Kiwi is a rich source of vitamin C, which can help the body produce collagen. [Photo: Bigstock]

Foods to boost collagen naturally

4 May, 2017

If you are looking for younger looking skin – think collagen.

Collagen is the most common and abundant form of protein in the body. It is found in many tissues of the muscles, bones, tendons, blood vessels, and the digestive system.

It also has a role to play in maintaining healthy, youthful looking skin as it aids the growth of cells and blood vessels, helps maintain skin’s moisture levels, gives skin its firmness and strength, and helps skin to repair.

When collagen levels are high, the skin is soft, smooth, and firm.  But as we age our bodies produce less collagen and as levels go down the common signs of skin ageing – wrinkles, sagging skin that has lost its elasticity – are all signs that the body is producing less collagen.

There are lots ways to boost collagen levels. One of the easiest is to include more collagen-boosting foods in your diet.

Vitamin C

Your body cannot make vitamin C, so you need to get if from your diet every day.  Apart from its well-known immune boosting effects Vitamin C is also a key nutrient for supporting healthy skin.

Research suggests that vitamin C also plays an important role in protecting the skin and creating more collagen in the body.

This essential vitamin is found in many fresh fruits and vegetables. An antioxidant, vitamin C reduces the impact of harmful free radicals on collagen, and research suggests that it protects the skin against the harmful effects of UVB short rays from the sun.

Vitamin C can be taken as a supplement or added to the skin, and is found in many foods. Citrus fruits, kiwi, green leafy vegetables, papaya, strawberries, and broccoli are all rich in vitamin C.


Antioxidants are substances that help to protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that can damage the body.

They help protect collagen and elastin, vital proteins that maintain our skin’s elasticity, and boost the circulation to the tiny blood vessels near the skin’s surface, enhancing our skin’s natural radiance. The main skin antioxidants, such as carotenoids, vitamins C and E, flavonoids, and resveratrol, are found abundantly in fresh fruit and vegetables.

To ensure you’re getting enough of these beauty-promoting nutrients, you need to eat a whole “rainbow” of fresh vegetables and fruit, from berries and green leafy vegetables, to squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, and beetroot.

One 2015 study found that organically grown fruit and veg provided even more antioxidants, and that switching to organic produce was the equivalent of eating one or two extra portions of fruit and vegetables each day.

Eating a variety of fresh wholefoods is the best way to ensure you get dietary antioxidants. Research shows that some particularly good food choices include:

  • blueberries
  • green tea
  • yerba mate
  • liquorice extract
  • mulberry extract
  • pomegranate extract
  • coffee extract
  • astragalus
  • cinnamon
  • basil, oregano, and thyme essential oils

Hyaluronic acid

This gel-like, water-holding molecule helps skin cells to retain moisture and also facilitates the passage of nutrients into the skin and the removal of waste products. Studies show that hyaluronic acid, an antioxidant, increases skin hydration, stimulates collagen production, and improves skin elasticity. The body manufactures hyaluronic acid from certain vegetables, in particular soya foods and sweet potatoes, so increase your intake of tofu, miso, and sweet potato.

Hyaluronic acid is also available as a supplement. Other supplements may also help boost levels.

Ginseng, for example, has been used for centuries in traditional medicine; it can be taken as tea, tinctures, and supplements and has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative properties.  A 2012 laboratory study found that Panax ginseng helped increase increases the amount of collagen in the bloodstream.

Other recent research suggests that aloe vera sterols to take orally may help. In the study, the production of hyaluronic acid and collagen almost doubled in the participants taking the supplement. There was also a significant reduction in facial wrinkles. Aloe sterols are not common supplements yet but this research shows they are ones to watch.

Oily fish and lean meats

Fresh, oily fish provides protein and healthy fats to help the absorption of nutrients and to promote collagen production. Wild salmon, trout, sardines, and herring are protein
rich, helping repair skin at a cellular level, and have omega-3 for supple skin. The pink in trout and salmon is a carotenoid, astaxanthin, a powerful anti-inflammatory that increases skin elasticity.

Beans and pulses

Beans and pulses, such as lentils and dried beans, provide complex carbohydrates, healthy proteins, folate, and a range of essential vitamins and minerals to support digestion during detox and promote collagen production for healthy skin, hair, and nails.

Full of collagen-building protein, nuts help the body to digest and expel food to avoid a build-up of the toxins that can contribute to cellulite. Enjoy a handful daily to boost key skin-supporting nutrients like vitamins B and E, calcium, iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium.

Add a sprinkle of superfoods

Superfoods have a lot of concentrated goodness in them that can help maintain healthy skin. Try including more of the following these:

Baobab is an African fruit powder that stimulates collagen production for healthy skin, hair, and teeth. It contains key nutrients including calcium, vitamins A, B1, B6, and C, potassium, magnesium, zinc, bioflavonoids and fibre. Add 1–2 tsp daily to meals.

Oats provide essential fatty acids and silica, which aids the manufacture of collagen and elastin for firmer, toned skin and is a component of hyaluronic acid, which bathes collagen and elastin in moisture, keeping the skin hydrated. Oats are also a good source of B vitamins, vitamin E, zinc, iron, fibre, calcium, magnesium, silica and fatty acids. Have up to 100g (3½ oz) daily.

Cacao has been shown to help boost collagen production. It contains sulphur, supporting collagen production. Just 30g (1oz) of cacao contains 314% of our daily iron needs. Other important nutrients in cacao include magnesium, chromium, protein, copper, calcium, beta carotene, vitamins B1 and B2, magnesium, flavonoids and fatty acids. Add 1–6 tsp daily to meals.

Bee pollen contains the antioxidant rutin, which aids circulation, and protein which renews collagen and elastin. It is also rich in vitamins, amino acids and fatty acids. Eat up to 1 tsp daily. Do not give to children, or take if you have a bee sting allergy, are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Quinoa is made up of almost 22% protein, and has all the essential amino acids needed for
muscle repair and renewal, plus a variety of skin-firming vitamins and minerals, including silica, to build collagen and promote skin elasticity. Have a 50g (1¾ oz) serving a couple of times a week.

While diet is a keystone, don’t forget also that your environment plays an important role in skin ageing. How much sleep you get, whether you smoke or drink lots of coffee, too much time in the sun and how well you hydrate will also be influential in maintaining firm and glowing skin.


  • Some of the information in this article is extracted from Neal’s Yard Remedies Eat Beautiful, written by Fiona Waring, Tipper Lewis and Susan Curtis, published by Dorling Kindersley.