Collagen is one of the most common proteins that exists in our bodies. It provides a framework for almost everything, including healthy skin, hair, nails, bones, muscles, even teeth and eyes. As we age, our collagen level declines, falling at roughly 1.5 per cent a year for both men and women (although when women hit menopause their collagen levels fall more steeply). Declining collagen levels can mean everything from thinning 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 to great lengths for bouncy skin and a supple body. Hence the booming market in collagen supplements. But some are inevitably prepared to go further than others in their quest for vitality.
Luton Town Footballer Andros Townsend, 32, speaking earlier this week to 5 Live’s Monday Night Club, says he thinks it’s his daily intake of five or six chicken feet – steamed for 20 minutes in the microwave – every night to maintain his collagen levels, that keeps him spritely (as well as hyperbaric chambers and red-light therapy).
Nutritional therapist Sonia Wahlroos applauds the protein intake from the chicken feet, but says, “Even though chicken feet are high in collagen, eating them doesn’t mean this converts to collagen in the body. Collagen synthesis isn’t really just a simple question of eating more protein or a product containing collagen because it gets broken down into amino acids in the stomach. So yes, a diet high in protein will contribute to collagen production, but in order to boost your collagen levels your diet must also be rich in antioxidants, in particular vitamin C, as well as a good range of fruit and vegetables. The regularity is good though, as is a daily top up of certain food groups.”
The interesting thing about collagen is that once you are producing more of it, it causes a domino effect. The more collagen you have, the more the body is able to produce. Wahlroos is on the fence about collagen supplements, saying that she will always favour food over supplements, as the absorption levels of nutrients is always better. Many of her clients decide to take them, 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 founder of Ingenious Collagen supplements says a natural way to boost collagen is to up your daily intake of vitamin C. “Studies have shown that vitamin C is essential for replenishing collagen and helping our blood clotting systems. As well as citrus fruits, look for any orange vegetables – pumpkins 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 for boosting collagen, says Wahlroos, providing you are also including vitamin C in your diet. “Bone broth is naturally high in collagen. You don’t have to go to the trouble of making it yourself as there are plenty of good ones available off the shelf, but even a simple broth made out of a chicken carcass, peppers, leeks, celery and carrots is effective and tasty.”
Wahlroos is also a fan of protein of eggs for boosting collagen. “Eggs are a great source of protein. A two-egg omelette with a leafy salad and some peppers is one of my go-to lunches for protein and vitamin C,” she says.
4. Avoid too much sugar
Ghatora says it’s also important to avoid certain foods as they destroy collagen; sugar is one of the worst offenders. “There are two types of sugar. There is fructose sugar in fresh fruit 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 damaging to the body. A clinical study in 1992 revealed that glucose sugar degrades collagen, reducing its elasticity, making the collagen more brittle, so that it loses its strength and resilience. To put it bluntly, sugar is speeding up the ageing process. In an ideal world, all our sugar needs should be met from fructose sugar found in fruit and vegetables.”
5. Go easy on 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 cortisol levels from stress is also bad for collagen production, so if the occasional glass of wine helps you relax and unwind then don’t worry too much about it.
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