Spoiler alert: there is no such thing as vegan collagen.
What is Collagen?
Collagen is the main structural protein of different connective tissues. It consists of amino acids and is an insoluble, fibrous protein.
Connective tissues are located in the body of most animals and humans. Tissues such as muscle, skin, tendons, and ligaments.
Collagen is essentially the glue that holds your body together. (Literally, it comes from the Greek word kolla that directly translates to “glue.”) It plays a role in key bodily functions, such as giving skin its elasticity and strengthening bones.
It’s widely known that as we age, our ability to store collagen decreases. This leads to natural signs of aging such as wrinkles and achy joints. While we are all for the celebration of healthy aging and pushing against anti-aging rhetoric, collagen deficiencies can be your body’s way of signaling health problems.
So, let’s recap.
Where Does Collagen Come From?
Like we mentioned above, collagen comes from connective tissues in the body.
There are a variety of sources of collagen, but all come from animals. Majority of the collagen supplements on the market are commonly derived from cows or fish. This makes a “vegan” collagen product impossible.
However, it is possible to supplement your diet with foods and vitamins that boost collagen production in your own body.
Think of it as DIY collagen. All of the benefits and no animal parts necessary.
Given the effects of animal agriculture on the environment, and our efforts to support the most humane treatment of animals, we believe plant-based, collagen-boosting ingredients are the best alternative to true collagen supplements.[4,5,6]
And it seems that science agrees.
Studies show many plant-based foods have the ability to promote collagen synthesis.
There are herbs and superfoods that can even improve, strengthen, and prolong the health of the skin. These foods include aloe vera, turmeric, licorice, pomegranate, cinnamon, and dill.
By promoting your own collagen production through plant-based supplementation, it can help promote longevity, vibrancy and even improve the health of hair, skin, and nails.
Next, we’ll cover how that process happens.
How is Collagen Made in the Body?
Collagen production starts with procollagen, a molecule made from vitamin C and protein. And by protein, we mean chains of amino acids, such as lysine, proline, arginine, and hydroxyproline.
As procollagen molecules get produced, these molecules start to wind together into fibrils.
These fibrils continue to be built up by the procollagen molecules until they form into the more structured collagenous fibers. These fibers begin to tightly bundle themselves and these are what provide the structural element to things like skin, tendons, hair, and nails.
Collagen Formation Analogy: Think of procollagen molecules as raw wool, that is then woven into individual threads (the fibrils). This thread is then woven into thicker strands (collagenous fibers). And finally, all of those thicker threads are woven into the fabric to make a shirt (or in collagen's case: skin, tendons, muscles, hairs, etc.).
Your body naturally produces collagen on its own, but as we age this production slows down.[2,8,9]
Let’s break down our go-to nutrients for kickstarting collagen production.
How to Boost Collagen Naturally With Plant-Based Sources
Unfortunately, most current studies use animal-derived collagen sources as the main variable.
However, the research we do have pertaining to collagen-boosting plant-based sources suggests animal derivatives are not needed for collagen-building effects.
Collagen ingested (in regards to animal-based supplements) is not equal to collagen absorbed.
Collagen synthesis is complicated and requires many complimentary nutrients and compounds in the body to all pitch in and make it happen. You know the saying; teamwork makes the dream work!
Vitamin C, polysaccharides, silica, zinc, copper and amino acids (protein) are all necessary for your body to produce collagen. Knowing this, a mineral or vitamin deficiency could be holding back your body’s potential to absorb and produce collagen.
Lucky for you, there are plant-based sources for all of the necessary compounds needed for collagen synthesis.
Consuming the below foods and nutrients can help provide your body with the necessary nutrients to produce the collagen it needs to feel great and glow while doing so!
1. Amino Acids
Amino acids, known as the building blocks of protein, are a foundational element to collagen synthesis in the body.
Many believe protein can only efficiently be obtained from animal sources. Plant-based proteins, such as pea protein or quinoa, are considered complete proteins. A complete protein means it contains all 9 essential amino acids that the human body cannot produce on its own.
Building healthy collagen isn’t about eating collagen protein, its about providing your body with the right building blocks.
2. Aloe Vera
This skin-boosting succulent does more than simmer down a sunburn. Everyone knows aloe is good topically for skin, but did you know that it also promotes healthy skin, hair, nail, and collagen growth when ingested?
Aloe vera is rich in specific polysaccharides that play a role in assembling amino acids in collagen formation. These polysaccharides can potentially help create larger, stronger collagen assemblies. Think of it as scaffolding to help quickly build longer, stronger collagen strands.
In addition, aloe vera has also been studied for its ability to deliver nutrients that can actually help speed up the healing time of wounds and cuts.
Another well-known collagen-boosting compound is silica (sometimes referred to as silicon). Most plant-based foods naturally contain silica, but evidence supports that bamboo contains some of the highest amounts of silica.[14,15]
Silica is a highly beneficial mineral to boost the resilience and appearance of hair, skin, and nails. For example, the presence of soft and brittle nails can indicate a systemic deficiency of silicon.
Silica is associated with the synthesis of glycosaminoglycans (another polysaccharide, another big word) which deals with the support and maintenance of skin and hair structural proteins such as collagen and elastin.[14,16] More structure = more strength.
Not only does it boost the strength of your hair and nails, but it can also brighten them up and reduce hair loss. It is suggested that hair strands with higher silicon content tend to have a lower rate of falling out and higher levels of brightness.
Hello, long hair, strong nails, and increased skin elasticity.
4. Vitamin C
Not just to keep sickness away! Aside from amino acids, vitamin C is one of the most important must-have components in natural collagen production.
Without adequate amounts of vitamin C, your body can’t even store or form collagen.
Vitamin C is needed to turn the amino acid proline into hydroxyproline. Hydroxyproline is key to stabilizing the collagen structure. It does so by stabilizing the triple helix structure of collagen (if you want to get technical).
Without vitamin C, you get poor collagen structure formation leading to brittle hair, bad skin, and tender joints amongst many other symptoms.[19,20]
In addition to helping to build up structures in the body, vitamin C can also aid in protecting the skin from UV and free radical damage.
In one study, an increased dosage of vitamin C led to increased radical-scavenging activity in the skin. Meaning the antioxidant capabilities of the skin were increased, preventing it from damaging effects of the sun and free radicals.
5. Vitamin E
Vitamin E, also known as vitamin C’s synergistic best friend and an anti-aging proponent.
We know vitamin C can reduce oxidative damage to the skin, but when used in conjunction with vitamin E, its anti-oxidative properties are significantly enhanced.
The intake of vitamin E helps against collagen cross-linking and lipid peroxidation. Both of these activities have been linked to the aging of the skin.
How to Get More Vegan Collagen in Your Diet
In modern fast-paced times, we can actually deplete nutrient levels by living stressful lives. Plus, fast farming practices are causing nutrient depletion in topsoil leading to less nutritious produce, and in turn more nutrient deficiencies.
This is where supplements come in.
Instead of raiding the superfoods aisle at Whole Foods for aloe vera, vitamin C and beyond, we’ve made your life easy and put all the goods together in one convenient powder.
Meet our Vegan Collagen Booster, Aloe Gorgeous.
We crafted this blend to be the ultimate plant-based collagen supplement, complete with its very own synergistic boosters: plant-based pea protein, organic aloe vera, silica from organic bamboo extract, vitamin C from acerola cherries, and vitamin E from organic sunflower oil.
The holy grail supplement and the closest thing to “vegan collagen.”
We have various delicious flavors to choose from: vanilla, chocolate, peanut butter or unflavored.
Don’t forget to share your skin glowing tips with us on Instagram. Until next time!