Collagen is among the biggest buzzwords in the beauty, skincare, and dietary supplement industries for its immense ability to improve the quality of your skin whilst reducing the appearance of wrinkles and lines. Collagen comes from animal products, not too dissimilar to gelatin, and therefore, the powerful protein is not suitable for vegetarians or vegans in its natural form. This has led to the heightened demand for plant based collagen! Scientists and researchers have endeavored to find several plant-based supplements or dietary items that can support the production and longevity of collagen- which is what we will be exploring and discussing in detail in this blog post.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is a vital, structural protein strain that is made up of 19 different amino acids! It actually makes up a third of our bodies’ protein and connective tissue. Its primary importance is to keep our skin looking healthy and young, as well as allowing wounds and scars to successfully heal. As we age, collagen levels in the body will deplete, along with our youthful appearances. However, taking collagen supplements can help limit this natural reduction.
How do you take Collagen? Where does it come from?
Collagen comes from animals, and you naturally gain collagen by consuming animal products. The most collagen-heavy parts of animals include the bones, skin, and connective tissues.
Alternatively, humans can increase their intake through dietary collagen supplements and other revolutionary forms of collagen products, from collagen powder in coffee to injections.
Everything you should know about Animal Collagen
Animal collagen has been the number one source for collagen for generations. Animals such as fish, chicken, rabbits, and cows have the most collagen present. Consuming these animals through meat or bone broth is a proven method to maintain and improve the quality of your skin.
When you eat animal products, your body will start to break down the dietary protein into amino acids and during this phase, your body will naturally produce its own collagen.
What makes Plant-based (Vegan) Collagen Different?
Plants do not have naturally occurring collagen-like animals do, but instead, have their own beneficial proteins that can mirror the effects of collagen. Plant based collagen builds on the most abundant amino acids found in animal collagen, which are glycine, lysine, and proline. Therefore, vegetarian and vegan-friendly foods that contain high levels of these amino acids can be used as a collagen builder and can stimulate the natural production of collagen inside our bodies.
How do plant-based collagen work, and what are they made of?
Plant based collagen products can aid collagen production in humans through the use of essential amino acids and vitamins. Scientists have found that these nutrients are rich in animal collagen, so the product development of vegan collagen simply attempts to mirror this. Many plant foods have bouts of these great vitamins, such as vitamin C and zinc, so the inclusion of these in a supplement will result in a successful vegan collagen booster.
The science behind Vegan Collagen
Plant-based collagen uses genetically modified yeast and bacteria to genetically engineer high-quality collagen. According to Healthline, to produce vegan collagen, scientists add four human genes that code for collagen to the genetic structure of the microbes. Then, once the genes are in place, the yeast or bacteria begin to produce the building blocks of human collagen. Pepsin, a digestive enzyme is then added to help develop the collagen molecules, enabling them to become the exact structure of human collagen.
Plant-based vs. Animal-based: Which collagen is better for you?
Ultimately, plant-based collagen is able to mirror the effects of animal collagen, but it doesn't necessarily beat it. The protein found in animal-derived collagen is a vital ingredient needed for the health of hair, skin, and nails.
Despite this, a plant-based collagen is a fantastic option for vegetarians and vegans attempting to reap the benefits of collagen. It will help your body to produce collagen naturally over time, but it will protect the collagen breakdown in your body in the same way as consuming collagen from animal sources does.
Benefits of Vegan Collagen
Vegan collagen is a great alternative to animal-based collagen if you follow a certain health diet that limits animal products. Most of the benefits are similar to the normal production of collagen, from improving skin elasticity to limiting your risk of illness.
Plant-based collagen stimulates natural collagen production
Whilst actual plant-based collagen is hard to come by, many companies sell ‘collagen boosters’ which contain a range of vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C and Zinc, which the body needs to create collagen.
Improves skin health
One of the most well-known benefits of collagen, in general, is its anti-wrinkle capabilities. Whilst this is true, collagen is really important for all skin health and we would recommend focusing on this from the age of 25 onwards, as this is when your collagen levels usually begin to reduce.
When young, your skin contains up to 70% collagen, giving it the plump, bouncy and soft texture we all crave. However, as the years go by, the collagen levels in your skin reduce, causing the natural signs of aging, such as wrinkles, looser skin, and stiff joints. Plant-based collagen can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and give your skin more elasticity, allowing it to hold onto that desirable soft, plump texture for longer.
Lower risk of allergies and disease
There is some concern with animal collagen about the risk of the transmission of illness. With plant-based collagen, this risk is eliminated. This is due to vegan collagen being created with microbes in a controlled environment, meaning that common allergens and other potentially harmful substances can be easily removed.
Beauty related benefits
With the anti-aging properties promoted by collagen, vegan collagen also has the potential to reduce wrinkles, increase skin hydration and promote more supple and youthful skin texture. Some places even boast beauty benefits such as thicker hair, stronger nails, and improved overall wellness, although these aren’t necessarily backed by scientific evidence.
Skin and joint care
Alongside the potential to reduce the signs of aging, plant-based collagen can also support joint health. Collagen is abundant in bones, tendons, and ligaments as well as the skin during youth, so it's important in keeping bones strong and joints cushioned.
Wounds and scars
By following a vegan or vegetarian diet, you are naturally missing out on essential vitamins and essential proteins that might affect wound healing. These proteins help produce collagen which keeps the skin healthy, promoting effective wound healing. Not only this, but collagen can also help to heal any scarring, including acne scarring. This works because the collagen mends and rebuilds the damage caused to connective tissue.
Collagen is a hydrophilic molecule. This means it has an attraction to water and acidic molecules, aiding the digestive process. When collagen is ingested, it surrounds itself with water and stomach acid, assisting in the breakdown of proteins and carbohydrates in the intestines as it moves through the digestive system. This helps to move food through the digestive system more smoothly, giving digestive benefits and improving gut health.
Possibly cheaper than animal sources
Whilst there are obvious ways that plant-based collagen might be cheaper than animal sources through methods such as eating whole foods rich in Zinc, Vitamin C, Copper, and Amino Acids - the actual supplements available may be cheaper than purchasing large quantities of meat too.
Plant-based collagen boosting foods and dietary information
There are also many foods, herbs, and plant extracts that are also found to help stimulate collagen production. By adding these to your diet, you can naturally stimulate collagen production in your body! Here are some great plant-based foods to help stimulate collagen production:
Foods rich in Vitamin C and vitamin A
Kiwis are high in antioxidants, and eating a kiwi several times a week can also prevent the appearance of certain cancers and limit the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
Drinking a cup of water lemon first thing in the morning is great for stimulating nutrients in your body.
Oranges are really high in vitamin C, which helps to protect your hair, skin, and nails. It will also help with collagen production. Vitamin C can also be found in a range of beauty products.
Kale provides essential nutrients that can help trigger the production of collagen in your body.
Root vegetables, such as carrots, potatoes, and onions, contain lycopene which helps promote collagen production. These are also easy foods to incorporate into family dinners, as healthy side dishes for everyone to enjoy!
Foods rich in all three Amino Acids
Beans and legumes
Beans and legumes host plentiful amounts of nutrients that are great for your skin! They are also rich in protein, which is a natural collagen builder.
Tofu is a favorite meat substitute amongst vegans and vegetarians due to its ease and taste. Containing all three essential amino acids will help your bones.
Seeds and nuts
These are a healthy source of copper and zinc will help to stimulate the production of collagen in the body.
Foods rich in Zinc, Copper, and Iron
These vitamins are vital for vegans and vegetarians who may naturally lack these from their meat-free diets. Foods rich in zinc, copper, and iron include chocolate, nuts, chickpeas, and kale.
Reduce Sugar Intake to prevent collagen destruction
Another useful tip for those on a plant based diet who are worried about their collagen production is to reduce their sugar intake. Sugar and excessive sun exposure can cause inflammation to our bodies that disrupt the production of healthy skin. Try and find 'no added sugar' options on foods like pasta or try and eat as unprocessed as possible - you will definitely feel and see a difference!
In summary, though plant-based collagen is not quite the same as its animal-derived counterpart, if you are a vegan or vegetarian then it's a great option! Whether you choose to take plant-based supplements, simply add more of our suggested collagen-rich food into your recipes, or get one of our many Proper Good’s plant-based meals, your skin will be thanking you for it. Aging is a natural process, but it does not have to strip you of taking pride in your appearance or your health!