Collagen is one of the many popular, trendy anti-aging dietary supplements. The reason for its popularity is that it may have the ability to support the health of the joints and skin, slowing the aging process. But for those who follow a vegan diet, using collagen supplements is not possible.
With the popularity of plant-based diets, there is definitely interest in vegan collagen. If you do follow a vegan diet, there are some alternative products you may want to check out that might support your body’s natural collagen, but none will be as effective as the real thing. For now, vegans will just have to wait for scientists to discover a product that they can use.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the most abundant protein in the body. It is found in the joints, tendons, skin, and ligaments. The word collagen means “glue”; it is the protein that holds the body together.
There are 28 different types of collagen in the human body. Eighty to 90% of the body’s collagen are types 1, 2, and 3. Types 1 and 3 are mostly found in the skin, and type 2 is primarily in the joints.
As you age, your body naturally starts to produce less collagen, and the collagen you have starts to break down. In your early 20s, you lose about 1.5% of your body collagen per year. By the time you hit your 40s, you have lost a significant amount of collagen. This is when wrinkles start to pop up, and your joints begin to ache. Excessive stress, sun damage, and an unhealthy diet can all cause collagen loss and aging to speed up.
Keeping the collagen you have intact and encouraging your body to make more naturally can help slow down the aging process. This can be accomplished by taking collagen supplements, consuming foods high in collagen and nutrients needed for collagen production, staying out of the sun, and managing your stress.
Where Does Collagen Come From?
As we mentioned, collagen is found in the connective tissues of the skin, tendons, and ligaments. This means it is found in the connective tissues of all animals as well, but not in plants since they don’t have connective tissues.
Therefore, all collagen products are sourced from animal skin, hides, and bones. Each animal source has a slightly different composition. For example, bovine collagen is primarily types 1 and 3, whereas fish collagen is mostly just type 1.
No matter what the source, collagen is an incomplete protein. It is missing the essential amino acid tryptophan. This means that even with all its benefits, it should not be relied upon as a primary source of protein in your diet.
Since collagen is found in connective tissues, in food, it is found in the skin or tendons of animals. The problem is that in our modern diets, we have moved away from eating these tougher parts of animals. We prefer skinless, boneless chicken and fish without skin. This means that many of us are lacking collagen in our diets.
Does Vegan Collagen Exist?
Those following a vegan diet are certainly not getting enough collagen in their diets since they don’t eat any animals at all. But many still want to reap the benefits of collagen. So, what about plant-based collagen options?
We have some bad news; there are currently no vegan collagen products available on the market. But, vegan collagen does currently exist in the lab. Plant-based collagen can be made using genetically modified bacteria or yeast.
To make vegan collagen, scientists insert four human collagen genes into a bacteria called P. pastoris or specific kinds of yeast. Once the genes are inside the microbe, they can begin to produce the individual amino acids and other building blocks of vegan human collagen. Other proteins and enzymes are added to complete the process. What results from this process is vegan collagen that can be utilized for dietary supplements, medical procedures, or other purposes.
But, this vegetarian collagen is not available in dietary supplements. What you will find instead are vegan collagen “boosters.” These products are a combination of vitamins, like vitamin C, and minerals like zinc, that the body needs to make collagen. They may also include some herbs and plant extracts that can encourage the body to produce more collagen.
How to Get More Collagen in Your Diet
The easiest way to get more collagen into your diet is to take collagen supplements. Collagen supplements are designed to provide the body with the amino acids it needs to make new collagen. Our Fortified Multi-Collagen contains additional ingredients that help encourage new collagen production, reduce inflammation, and support joint and skin health.
Another way to get more collagen into your diet is to drink homemade bone broth. Bone broth is made from boiling bones for 24-48 hours. The long cooking time extracts the collagen, other amino acids, and minerals from the bone. You can also purchase store-made bone broth if you don’t want to make it yourself, it is widely available now in many health food stores.
But, as we mentioned, neither of these options work for vegans. If you are following a vegan diet, you can still support your body’s collagen production. Focus on vegan foods high in amino acids needed to make collagen, specifically lysine, proline, and glycine. Foods high in these amino acids include soy products, black beans, and kidney beans.
Additionally, vitamin C is needed to produce new collagen. A diet full of fruits and vegetables will help you increase your intake of this important skin-nourishing vitamin.
Finally, eating a diet that is low in sugar will help you keep the collagen you have intact. Sugar can weigh down collagen molecules in the skin and joints. This destroys the molecule and speeds up the aging process. One way you can limit the sugar in your diet is to use a sugar substitute to sweeten beverages or other recipes.
Due to popular demand, it is likely that a vegan or vegetarian collagen alternative will be available on the market soon. If you do choose to follow a vegan diet, the best thing you can do is eat foods that support the collagen you currently have, while limiting foods that destroy collagen. Staying out of the sun and actively managing your stress can also help you keep the collagen you have while you wait.