Collagen is a type of protein that is used in the body to make hair, skin, nails, bones, muscle, connective tissue, and teeth. Your body makes collagen on its own but, as we age, less and less collagen is produced. And this can have a wide range of effects on your body. Everything from skin wrinkles, to sore joints, and difficulties with blood clotting can happen when your body isn’t making enough collagen.
Collagen supplements are available but, right now, they are only made from animal products. Scientists are working to create vegan collagen using genetically modified yeast and bacteria, but this isn’t yet commercially available.
So what can a vegan do to get more collagen?
While you won’t be able to buy actual vegan collagen, what you can get are vegan supplements that are designed to boost your body’s natural collagen production.
To make collagen, your body needs amino acids (the building blocks of protein), and especially the amino acids glycine, lysine, and proline. It also needs micronutrients that are important for the synthesizing process, including vitamin C, zinc, copper, manganese, and copper.
Taking supplements that are packed full of these amino acids and micronutrients should help your body to increase the amount of collagen it produces on its own, and there are plenty of these supplements out there on the market.
What benefits are there from taking vegan collagen supplements?
Because collagen is used throughout the body, the effect of the decrease in collagen production as we age can be felt everywhere in the body:
- skin – becomes dehydrated, thinner, and prone to wrinkles
- bones – become thinner and more prone to breakage
- joints – cartilage becomes thinner and worn down, leading to pain and stiffness
- muscles – loss of connective tissue leads to lower muscle mass and less strength
- hair and nails – keratin production lowers, leading to less growth and more chance of breakage
Boosting the production of collagen could help to prevent these age-related issues, making the skin plumper, your bones stronger, your joints more supple, and your muscles more functional.
How to use vegan collagen
If you want to get the full benefits of collagen supplements, topical creams may not be the best option. The jury is out on whether they work for making skin look more youthful because some people argue that collagen cells are too large to be absorbed by the skin. And if you want the other health benefits of collagen, for your bones, joints, hair, and muscles, then if you apply it to your skin the collagen won’t reach those areas.
You can buy vegan collagen in capsule form, which you take daily. You can also buy it in powdered form, where you mix it with water to make a drink (these usually taste quite nice too!). Whichever you choose doesn’t really make a difference because they will all reach your gut, so it is best to find one that you think you will be able to remember to use regularly.
How much does vegan collagen cost?
The price of vegan collagen supplements varies, and you should be able to find one to suit your budget. Generally speaking, the capsule form is cheaper than the powdered food supplement form. You could also sign up for a subscription service where you get your collagen supplements delivered every month. These tend to be cheaper again but, of course, you are committing to a subscription which could work out more expensive in the long term.
What to look for in a vegan collagen supplement
The ingredients you can find in vegan collagen supplements do vary, and it can be quite difficult to decide which would be the most effective. For collagen production the important ingredients are:
- amino acids (especially glycine, lysine, and proline)
- vitamin C
Many vegan collagen supplements will also contain vitamin E and A, which are antioxidants. These can help make skin healthier by preventing the oxidative damage that can be caused by exposure to pollution, smoking, and sun damage.
If using whole foods is important to you, you may feel more comfortable using a supplement that uses plant extracts for its micronutrients rather than synthetic forms. The source of the micronutrients will be on the label. For example, amla is an ingredient that you will often see, and this is a natural source of vitamin C.