Is Plant-Based Collagen Really a Thing?
To answer the question, we need to understand what collagen is and where it comes from. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It is found in the muscles, skin, bones, tendons, ligaments, organs and other connective tissues of humans and other animals. Our bodies naturally produce collagen, but aging slows this production, which leads to lower levels of collagen over time. Loss of collagen reduces our skin’s elasticity and can cause pain or stiffness in our joints and bones.
Effects of Collagen Loss
- Loose or papery skin
- Soreness and stiffness in bones, joints, tendons and ligaments
- Muscle weakness
Even though our bodies begin to slow down collagen production by the time we reach our mid to late twenties, there are ways we can boost our collagen levels through our diet and via supplements.
Sources for natural collagen are found exclusively from animals, which appears to be bad news for vegans hoping to reap collagen’s benefits. So the short answer is, no, plant-based collagen is not a thing—at least not in nature. But there’s more to the story that potentially levels the playing field for people who are on a quest to add a vegan collagen supplement to their daily routine.
Some Call It “Vegan Collagen”
You may have seen ads for products labeled as a vegan collagen supplement or plant-based collagen powder. “What is this?” you ask. “I thought there was no such thing as plant-based collagen.” You’re correct, there isn’t. What you’re seeing is the advertising world’s version of sleight-of-hand maneuvering.
These products do not actually contain collagen. Instead, they are nutrients aimed to support a person’s production of natural collagen. These products don’t directly add collagen to your body, but they help your body produce more of its own natural collagen and are known as collagen boosters.
Some skin care products on the market use a combination of plant proteins that scientists have melded to simulate the amino acid structure of natural collagen. This new protein is often branded as “plant-based collagen” or “vegan collagen,” but that claim is still more semantics than substance. As of yet, there are no nutritional supplements or foods that utilize this so-called plant collagen
Natural Ingredients That Act Like Collagen
It’s not all smoke and mirrors. There are natural supplements you can take and foods you can eat that will boost your body’s natural collagen production and provide many of the same benefits you’d get from traditional collagen peptides or food.
Two vegan-friendly ingredients that mimic collagen’s positive impact on joint and bone health are turmeric curcumin and ginger. Turmeric is a popular spice used in Indian cuisine and other Asian foods. It is known to be an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory ingredient that can also slow skin aging and reduce redness and swelling caused by certain skin conditions such as acne, psoriasis and eczema. Ginger is also common to Asian cuisine, and its health benefits run neck and neck with those of turmeric. Its anti-inflammatory properties can reduce pain caused by osteoarthritis and other joint ailments. Taking turmeric curcumin capsules with ginger and bioperine is a great way to experience these effects, regardless of your diet.
Supplements that include the following are also known to boost your body’s natural collagen production:
- Vitamin C
Benefits of Natural Collagen — Without Collagen
The benefits of collagen include positive effects for your joints, bones and heart. It is often used in beauty products because it makes your hair and nails grow longer and stronger. Collagen is a popular ingredient in skin creams because it can tighten and moisturize skin while fighting the wrinkles that come with aging. Some studies suggest that collagen can even increase muscle mass that is lost as we get older.
Plant-based collagen boosters and vegan collagen substitutes can offer these same rewards, and the obvious fact that anything plant-based is going to be animal cruelty-free is a major win for many vegans.
Vegan-Friendly Foods That Can Boost Natural Collagen Production
So, although plant-based collagen doesn’t exist, there are still ways for vegans to benefit from plant-based supplements and healthy food choices. Here are just a few:
- Citrus like grapefruit and oranges
- Tropical fruits like mango and pineapple
- Blackberries, blueberries and raspberries
- Beans that are high in amino acids, which are required to produce collagen
Even if there’s no true vegan collagen now, the possibility of plant-based collagen supplements in the future certainly seems realistic. The vegan market is large and is only getting bigger. That means scientists will keep working to provide vegan-friendly collagen alternatives. Stay tuned.