugar, which can be more harmful to the body. A clinical study in 1992 revealed that glucose sugar degrades collagen, reducing its elasticity, making collagen more fragile, because it loses its strength and resistance. In other words, sugar accelerates the aging process. In an ideal world, all our sugar needs should be met by the fructose sugar found in fruits and vegetables.
5. Go easy on the alcohol
Ghatora also suggests going easy on the alcohol. “A 1972 Lancet study revealed that alcohol consumption reduces collagen synthesis, showing that the higher the alcohol content in the blood, the greater the reduction in collagen synthesis.” However, it is also true that high levels of cortisol from stress are also bad for collagen production, so if the occasional glass of wine helps you relax and unwind, don’t worry too much.
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