By now, chances are you’ve heard the buzz about collagen, AKA the wellness world’s power protein that purportedly can keep you looking like a fresh-faced 21-year-old and also give your digestion a boost. If you lean towards a collagen-rich diet (think: lots of bone broth, fish, and grass-fed meat) or get your fix in supplement form, you’re already doing your body a favor, but you can make your healthy habit go the extra mile by pairing it with certain foods.
Here to reveal how to maximize your collagen habit are two experts who have studied how the protein works and dived deep into clinical tests on the subject: natural medicine doctor and nutritionist Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS, and Ava Shamban, MD, the founder of SKINxFIVE and consultant for Aethern, a liquid vitamin supplement line.
Ready to take your collagen habit to the next level? Keep reading to see the foods that will give it a boost.
Vitamin C-rich foods
The number-one tip both experts had was to pair your collagen with vitamin-C-rich foods like citrus, red bell peppers, and broccoli. “Clinical studies have shown that antioxidant-rich foods give collagen a better result,” Dr. Shamban says. “They help regulate the enzymes that form collagen.”
And according to Dr. Axe, vitamin C boosts your body’s production of collagen, which aids in supporting the skin’s barrier and wound healing.
Adaptogenic mushrooms like reishi, lion’s mane, and cordyceps can help lower stress levels, but Dr. Axe says they have another unexpected benefit: “They contain proteoglycan, which supports collagen production,” he says. “Medicinal mushrooms help with cellular communication and help keep cortisol levels low, which in turn slows the breakdown of your body’s own collagen.” Anything to keep cortisol levels under control, right?
If you don’t have easy access to the aforementioned medicinal mushroom varieties, Dr. Axe says shiitake mushrooms are a bit easier to find and also contain collagen-boosting benefits.
Is there anything turmeric can’t do? The powerful inflammation-fighter also contributes to cell production (collagen’s main gig). “Besides curcumin, turmeric contains compounds called turmerones, which have been shown to help the body regenerate tissue and produce stem cells,” Dr. Axe says. He explains that stem cells and collagen have similar roles—repairing tissue and regenerating cells in the body. So, often something that gives stem cells a boost pulls double-duty, helping collagen, too.
Studies have shown that beets are a power food for athletes because they help the body distribute oxygen to more muscles. According to Dr. Axe, this helps with collagen production, too: “Beets increase N02 nitric oxidate and creates an environment where the body can heal and create new tissue,” he says. “When an area in the body doesn’t have blood flow, it doesn’t create new cells as well.”
Here’s the thing: No healthy food works to only do your body good in one specific way. They work together to give each other a boost. All the superstars listed here are full of benefits on their own—just like how collagen is a powerhouse on its own—but together, they form a pretty dynamic combo.
If you’re looking for more ways to boost your inner and outer beauty, try these 3 recipes. And if you’re into bone broth but don’t want to spend hours making it, don’t worry—you can now brew some with your Keurig.