Which Foods Build Collagen for the Skin?

by Brian East Dean

A woman with beautiful skin

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Collagen is the cement that holds skin cells together. Without it, skin becomes brittle, stiff and prone to wrinkles, Smart Skin Care reports. Like many compounds in the body, diet plays an important role in collagen production and protection. Eating foods rich in proline, lysine and vitamin C may boost collagen production in your body -- leading to more elastic and vibrant skin.


Collagen protein is stronger than steel wires, the Vitamin C Foundation reports. While many proteins are simply clumps of amino acids, what separates collagen is a unique structure that folds around in such a way that it becomes redundantly reinforced. However, collagen's strength is completely reliant on adequate vitamin C. Vitamin C is necessary for the many synthesizing steps that ultimately results in super strong collagen. The effects of vitamin C deficiency on collagen production were noted in the 1600s when British sailors would return from a long journey with brittle skin, loose joints and bleeding gums. Through trial and error, it was eventually discovered that vitamin C deficiency was the root cause of the sailor's lack of collagen. Tomatoes are an excellent source of vitamin C. A 100 g serving of tomato contains 19 mg of vitamin C, Peer Trainer reports.


Proline is an amino acid that is necessary for the collagen production, reports Alton Meister of the Tufts University School of Medicine. In a book titled "Amino Acids and Serum Proteins," Meister described proline's role in the early stages of collagen synthesis. In animal studies summarized by Meister, animals given supplemental proline produced more collagen than those that ate a normal diet. Similar studies have not been done on humans. Cheese is particularly high in proline. Cheeses like Romano and Swiss can be incorporated into salads, sandwiches and soups.


Like proline, lysine is an amino acid that the body requires to produce collagen, the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, reports. Most, but not all, people get enough lysine from their diets. The UMMC reports that lysine stimulates production of new collagen cells. Lentils are an excellent sourcs of lysine. Adults should consume about 12 mg of lysine for every kg of body weight on a daily basis. For someone who is 70 kg, this means you should eat 840 mg of lysine per day. A single cup serving contains 3,000 mg of lysine, Springboard reports. Lentils can be added to soups and stews, or as a collagen-boosting side dish.

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About the Author

Brian East Dean is a registered dietitian who has been writing since 2007 on all things nutrition and health. His work has appeared in top health portals around the Web, such as Metabolism.com, and in the academic publication "Nutrition Today." He holds a Master of Science in nutrition from Tufts University in Boston.