We’ve all heard the word collagen when it comes to anti-aging products, but rarely does anyone actually talk about what it really is, or why it’s important to the body-aside from mentioning that it helps stop wrinkles. Well, there’s much more to collagen than that.

The body naturally produces and synthesizes collagen to maintain healthy connective tissues. Elastin is another protein used in the body’s structure that works with collagen to keep the elasticity in the connective tissues. It can be destroyed by the process of inflammation (swelling), or by a lack of certain nutrients in the body. Other factors that can damage collagen levels include overexposure to the sun’s UV rays, smoking, and even consuming high levels of sugar.
Collagen synthesis is dependent upon having adequate levels of nine essential amino acids, which can only be obtained through your diet. This means that the body can’t create these amino acids on its own, so eating the right foods is the only way to provide your body with the tools that it needs for collagen to synthesize.

What collagen copious cuisines contain the vitamins that should be in your diet?

Since sufficient levels of amino acids are necessary for the healthy production of collagen that aren’t able to be manufactured naturally in the body, foods from animal sources are first on the menu. The amino acids necessary for collagen production can be found in foods like poultry, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese. Try an egg and cheese omelet for breakfast with a side of turkey bacon and a glass of milk, and you’ve already started the day with a hefty helping of amino acids.

Lysine is one of the amino acids needed by your body in production of collagen that has to be obtained from foods. Red meats, cheese, and nuts are some of the options you have for acquiring it. Lysine is also one of the amino acids best for those over 50 to kick start the body’s ability to synthesize collagen, but with many of the aforementioned foods being so high in fat, those who struggle with weight may want to opt for soy products instead. You can keep the high doses of lysine without the high fat content.

Eating a variety of fruits (especially citrus) and vegetables containing vitamin C should also be on your daily menu. For women over 50, these foods can be especially important in aiding the body’s ability to produce collagen and elastin.
Aside from the antioxidant and immune supporting properties known to accompany the recommended daily dose of 75 to 90mg vitamin C, is the support of daily collagen manufacturing it brings. Add a grapefruit to your breakfast, or an orange as a mid-morning snack, or even a sweet potato at lunch to ramp up your vitamin C intake and ensure that you get all the benefits of continued collagen production. Other good options can include kiwis, cantaloupe, broccoli, red peppers, and strawberries, cherries, and other deep red and purple foods, which are rich in bioflavonoid anthocyanidins known to increase vitamin C levels in cells, and actually prevent destruction of the collagen found in connective tissues and skin.

Are there any minerals that make a difference in your body’s collagen synthesis?

Whole grains, leafy greens, pecans, and pineapple all fall into the group of foods high in the mineral manganese (which increases the amount of elastin and collagen your body can produce). This is especially helpful in healing wounds after accidents, or even aiding with scar tissue after a surgery. A small amount of this mineral (around 1.8mg for women) should be present in your regular diet. A lunch or dinner made up of a leafy salad topped with crushed pecans can be the perfect dish to add the manganese that you need to your diet.

The essential mineral copper is another mineral your body needs to mesh together the elastin and the collagen to form strong skin. Just like manganese, copper can be found in a variety of different foods like whole grain breads and pastas, although the most concentrated forms are in meat from animal organs (like liver), shellfish, sunflower and other edible seeds, and various nuts (like almonds or cashews). While there aren’t many fresh fruits or vegetables known for their copper content, mushrooms and lentils are options that are easily added into a salad, or other dish to ensure you consume a healthy 0.9mg dose of copper each day, and dried fruits (like raisins, figs, or dried apricots) can supply you with an abundance of copper. It’s even possible to get your intake of copper from drinking water that has run through copper pipes.

If you add these vitamins and minerals to your diet, is that enough?

In a word, yes! Simply ensuring that you have the proper vitamins and minerals that your body needs can make all the difference when it comes to maintaining, and promoting collagen synthesis in your body. You can reap the anti-aging benefits of the collagen and elastin without costly creams or painful injections, and enjoy stronger, smoother, healthier skin that will be much more capable of healing, and less susceptible to other injuries. Additionally, you will have stronger cartilage, promoting ease of motion in joints all over the body. The benefits of collagen are more than just skin-deep, and adding the right nutrients to your body is the key to reaping all of the benefits of continued collagen production.

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Judy Greenway