The inhabitants density of Manhattan is about 70,000 individuals per sq. mile, so it’s an excellent factor that every one these individuals don’t depend on automobiles to get round. Instead, most use the New York City subway system, which served virtually six million riders a day in 2016. The system, which first opened in 1904, is the first infrastructure that binds the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers to their websites of labor, worship, and leisure.

A younger singer-songwriter named Carole Klein rode the subway’s BMT traces most days within the 1960s. She seen that some days her fellow passengers appeared nice, form, and engaging, whereas on different days, “everyone looked ugly.” In her autobiography, she wrote, “I was annoyed by the tall woman with flaming red hair and mismatched rouge who was stinking up the entire car with a corned beef sandwich that she was eating on the fly. At the time, I didn’t think about the possibility that she might have had to skip breakfast, so she could get to the electric company in time to pay the bill.”

Eventually, Klein (who later modified her final identify to “King”) arrived at a revelation: “… the way I perceived others on a given day was a reflection of how I was feeling.” This perception, which she known as Subway Lesson three, turned the inspiration for one in every of her most profitable songs, “Beautiful,” which appeared on the landmark 1971 album Tapestry.

The refrain goes like this:

You’ve bought to stand up each morning with a smile in your face
And present the world all of the love in your coronary heart
Then individuals gonna deal with you higher
You’re gonna discover, sure, you’ll
That you’re lovely as you are feeling

The music is a declaration that magnificence is greater than skin-deep. Carole King defined in 2013, “I still believe that everyone is beautiful in some way, and by seeing the beauty in others we make ourselves more beautiful.”

It seems that the New York City subway serves as a form of city connective tissue, in addition to a reminder that magnificence is greater than skin-deep. Both metaphors deliver me to as we speak’s matter: collagen.

Collagen Is About More Than Beauty

Collagen is a sort of protein that’s present in our connective tissue, cartilage, bone, and tendons. It helps to preserve wrinkles at bay and pores and skin wanting plump. It additionally performs a vital function in supporting the well being of our nails and joints.

Our our bodies make collagen, however manufacturing usually declines with age. More and extra individuals are actually taking collagen dietary supplements in hopes of defying the growing old course of. This collagen-buying development is fueled by promoting and in addition by a rising variety of celebrities. Media character and socialite Kourtney Kardashian, for instance, says that she begins her day with a scorching collagen beverage that she believes helps to preserve her pores and skin, hair, and nails in good condition.

Is the advertising hype working? Yes, and spectacularly. In 2020, customers spent simply shy of $300 million on varied collagen merchandise, a six-fold enhance from 2014. And you ain’t seen nothing but. One market analysis agency predicts that the collagen market will hit virtually $17 billion (with a “B”) in gross sales by 2028.

But what’s collagen, and why is it essential? How is it produced, and the way can we guarantee that now we have sufficient of it? Are dietary supplements useful or simply advertising hype? And must you eat collagen instantly, or simply eat meals that make it easier to construct it in your individual physique?

Here’s what you want to find out about collagen, collagen dietary supplements, and (spoiler alert!) why the meals in your plate is the healthiest place to begin. Before you begin dropping lots of of on fancy powders, lotions, or lotions, possibly you’ll uncover that crops can plump your pores and skin from inside.

What Is Collagen?

grandmother with granddaughter and mother in park

Collagen is a protein. Fun reality: It’s the one most ample protein within the animal kingdom, comprising one-third of the whole protein in your physique and accounting for three-quarters of the dry weight of your pores and skin.

Collagen is essential as a result of it offers structural assist to connective tissues that make up your physique: pores and skin, tendons, bones, and ligaments. It principally holds every part collectively, which is why collagen is commonly known as the physique’s scaffolding.

Its presence in your pores and skin helps present quantity that retains your pores and skin wanting plump (in a great way) with fewer seen positive traces and wrinkles. That’s why so many individuals are drawn to the concept of getting extra collagen into their our bodies via dietary supplements and different merchandise: Beauty sells.

What Causes Collagen Breakdown?

mature woman and body care

Collagen naturally breaks down as you age, however the fee of that course of varies from particular person to particular person. Your genetics play a task, so when you have pores and skin that retains a wholesome glow whereas your contemporaries are getting wrinkles, you would possibly have the opportunity to thank your mother and father and grandparents. Your genetic heritage, nevertheless, doesn’t inform the entire story. Other elements could also be at play when it comes to collagen breakdown in your physique — and a few of these, in contrast to the genetic hand you have been dealt, are very a lot in your management.


The meals you gasoline your physique with have a serious influence in your well being in all respects, together with collagen manufacturing. In reality, dietary deficiencies — deficiencies which are fairly widespread in the usual trendy food plan — can stop new collagen from forming. For occasion, with out a regular provide of antioxidants, extra free radicals can wreak havoc in your cells and overwhelm your physique’s pure restore processes.

Making issues worse, meals low in antioxidants — comparable to these stuffed with added sugar and refined carbohydrates — can enhance oxidative stress and irritation inside your physique. This can truly skinny layers of collagen and intensify indicators of growing old.

Broccoli, spinach, carrots, and potatoes are all excessive in antioxidants, and so are artichokes, cabbage, asparagus, avocados, beetroot, radish, lettuce, candy potatoes, squash, pumpkin, collard greens, and kale.

Sun Exposure

man and woman sunbathing on pool deck

The Victorian higher lessons might have had a repressive tradition, however they have been onto one thing once they discouraged exposing pores and skin to extreme quantities of sunshine. Putting apart the standing snobbery of that perception, it’s true that limiting the direct solar publicity your pores and skin receives isn’t simply essential for stopping sunburns; an excessive amount of UV radiation additionally compromises collagen manufacturing, ultimately main to a collagen deficit in your physique.

While modest quantities of solar publicity will be wholesome (love that vitamin D!), extreme doses of UV gentle might inactivate antioxidants within the pores and skin and additional promote the degradation of collagen and elastin. This can lower the general power of the pores and skin, generate wrinkles, and even create a microenvironment that facilitates tumor formation and development.

Because melanin pigments in pores and skin are photoprotective — that means the extra melanin you’ve the extra pure solar safety you’ve — lighter-skinned persons are extra in danger for pores and skin injury from UV irradiation than these with darker pores and skin.


Smoking is likely one of the worst habits when it comes to your pores and skin. The Marlboro Man might look sturdy and hard, however he’ll quickly sufficient develop crow’s ft, frown traces, and forehead droop — together with lung most cancers, bronchitis, and coronary heart illness. Cigarette smoke destroys collagen all through the physique and particularly within the arterial tissues, which is probably going one cause that it will increase your danger of coronary heart illness. In one 2019 research, researchers discovered that the elasticity of the brow and the thickness of the dermis of the cheeks have been considerably decrease amongst people who smoke in contrast to non-smokers.


I don't need anymore stress in my life

Stress may undermine the integrity of pores and skin collagen. A stressed-out physique will produce much less collagen and be much less ready to stop the breakdown of present shops.

When you’re pressured, your physique releases extra of the hormone epinephrine (or adrenaline) as a part of your fight-or-flight response. This signifies that fibroblasts (cells that produce the collagen proteins that protect the structural framework of many tissues) don’t do their job very effectively. This can impair wound therapeutic and different pores and skin restore.

When somebody’s overwhelmed by stress — snapping at others and perceiving assaults in every single place — they could have skinny pores and skin actually in addition to figuratively.

Collagen Vascular Diseases

Collagen vascular illnesses are autoimmune situations through which the physique assaults wholesome tissue like collagen, decreasing its manufacturing and presence. Some examples embody:

  • Lupus, a illness through which the immune system turns into hyperactive and assaults wholesome tissues. Symptoms typically contain a cheek rash, fatigue, pores and skin lesions, joint ache, and shortness of breath.
  • Systemic scleroderma, which causes irregular collagen development and impacts the pores and skin, joints, and different organs. Common signs embody fingertip swelling, joint ache, spider veins, and calcium bumps (deposits of calcium that develop slightly below the pores and skin, recognized formally as calcinosis cutis — ironic as a result of most individuals don’t discover them cute in any respect) in addition to, in additional extreme circumstances, coronary heart failure and kidney illness.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis, a continual inflammatory dysfunction that causes the liner of the joints within the ft and arms to swell. Symptoms typically embody fatigue, joint swelling and stiffness, and bumps of tissue on affected limbs.
  • Sjögren’s syndrome, a systemic autoimmune illness that impacts all the physique and infrequently happens alongside different immune problems like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. It typically causes dry eyes and mouth, and should ultimately influence joints and organs together with the pores and skin, liver, and kidneys.

Can You Get Collagen From Food?

healthy diet food veggie protein sources

Collagen is present in animal merchandise — like meat, fish, and eggs — that comprise connective tissue. However, the collagen that you just ingest on this approach isn’t routinely out there in your physique to use. This is as a result of the physique can’t take in collagen in its entire kind. Rather, your physique breaks down the protein into its constituent amino acids, which it might then use to construct new proteins.

The amino acids vital for collagen manufacturing can come from any protein supply, however plant-based proteins have typically been proven to be more healthy. Some plant-based sources of protein embody entire soy meals like tofu and tempeh, legumes together with beans, peas, and lentils, nuts and seeds, entire grains, and even greens like broccoli.

The amino acids which are most essential for collagen manufacturing are glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and lysine. Some of the most effective plant-based sources of those amino acids are nuts, seeds, legumes, and mushrooms. (For extra on protein, see our article right here.)

In addition to protein, different vitamins help the physique within the synthesis of collagen.

Nutrients and Best Food Sources for Collagen Production

Below are a number of the vitamins and meals that may most profit your collagen well being. Eating all kinds of those meals can assist assist your physique’s pure collagen manufacturing and upkeep.

Vitamin C

citrus fruit

Vitamin C is a vital cofactor for the 2 enzymes required for collagen synthesis: prolyl hydroxylase (to stabilize the collagen molecule) and lysyl hydroxylase (to give structural power by cross-linking). Recent analysis has additional proven that vitamin C acts instantly in your DNA to regulate how a lot collagen you’ve inside your cells.

Vitamin C additionally capabilities as an antioxidant, combating oxidative stresses that may degrade present collagen. All vegetables and fruit comprise vitamin C, however the most effective meals sources embody citrus fruits, peppers, strawberries, kiwis, and tomatoes. (For extra on vitamin C, see our article right here.)


Zinc is one other cofactor in collagen synthesis. It may break down and restore collagen, help in wound therapeutic, and assist assist your pores and skin well being and integrity. Good plant-based meals sources of zinc embody nuts, seeds, legumes, and entire grains. (For extra on zinc, see our article right here.)


garlic onion and shallots on wooden board

Sulfur is a further cofactor in collagen synthesis; it helps to stabilize collagen. It’s present in meals excessive in protein in addition to in sulfinates, allicin, sulfides, thiamin, and biotin. Some good plant-based sources of sulfur come from the allium household of veggies, which incorporates onions, garlic, chives, and leeks. You’ll additionally discover sulfur in cruciferous greens, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, legumes, and entire grains.


Copper is a key cofactor that permits the enzyme lysyl oxidase to assist the physique’s pure elastin and collagen capabilities. Good sources of copper in your food plan embody entire grains, beans, nuts, potatoes, tofu, leafy greens, cocoa, and dried fruit.

Note: Copper is one nutrient that’s particularly essential to get from meals relatively than dietary supplements, as a result of supplemental copper can simply overload the physique; extra copper could also be as unhealthy as (or worse than) a deficiency.


Iron is required for the synthesis of collagen. Without ample iron, your physique struggles to make and keep collagen shops. While many individuals get an excessive amount of iron, getting sufficient can also be vital. Some good sources of plant-based iron within the food plan are legumes, tofu, nuts, seeds, and leafy greens. (For extra on iron, see our article right here.)

Vitamin E

avocado almonds spinach salad

Consuming vitamin E, an antioxidant, helps to defend collagen shops from oxidative injury. A couple of good sources of vitamin E embody nuts, seeds, leafy greens, and tropical fruits like kiwi, mango, and avocados.


fresh berries in a basket on rustic wooden background

Polyphenols are answerable for a number of the extraordinary advantages that plant meals have to supply. For occasion, polyphenols scale back oxidative injury and irritation within the pores and skin via their pure antioxidant and anti inflammatory results.

These plant compounds additionally inhibit collagen degradation, enhance collagen synthesis, and assist to preserve irritation at bay. Some good locations to discover polyphenols embody colourful vegetables and fruit comparable to grapes, cabbage, berries, peppers, and garlic, in addition to tea, espresso, and spices.

What about Collagen Supplements?

a jar with collagen powder and scoop spoon in woman hands

If, as we’ve seen, your physique makes collagen from the amino acids in protein, then you could be asking: What precisely are the collagen dietary supplements which are so closely marketed as we speak, and do they assist?

How Are Collagen Supplements Made?

The collagen in dietary supplements is mostly sourced from cows, chickens, and pigs, in addition to marine life like fish, octopi, and jellyfish. (It may come from different animals, comparable to alligators, kangaroos, and sheep.) Currently, there aren’t any vegan collagen merchandise out there, though there are some within the works utilizing GMO yeast or micro organism.

Do Collagen Supplements Work?

Collagen dietary supplements are available in powder, capsule, or liquid kind, in addition to in topical lotions. When digested within the abdomen, collagen is damaged down into amino acids which are then distributed wherever the physique most wants protein. However, there’s no assure that collagen is concentrating on the precise areas which are claimed in lots of merchandise.

The advertising for collagen merchandise typically claims that they will enhance pores and skin elasticity, scale back seen wrinkles, and enhance blood movement to the pores and skin. For essentially the most half, these claims aren’t backed up with credible proof, so regulatory businesses have required them to be faraway from sure merchandise.

Overall, there’s been a scarcity of large-scale randomized managed trials on the impact of collagen dietary supplements on human collagen manufacturing and pores and skin well being. At this level, the findings are weak, conflicting, and largely anecdotal. There’s no definitive proof that these merchandise or types of collagen truly make it easier to take in collagen or enhance manufacturing. Research on the merchandise that counsel otherwise are sometimes sponsored by corporations who make collagen merchandise, making them inherently biased.

There are, nevertheless, some indications that supplemental collagen might assist considerably to relieve joint ache, stop bone loss, promote muscle mass, and assist coronary heart well being.

One animal-free type of complement is a collagen-booster — like this one from Future Kind, or this assortment from Sunwarrior — which incorporates a number of vitamins that may assist assist your physique’s pure manufacturing of collagen. These boosters present vitamins that you may get from meals, however unexpectedly in a concentrated dose.

What’s the Best Way to Help Your Body Produce Collagen?

friends cooking

Collagen-booster dietary supplements would possibly assist, however at finest they are going to mimic the advantages of a complete meals, plant-based food plan by together with vitamins that assist enhance your physique’s personal collagen manufacturing. Before reaching for one in every of these dietary supplements, it’s your decision to strive to get these vitamins out of your food plan first. If you aren’t ready to get all of the vitamins you want out of your food plan (or when you have greater protein necessities due to age or athletic exercise), it’s your decision to take into account including a food-based collagen booster to your food plan.

If you’ve questions on including collagen or collagen-boosters to your way of life, it’s normally finest to seek the advice of along with your healthcare practitioner for personalised steerage.

Plant-Based Recipes to Support Collagen Production

The recipes under can assist assist collagen manufacturing (and stop its breakdown) with their vibrant colours (polyphenols), ample nutritional vitamins and minerals, and plant-powered protein. A Harvest Grain Breakfast Bowl is a collagen-friendly approach to begin the day (bonus: You may get pleasure from it for dinner)! The skin-loving, not-so-secret to Savory Spinach and Squash Farro? All these crops! And Creamy Kale Pineapple Smoothie is a good instance of a scrumptious, nutrient-powered mix that’s good in your pores and skin, bones, and joints!

1. Harvest Grain Breakfast Bowl

Start your day with a collagen-supporting breakfast. This Harvest Grain Breakfast Bowl is filled with quite a lot of collagen-friendly vitamins together with zinc and protein from the pumpkin and millet, nutritional vitamins A and C from the beets and broccoli, and sulfur from the broccoli, onions, and millet. This bowl demonstrates that you may assist collagen manufacturing simply if you add quite a lot of colourful crops to your plate.

2. Savory Spinach and Squash Farro

How can one thing so scrumptious be good for you? The reply is straightforward — crops! Savory Spinach and Squash Farro is bursting with antioxidant nutritional vitamins C, A, and E, iron, and protein (all vitamins that assist to assist collagen manufacturing and stop collagen breakdown). The key can also be within the colours — discover the inexperienced spinach, yellow squash, purple bell pepper, and vivid purple tomatoes. These colours are phytonutrients in motion, therapeutic us from the within out.

three. Creamy Kale Pineapple Smoothie

Smoothies generally is a polyphenol smorgasbord, and Creamy Kale Pineapple Smoothie isn’t any exception. Power up the polyphenols much more by together with different plant-based elements like matcha tea, goji berries, or strawberries. This smoothie additionally consists of protein (important for collagen manufacturing) within the plant-based yogurt and chia seeds.

Support Collagen Production With a Healthy Plant-Based Diet

Collagen is a much-hyped class of proteins that’s been marketed as an anti-aging “fountain of youth.”  Collagen can also be vital for good well being, because it’s discovered all through the physique and performs many vital capabilities. You can assist its manufacturing by consuming a wholesome, well-balanced food plan stuffed with entire plant meals like nuts, seeds, legumes, entire grains, fruits, and greens.

Most collagen dietary supplements are constituted of animal merchandise and break down into amino acids within the physique (the identical amino acids you may get from many different protein sources). Despite massive claims, there may be little proof to assist using these merchandise for skincare. Collagen boosters aren’t a lot totally different from dietary precursors to collagen, in order that they aren’t vital for most individuals who already get sufficient of those vitamins of their diets.

Tell us within the feedback:

  • Are you involved about collagen?

  • What steps have you ever taken to keep away from collagen breakdown?

  • What are your favourite plant-based meals to assist collagen synthesis?

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