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Nearly everyone, especially as people get older seek out products that will give them more youthful skin, longer and stronger hair and nails, as well as better joint mobility.

Well, your answer to these desires could be right in the title – collagen!

Collagen, the most abundant protein found in the human body, is composed of three amino acids, protein building blocks, and serves as a “glue” that gives pliable structure and strength to our tissues. It allows us to stretch and move as we need. It is concentrated in skin tissue to keep our skin supple, and near our joints and bones, serving as a lubricant. So, how can we make sure our bodies produce enough collagen to prevent unnecessary joint pain or premature aging of the skin?

Collagen is quite accessible. Numerous companies such as Vital Proteins and Dr. Axe sell supplements containing the three amino acids in the form of powders, pills, and lotions. However, collagen supplements are expensive! A 20 oz tub of Vital Proteins collagen powder retails for $43.00, and provides 14 servings per container; that equates to a whopping $3.07 per use! And that doesn’t even include the additional costs of whatever you put it in – smoothies, muffins, oatmeal, etc. Seems pricey…

Thankfully, we can get each amino acid from various whole foods. Even better, eating the whole food version would provide more flavour, variety, and affordability! So here are some ideas for every meal of the day that do just that – provide your body with all it needs for efficient collagen production!

Breakfast: Greek yogurt with fruit and nuts/granola

Lunch: Green salad with tofu/beans, seeds, and seasonal vegetables

Snack: 2 hard boiled eggs with an orange

Dinner: Chicken with roasted potatoes and mixed vegetables

** As a delicious, sustainable, and affordable bonus, you can purchase a whole chicken and eat that for the above dinner, then simmer the chicken bones along with celery, carrots, onions, and spices in water to create a bone broth. This collagen-rich broth can be frozen and used to cook anything from rice to chicken soup for future meals! **

You’ll notice that most of the meals above contain an animal-based product, and let me explain why. Since collagen is a protein made only in animals, only animal products contain all the necessary amino acids. However, those following a vegan diet can combine plant-based proteins in order to ensure that each of the three amino acids are consumed. Also, plant products rich in vitamin C, such as green leafy vegetables and citrus, help facilitate the use of the amino acids for collagen production, which is why the animal-centric meals above are paired with one of these.