Updated from May 1st, 2015. Collagen is one of the most important nutrients which plays a major role in how young your skin looks. There are a lot of documented articles and research which prove the importance of the role of collagen role in anti-aging skin care. So, let us have a look at understanding this nutrient and how to get it from our food.
What is Collagen?
It is the most abundant protein in the body! The collagen is found in the dermis layer of the skin which is the second layer of the skin and is responsible for the plumpness, strength and hydration of the skin. It is a group of proteins in fact which provides the tensile strength to the skin. It is said that collagen in the skin is more strong than steel.
Synthesis of Collagen
So, let me skip all the chemistry here and just say that collagen does NOT occur in the body. It is synthesized from the basic amino acids. And, for collagen to synthesize, we need Vitamin C.
Just to give an overview, amino acids form the three-dimensional stranded structure which is converted into procollagen using Vitamin C as one of the cofactors in the reaction. Then, this structure is converted into tropo-collagen which cross-link with each other to form collagen fibres. There is a lot of genetic and cellular mutation which takes place to synthesize collagen. For those interested, please check out this youtube video which details out the process of collagen synthesis.
The synthesis of collagen happens all our lives and the healthy collagen replace the old and worn out collagen fibres. This process slows down after the age of 30 which results in the slightly older look or the wrinkled appearance. The good thing is a topical application of the plethora vitamin C serums available in the market can help solve this problem!
Degradation of Collagen
Apart from age, there are quite a lot of other factors which affect the synthesis of collagen. Few are internal and others are external.
Well, since it is an important element while synthesizing the collagen, the extreme deficiency of Vitamin C is definitely going to affect the collagen production negatively.
Excess of sugar consumption also harms the collagen. The sugar molecules in the blood attach to the proteins to form new molecules which weaken the collagen structure and make it dry and brittle.
Arthritis, cancer, ulcers, malnourishment, autoimmune disorders. All of these conditions cause collagen degradation at a faster level.
Also, the collagen formation is one of the crucial tasks when the skin is wounded or cut. The skin tries to heal itself by synthesizing healthy collagen at the wound site but since the skin is wounded, the collagen is scarred. This scar collagen is not as strong as the healthy collagen and the skin tries continuously to replace the scar collagen. This process repeats itself long after the wound has healed.
The ultraviolet rays from the sun accelerate the breakdown of collagen, damage the collagen fibres and also damage elastin leading to a wrinkled and loose skin.
#DidYouKnow the very thing which we need to live ages us? The oxygen we breathe reacts with the skin cells to produce energy and build proteins. And, the by product of this reaction is free radicals. The environmental factors like excess sun exposure, smoking, drinking, pollution also produce free radicals.
These free radicals are unstable and over-reactive. Thus, they attack the molecule they convert and turn it into free radicals which in turn attaches to and attacks the other molecules. It is a never-ending process which does a significant damage to the body.
The antidote to the free radicals are the antioxidants which bind these free radicals and balance their reactive nature.
Taking loads of stress, smoking, drinking, not exercising regularly, not drinking enough water and putting up a lot of weight, all of this leads of degradation of collagen.
Also, collagen production begins to reduce after the age of 30. This is accelerated with the various lifestyle habits we have!
The question, which now arises, is Can anything be done to replenish the collagen in the body?
What are the various Foods which help in Collagen Formation?
Collagen is a protein found in mammals and, thus, is available only through the non-vegetarian sources. As such, the plant foods do not provide collagen to the body. But, you can always supplement the nutrition through healthy diet so as to encourage healthy collagen synthesis.
All the Healthy Foods
Like the greens and colorful foods like leafy vegetables, brocolli, cauliflower, peas, bell peppers, tomato, onion which are rich in lycopene and other minerals like sulphur and copper are extremely necessary for the production of collagen.
And, then, we also need nuts and seeds and oils – almonds, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and all others, fish oil, olive oil – which are rich in fatty acids.
As already discussed, it is one of the vital Vitamins which helps synthesize the amino acids into collagen fibres.
Though, the maximum benefit is achieved when vitamin C is taken internally where it is carried in the blood stream to the skin cells. But, after a certain level, the cells stop absorbing Vitamin C. The topical application of vitamin C, though it is highly unstable when exposed to air and heat, does make a little difference.
So, you have one other reason for drinking the glass of warm lemon water right in the morning 🙂
So, that the Vitamin C is absorbed properly. Dates and Beets are RICH in iron, even though I hate them both!
Estrogen Rich Foods
Have you checked out the movie Sex and the City 2? Obviously, you would not have missed Samantha binging on hummus and yams in the middle east where all her hormonal medications to counteract the menopause were confiscated.
Actually, the hormone estrogen is responsible for the collagen and elastin production among a lot of other things in the body. So, eating estrogen-rich foods might help with a healthy collagen production.
There is another category called phytoestrogens, plant based molecules which are structurally similar to estrogen, which are a safe way of restoring the skin health.
Flax seeds and meal, chickpeas and other legumes, animal protein are all rich in estrogen. Beans, nuts, berries, split peas, nut butters, almond flour, soy protein are all rich in phytoestrogen.
And, once again, we come back to
The most elusive of the vitamins now a days! But, its importance is increasing as its deficiency is being reported worldwide. From healthy bones to mood elevations to healthy skin, this vitamin does it all!
Say yes to more eggs, cheese, fish, mushrooms and animal fats and proteins.
And, this finishes your short peek into understanding collagen and how it can be supplemented through plant-based diet. For more information, please go through the reference section at the end of the post.
And, please do share in the comments below what are your thoughts about the post!