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Eating for Collagen

Kerri Vilaverde

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Collagen supplements are showing up everywhere lately.  But what is collagen really? It is a protein made up of the amino acids: glycine, proline, hydroxyproline, and arginine.  It is found in skin, muscles, and connective tissues and provides structure and holds cells and tissues together. It is something our body produces naturally.  But as we age, and lead our stressful lives, we begin to produce less. This is where those supplement companies come in. They’ve begun marketing and selling collagen supplements.  But the science on the supplement’s efficacy is inconclusive. Many doctors don’t believe there is any benefit to supplementing collagen, that you simply digest it and wash it away. But you CAN protect and boost your own body’s production of collagen through your diet!  Now that sounds like a win-win. Eating these healthy foods provide benefits to your whole body health and work synergistically! For example, Vitamin C is crucial for collagen production and eating food high in Vitamin C also helps your body absorb Iron! Here’s a list of some great foods to try!

Vitamin A

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Vitamin A is the easiest to spot in the produce section.  Everything orange! Carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, butternut squash, and it is also hidden in some leafy greens like kale and spinach.  Vitamin A will not only help with that Superman night vision but supports cell growth.

Vitamin C

The body NEEDS Vitamin C to produce collagen.  Some of our favorite high Vitamin C foods are red peppers, kiwi, strawberries, pineapple, broccoli, and of course... oranges.  If you’ve never tried roasted broccoli, that is my favorite way to prepare it. It’s better than french fries and you don’t have to feel bad about it!  

Vitamin E

Yum…..Peanut butter.  That’s something I could eat all day.  Right out of the jar. And lucky for me, it’s high in Vitamin E which is next up on the list!  We often think of Vitamin E as being used topically and forget what it can do inside your body!  Did you know that it is an antioxidant that when combined with Vitamin C has shown to increase your skin’s natural photoprotection? And it is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and can slow the oxidation of cholesterol.  Stock up on your PB and also sunflower seeds (these have the most Vitamin E per serving), almonds, hazelnuts, and pine nuts.

Choline

Eggs and beans are high in choline. It can also be found in nuts and seeds and dairy products as well as broccoli and cabbage.  Your body converts choline into glycine which is an amino acid that is key to producing collagen.

Lycopene

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Lycopene is found in red fruits and veggies such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit, watermelon, and papaya. There’s been a lot of research done showing a correlation between the consumption of lycopene and a reduced rate of prostate cancer. It’s also being studied as a way to delay the onset of Alzheimer's.  It is known to protect skin cells from environmental damage and help with collagen synthesis.

Omega 3 fatty acids

These healthy fatty acids are credited with reducing inflammation in the body.  Inflammation can cause a whole host of complications, but also it breaks down your existing collagen.  Non-animal sources of Omega 3’s are walnuts, avocados (as if you needed an excuse), and chia seeds.

These are just some of the foods thought to increase your body's natural collagen production.  There is still much we don’t know about how the components in our food are helping our bodies run.  But eating a healthy diet full of a variety of fruits and veggies can not only help your skin but reduce your risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.  And that’s worth it, right? If you aren’t already eating a fruit and veggie rich diet, don’t despair. It’s easy to start adding more in every day and a smoothie is the perfect place to start.  It’s like a milkshake for breakfast.

Here’s something easy to try and customizable:

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  • 1 cup of your favorite nut milk: almond or cashew for example.  
  • 1 tablespoon of sunflower seeds
  • 1 cup of frozen strawberries
  • A handful of spinach - just throw it in there.  This is art now. Not science anymore.

Experiment.  You can swap the sunflower seeds for almond butter and the strawberries for apples.  Add avocado or chia seeds. Mix it up and find what you love and eat your way to long-term health and younger looking skin.