Foods That Build Collagen and Elastin

Foods containing Vitamin C, healthy proteins rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, and carotenoids help build collagen and elastin fibers.

Foods That Build Collagen and Elastin

Collagen and elastin are two similar, yet distinct, fibrous proteins that help form the connective tissues of the body — most notably the skin, but also blood vessels, cartilage, tendons and muscles. Aging, sun exposure and injuries can weaken these proteins, causing tissues to lose strength and elasticity. Foods containing certain nutrients may support tissue health and help your body build them back.

Vitamin C Foods

Your body uses vitamin C for tissue growth and repair, and this powerful antioxidant is central to any regimen for building collagen and elastin. Adult women need a minimum of 75 milligrams of vitamin C a day, and slightly more during pregnancy and lactation, while men require 90 milligrams daily.

Luckily, vitamin C is plentiful in produce, making it easy to get all you need. Because it’s water soluble and the body cannot store it, it is best to consume vitamin C foods throughout the day. The richest fruit sources of vitamin C include:

  • Orange
  • Kiwi
  • Strawberries
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe

For vegetables, a half-cup serving of any of the following will provide plenty of your daily vitamin C:

  • Red or green pepper
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower

For skin health, vitamin C may also work topically to improve the appearance of wrinkles and sagging caused by collagen and elastin fibers breaking down.

Protein Foods

A diet that includes healthy protein foods will support the growth and maintenance of collagen and elastin fibers. Proline and lysine, in particular, work with vitamin C in the formation of collagen. Protein foods that are good sources of these amino acids include:

  • Turkey breast
  • Beef
  • Soybeans
  • Chicken breast
  • Cheese
  • Spirulina
  • Salmon, sardines and other fatty fish
  • Beans and legumes

Foods with Essential Fatty Acids

In the skin, the dermis — the layer underneath the epidermis, or surface — consists mostly of collagen and elastin. Essential fatty acids play an important role in reducing the damage done to these tissues by normal aging and exposure to the sun. In particular, omega-3 fatty acids support tissue growth and integrity. You can obtain these healthy fats through fish such as salmon, herring and sardines, while plant-based omega-3s occur primarily in flaxseeds and flaxseed oil, chia seeds and walnuts.

Carotenoid Foods

Foods containing phytonutrients known as carotenoids may also help build collagen and elastin fibers. In one study, published in Nutrients in 2017, female participants received supplements of curly kale extract and other carotenoids daily. Researchers noted results after five and 10 months, finding the increase of carotenoids in the skin supported the growth of collagen and elastin fibers in the cheek and forearm areas.

Leafy greens like kale, spinach, collards and dandelion greens provide rich amounts of carotenoids, as do sweet potatoes.

About the Author

Paula MartinacPaula Martinac is a nutrition educator, writer and coach. She holds a Master’s of Science in Health and Nutrition Education and is Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition. Her areas of research interest include stress, weight management and women’s health.