Every so often there’s a new buzzword doing the rounds in skincare, and in recent times it’s been ‘collagen’.
Collagen supplements are meant to be the “it” thing for healthy hair, skin, and nails, but if you’re a vegan, they’re probably off-limits.
Can collagen be vegan? Collagen supplements are sourced from animals, including beef and fish, so taking them would not gel with a vegan diet.
However, there are certain plant-based foods you can increase your consumption of that restore your body’s natural stores of collagen without the need for supplements.
If your goal is to have healthier hair, skin, and nails, but you want to stay true to your vegan way of life, have no fear.
This guide will teach you everything there is to know about vegan collagen and how you can get more of it in your daily diet.
What Is Collagen?
Collagen is a vital substance of the human body as it provides the structure and strength that we need. The naturally occurring substance can be found through the body but is more prominent in our bones, skin, and connective tissues.
The strength of collagen can be comparable to steel, and sometimes stronger, depending on the type and its purpose within the body.
There are at least 16 types of collagen within the body, and each of them has a unique function and structure. In humans, almost all of them would be classified as types 1, 2, and 3, and this is what most supplements target.
Our bodies are capable of creating natural collagen, also known as exogenous collagen. However, some people may want to increase their collagen production for whatever reason, so exogenous or synthetic collagen can be used instead.
This is usually in the form of an oral supplement, but sometimes collagen dressings are used by medical professionals to promote new skin growth.
As we age, our collagen production starts to slow down, and there are other factors like UV exposure and smoking that can prematurely decrease it.
Ensuring we’re getting enough of the right foods that boost this production, or taking supplements that can help, is something you should consider if you feel yours has slowed down.
What Collagen Does for the Human Body
Collagen is a hugely important protein source for our bodies, and it makes up around 80 percent of the protein that’s found in the skin and a third of the protein in our bodies.
The properties of collagen are hard, fibrous, and insoluble, and they act as structural support to connect and anchor the tissues together.
This protein substance is also flexible yet strong, and when your body isn’t producing as much as it should, you may notice some obvious signs.
Common symptoms of collagen loss include sore joints, weak muscles, and signs of aging like sagging skin and wrinkles, which is why many collagen supplements are marketed towards improving one’s physical appearance.
What Depletes Collagen?
Before you start looking into vegan collagen supplements, there may be some things you can do in your everyday life that will help to renew its production.
These are just a few of the factors that are linked to damaging collagen within the body:
UV light: Sunlight can be particularly damaging to collagen, and being exposed to too much of it is not ideal. UV light from this source can break down quickly, damage its fibers, and create elastin that is abnormal to grow in its place.
Smoking: The numerous harmful ingredients found in tobacco smoke are also responsible for damaging your body’s collagen-making abilities, as well as your skin’s elastin. As nicotine is also responsible for narrowing the blood vessels, you won’t get enough oxygen or nutrients to your skin.
Natural aging: There’s nothing we can do to stop the natural process of aging, but it is a factor that leads to reduced collagen production.
High sugar diets: Someone who consumes a lot of sugar will find that their glycation rate increases and this occurs when bloody sugars attach to the proteins within the body and create something called advanced glycation end products. These then attack the other proteins within your body and weaken collagen, reducing your ability to create more.
Autoimmune conditions: Numerous autoimmune conditions can be responsible for damaging collagen, as they cause your antibodies to attack collagen.
Genetic changes: The extracellular matrix within our bodies can be affected by various genetic changes, which also can’t be avoided. When this occurs, the new production of collaged may be slower or even mutated.
Can Collagen Supplements Be Vegan?
Providing your body with extra collagen can be helpful at mitigating some of these issues, but for vegans, they’re not always suitable.
As synthetic collagen always comes from animal sources, like beef and poultry, it’s not possible to get collagen supplements that are truly vegan.
However, as our bodies are capable of making their own, there are some supplements and foods you can take that will naturally boost your production of it without having to rely on animals.
These supplements feature ingredients like vitamin C, amino acids, silica, antioxidants, and phytoceramides, all coming from plant-based sources.
All of these naturally increase the body’s collagen production and they do so while remaining vegan-friendly, so you don’t have to feel guilty taking them.
Thanks to the wonders of science, researchers have come up with a way to create collagen without getting it from animals, and this may become the norm in the future.
The process occurs with the help of genetically modified yeast and the bacteria P. pastoria, meaning no animals are harmed in the making of this synthetic protein.
Scientists use four human genes that are responsible for producing collagen in the body and add these to the microbe structure of the yeast and bacteria, which then causes the bacteria to produce human collagen on its own.
From there, a digestive enzyme called pepsin is added which turns these building blocks into molecules that have the same structure as human collagen, which could then be taken as a supplement.
The Benefits of Vegan Collagen
When you follow a vegan diet, you get to enjoy many of the health benefits that come with this way of life.
The same goes for vegan sources of collagen, with some obvious benefits that come from this modern version of microbe-sourced protein when compared to the synthetic animal-based types.
More affordable: Rather than sourcing collagen from animals, it’s sourced from bacteria or yeast, which makes it a lot cheaper. Creating the collagen in a lab environment on a larger scale means lower costs as well, instead of having to purchase the animal parts and other components separately.
Safer: Taking synthetic collagen that was prepared in a controlled lab environment is a lot safer than buying from a brand that has no such regulations. You can feel peace of mind that you’re consuming a form of collagen that’s a lot better for you and you know exactly where it comes from. Better still, there’s a reduced risk of cross-contamination which can lead to allergic reactions and other health concerns that occur when it’s animal-sourced.
Better quality: The quality control possible in lab environments is a lot higher than how most supplements are made. As the collagen is produced from bacteria and yeast, you’re not relying on varying qualities of meat and other animal products to dictate the worth of the supplement.
Ease of accessibility: Being able to create genetically engineered collagen will mean there’s an endless supply, which gives everyone access to it. this is good news for not just everyday consumers hoping to look younger, but the medical field that relies on collagen for so many of its procedures and treatments.
How to Get More Collagen the Vegan Way
While great advancements have been made in producing synthetic collagen that’s vegan friendly, it’s not yet available on a larger scale.
However, someone living a vegan lifestyle and following a balanced diet of whole foods and plant-based meals will likely already get a great dose of it.
For those who aren’t or would like to do more to boost their collagen production, there are certain supplements you can take.
These are the right vitamins and minerals to give your body what it needs to improve collagen creation, and they include crucial ingredients like vitamin C and zinc, otherwise, you might take a separate vegan-friendly amino acid supplement.
As amino acids are plentiful in collagen, it’s been discovered that eating foods that are high in these can help to boost your body’s ability to create collagen as well.
The three most important amino acids are glycine, proline, and lysine, as these are the most prominent in collagen, so choosing foods high in them will help.
The Best Vegan Foods for Collagen Production
To increase your collagen intake through diet alone, some vegan-friendly foods are beneficial. These all contain the three most important amino acids to eat if you want to get more collagen in your body.
Soy products: Soy protein, tempeh, and tofu can be cooked and enjoyed as part of a vegan diet to give your body’s collagen creating a boost. Most vegans rely on these as their main source of protein, so it shouldn’t be too hard to incorporate them.
Legumes: Vegans should be enjoying a range of legumes in their everyday diet, including pulses, lentils, and beans. The best ones for collagen production and black beans and kidney beans, though.
Nuts: A sprinkle of nuts on your salads or breakfast will help your body produce collagen without needing to take any supplements. For this purpose, the nut varieties richest in the three most important amino acids include peanuts, pistachios, and cashews.
Seeds: Enjoyed as a snack or tossed through another meal, seeds are another great source of amino acids. If you want better collagen production, incorporate sunflower, chia, pumpkin, and squash seeds into your daily meal plan.
Guilt-Free Collagen For a Healthier You
Collagen is an important protein source for our bodies but certain factors, like aging, can slow down its production.
Opting for plant-based forms of collagen and looking to the future of vegan supplements like these are the best things you can do to ensure you’re getting enough without doing any harm to animals.
The world of supplements can look a little different when you’re vegan, but that doesn’t mean you have to miss out on what you need.
We’ve got the questions and answers that newcomers have about vegan supplements to give you a better understanding.
Can Vegans Take Fish Oil?
Fish oil supplements usually contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which are important for everyone to get in their diet, but they’re not classified as vegan.
There are other sources of Omega-3 that vegans can consume to increase their consumption though, including soy products, legumes, seeds, and nuts.
Are B Complex Vitamins Vegan?
There are B complex supplements suitable for those following a plant-based diet and some that aren’t.
As most natural food sources that contain vitamin B are animal products, like meat, poultry, eggs, and milk, many vegans find they need to supplement to get enough, so choosing a vegan-friendly vitamin is essential.
Are All Supplements Vegan?
There are some ingredients to be mindful of when shopping for supplements as a vegan, as they usually indicate the presence of animal products.
Taurine, creatine, vitamin D3, vitamin B12, and carnosine are just a few common ones that you might find in health supplements that are usually sourced from animals.
Lorraine Pinnix is a passionate nutritionist and loves seeing people living healthy, and fulfilled lives. She believes that food is an essential piece of staying fit and strongly believes in going vegan. PureGrowthOrganic is a passionate work that details her research in helping you go on complete organic diets. She is available for questions, comments, and follow-ups.