How to Try the Collagen Trend If You Don't Eat Meat

Because sipping on animal bones sometimes creeps even the biggest carnivores out.



Photo by: itakdalee/Getty Images

itakdalee/Getty Images

Beverages, beauty products, supplements — oh, my! Collagen has been having a major moment and for good reason. “Collagen is protein that holds tissues together,” explains Barbara Lincoln, RD. “Research shows that ingestible collagen can improve the appearance of skin to make it more elastic, more youthful.”

For some, its fountain of youth benefits (anti-aging properties, joint mobility support, stronger hair, nails and teeth) may outweigh the fact that you have to chug pulverized animal bones. Collagen has become so popular in fact that according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc., its global market size is projected to reach $6.63 billion by 2025.

Many of the collagen sources currently available on the market are marine- and bovine-based and there are 27 types of collagen — all with different effects, explains Taylor C. Wallace, PhD, CFS, FACN. “Type-1 collagen is the most common type on the market, but you need to consume it in much higher levels to get similar effects on skin and joint health as type-2 collagen (the next most popular type).”

So what’s a pescatarian, vegetarian or vegan to do when most collagen products are extracts of animal skin, bones, tendons and cartilage? Pescatarians may be in the clear with marine-based products growing in availability, but the verdict is still out for herbivores. ”With the explosion of interest in collagen, [we’re] seeing a lot of ‘plant-based’ collagen products budding up in the market,” says Vital Proteins' in-house dietitian, Jenn Randazzo, MS, RD, CLT. “It’s important for consumers to know that there is currently not a plant-based source of collagen. Collagen can only come from animal-based products.”

The good news: Your body naturally makes collagen, so you can absolutely give yourself a boost if you’re feeling dull and deficient. “Some plants contain bioactive ingredients that may help boost collagen development in the human body, but research in this area is limited. These supplements are commonly known as ‘plant collagen builders’ or ‘collagen boosters,'” explains Wallace.

Despite minimal testing, vegan collagen builders are being marketed as supplements that provide key ingredients (vitamin C, minerals and amino acids) your body needs to not only make collagen, but to produce it at a faster rate — which may come in handy with each passing year. “As we age, we absorb less protein, the building block of muscle,” explains Lincoln, which is when supplementation can come into play.

Say you decide to go for a marine- or bovine-based variety — even if that means plugging your nose as you gulp it down — how much do you need to consume to reap the benefits? Vital Proteins suggests new users consume 10 to 20 grams of collagen per day for the best results , (about one to two scoops of the Vital Protein brand).

“The cost of collagen supplementation can dramatically differ from brand to brand,” says Randazzo. “Supplements should contain high-quality ingredients, feature clean labels and come from a brand who’s transparent about their sourcing practices."

Powders or pills seem to be the easiest way to get your look and feel-good fix,. “You can add the powers to anything from coffee to baked goods,” suggests Lincoln. Eating protein in its truest form via meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy will do the trick, too, if supplementing isn’t your jam. “Bone broth is an excellent source. Citrus fruits are also pro-collagen,” she adds.

Bottom Line: While there are some interesting developments being made in the way of collagen for plant-based peeps, the jury is still out on whether or not collagen can actually provide all the magical benefits brands are touting. For more information about collagen and the different brands on the market, click here.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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