Collagen is a key protein for humans. This one building block accounts for three-quarters of the dry weight of our skin and virtually holds our bodies together. It is also essential in maintaining the proper functions of internal organs. As we age, our body’s natural collagen production slows down, and many people reach for collagen supplements.
While those are beneficial, collagen has a large molecular structure and therefore can only be used by the body when it is broken down into smaller amino acids. What if there was an alternative to help you produce more collagen sustainably? Plant-based collagen builders hold the answer.
What Is Collagen?
All animals, including humans, produce collagen from amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. It is the most abundant protein in the human body. Collagen is responsible for carrying nutrients, oxygen, and other important elements to different parts of the body.
This multitasking protein keeps your skin smooth and younger-looking. In addition, it helps you produce hormones and reduces inflammation which prevents joint pain. Without sufficient collagen production, wounds would not heal.
With aging, collagen production slows down naturally. This decline can be accelerated by several lifestyle factors, including:
- Overexposure to ultraviolet light
- Excessive consumption of sugar and processed foods
- Glycation - a degenerative process that produces an excess of glucose molecules in the skin which attach to collagen and elastin
- Emotional stress
- Lack of productive and restful sleep
What Is In A Collagen Supplement?
Collagen supplements contain animal-based collagen extracted from meat scraps processed at rendering facilities. In case you are unfamiliar with the term, rendering plants turn slaughterhouse waste and leftovers from meat processing plants into products that can be used for other purposes.
Some of the scraps used to produce collagen include hooves, bones, hides, teeth, horns, tendons, and ligaments of the animals that have been processed.
When you take an animal-based collagen supplement, it is digested and broken down into its constituent parts. Only then can it be absorbed into the bloodstream.
This process is difficult because collagen is formed in triple helices. This structure is what gives collagen the strength to help form muscles, tendons, and ligaments. At the same time, the triple helix structure makes it difficult to break the protein down to essential amino acids.
Everything But The Squeal
The term "everything but the squeal” has long been used by the meatpacking industry to indicate that almost nothing of the animal goes to waste. The term dates to the 1860s. To put this into perspective, worldwide roughly 200 million animals are killed every day for food. In the United States alone, the number stands at 25 million.
While some consumers might be reassured that nothing is going to waste, others are sickened at the thought of consuming what ends up on the processing plants' floors after rendering the meat. Adding to the concern is the potential concentration of herbicides, pesticides, and hormones given to animals to promote rapid growth. Marine collagen may have high concentrations of mercury and other toxins.
Considering The Alternative: How Do Herbivores Build Collagen?
Some of the animals whose leftovers are used in the production of collagen supplements are herbivores. Cows are a great example. They store abundant amounts of collagen in their hides, bones, ligaments, tendons, horns, and teeth. That means it must be possible to produce collagen solely from plant material.
That is excellent news for anyone needing a collagen boost without wanting to take animal-based collagen supplements. Like other herbivores, humans are able to produce collagen from essential amino acids, vitamins, and minerals gained from plants. As omnivores, we have a choice between plant-based collagen builders and animal-based supplements.
What Are Plant-Based Collagen Builders?
Plant-based collagen builders are vegan supplements. They work differently from standard collagen supplements. Rather than providing a form of collagen your body needs to break down, vegan collagen builders help your body create collagen naturally.
Remember, your body already understands how to make collagen. It simply slows down as you age. Your body’s collagen production also slows down if it does not have enough of all the elements required to make this essential protein. Building collagen naturally relies on nutrients including vitamins and minerals.
Many of those are part of a healthy, balanced diet. However, if you find you are struggling to maintain that, choosing suitable supplements is a good idea.
Essential Vitamins For Collagen Synthesis
1. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a multitasking ingredient that supports countless processes in our body. Apart from boosting collagen production, it is also responsible for supporting your immune system. Try getting vitamin C from natural sources like Amla, also known as Indian gooseberry, rather than the synthetic version of ascorbic acid.
Here's a list of fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C:
- Bell Peppers
- Red Cabbage
2. Vitamin D3
Vitamin D3 supports bone strength and health as well as immunity. However, synthetic vitamin D can block the synthesis of collagen, so it is important to look for natural alternatives instead. If you are considering taking vitamin D3 supplements but also want to increase your body's collagen production, balancing supplements is important.
Essential Minerals For Collagen Synthesis
Zinc is essential for your body's ability to produce collagen. It also helps protect the collagen in your body from being damaged. Zinc deficiency may lead to a reduction in the amount of collagen being produced. Over time, this could accelerate skin aging, for example.
Your body only needs a small quantity of copper, but this small amount is essential. Without copper, collagen cannot mature in your body. The mineral activates an enzyme which in turn helps form the fibers that support your tissues.
Plant-Based Foods And Supplements That Promote Natural Collagen Production
1. Sea Moss
Sea moss is a type of seaweed that is one of the most potent sources of plan-based collagen building blocks. It works well as a nutritional supplement but can also be applied topically to the skin.
Because the collagen contained in sea moss is plant-based, it is a smaller form of collagen fiber compared to animal-based sources. This makes it easier for the body to absorb and use this form of collagen.
2. Aloe Vera
Aloe vera has long been a favorite natural remedy for cuts and burns. It works so well in wound healing because it boosts the skin's natural collagen production through an extract known as aloe sterols. Like sea moss, aloe vera works well taken as a supplement or applied directly to the skin.
3. Hyaluronic Acid
Hyaluronic acid has been a favorite ingredient in skincare products because of its unique capacity to retain water. Adding it to your diet through beans and root vegetables or by taking a supplement can help boost collagen levels naturally in the body.
Biotin is a different name for vitamin B7. This vitamin can help your body metabolize the amino acids needed to build collagen naturally. Rather than opting for synthetic biotin, look for products derived from bamboo. Bamboo contains unsurpassed amounts of biotin.
5. Silica From Horsetail
Silica supports your body's natural collagen production. In addition, this mineral helps retain the elasticity of the skin and its structural integrity as you age. Silica occurs naturally in the horsetail fern.
Methylsulfonylmethane, or MSM, is a naturally occurring Sulphur compound. Our bodies naturally produce MSM but supplementing this organic compound can really boost your ability to produce collagen. Even after collagen production starts to decline as we age, MSM can jumpstart it. Using it from an early age may even prevent or delay the aging process.
7. Tremella Mushroom
The tremella mushroom is also known as the beauty mushroom. It has been a favorite in Eastern medicine for centuries, mostly because of its capacity to hold water. This ability also allows it to promote collagen health and prevent collagen breakdown.
Collagen is a key building block for a healthy body. While this protein has received most of its publicity as a skincare ingredient, its importance stretches to all parts of the body. Collagen fibers are an important component of our skin. They are also responsible for protecting internal organs.
As we age, our body's ability to build collagen naturally slows down. Animal-based collagen supplements have long been the only option to supplement collagen production. Now, vegan collagen builders offer an effective, superior alternative.
Rather than supplying collagen to the body, these supplements contain all elements the human body needs to produce more collagen. Plant-based collagen is based on naturally occurring nutrients rather than synthetic products and helps the body slow or even reverse its decline of collagen production.