The Best Sources of Collagen for Your Body
Written by: the Editors of goop
Published on: August 13, 2019
Updated on: November 14, 2022
This is not the first conversation we’ve had with functional medicine practitioner Dr. Josh Axe about collagen: It’s no secret that he’s an advocate for consuming some daily.
There are more than a dozen types of collagen, all naturally present as building blocks of many parts of the body. And if you’re looking to supplement, each of those types can be found in different nutritional sources.
Since we last spoke to Axe, collagen products have seemed to proliferate (his company, Ancient Nutrition, makes a powder we love). And now he’s walking us further down the collagen aisle.
A Q&A with Josh Axe, DNM, DC, CNS
Collagen is an important building block for many structures of the body, the largest being the skin, bones, spinal discs, ligaments, tendons, fascia, arterial walls, and much of your connective tissues.
It’s sort of the scaffolding that holds your body up. And it’s the body’s most abundant protein, making up about 30 percent of your body’s supply.
There are almost thirty different types of collagen. They’re all similar in terms of chemical structure, but they vary slightly: Some are more elastic than others, and some are more stiff. This makes sense when you think about it: A ligament requires more flexibility than, say, a bone.
The collagen types that I most commonly see referenced are types I, II, and III. Types V and X play important roles, too:
Type I is the collagen present in our skin and our bones, for the most part. This surprises people: Your bones are composed of about as much collagen as calcium and other minerals. You do need calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K to support strong bones, but collagen is just as important. Type I also makes up part of your gut lining.
Type II collagen is what makes up most of your cartilage, along with your fascia, ligaments, and tendons.
Type III collagen, like type I, is found in skin and bones, as well as in your gut lining.
Type V collagen is found in the placenta in pregnant women.
Type X largely contributes to cartilage and disc tissues.
I’m a big believer in covering all your bases. Just as I don’t consume only one type of antioxidant, I think getting sources of types I, II, III, V, and X rather than just one or two types is important. These are some dietary sources of each:
Poultry bone broth doesn’t just use bone, but cartilage too, and it’s very high in type II collagen, as well as glucosamine, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid. These are all compounds I recommend for joint health because they help build collagen and support the body’s natural healing processes, and I find them amazing for gut health, too.
Bovine collagen contains type I and III collagen, and it’s good for our skin and bones.
Eggshell membranes contain collagen types V and X.
Marine collagen is typically extracted from wild-caught fish. It’s primarily composed of type I collagen, but it also has some type III—which are both good for our skin and bones.
Collagen is good for your gut because the gut lining is made of collagen. So if you have damage to the gut lining, collagen is what your body needs to use to repair and rebuild that lining. The reason collagen is good for the gut is the same reason collagen is good for your skin: These structures are, in part, built from collagen, so consuming collagen gives your body more amino acids to work with to make those structures strong.
I like to take collagen in coffee, tea, or a smoothie. In a smoothie, the blender really gets the collagen mixed in smoothly. In coffee, I usually just use a spoon to mix it, but a hand frother can be helpful if you’re having trouble. If you’re adding a fat to your coffee, like ghee or butter or coconut oil, that may bind to the collagen a bit and help it blend well.
I also prefer to take it first thing in the morning, right after waking up.
I aim to get at least twenty grams of protein from collagen a day, which is in the ballpark of 20 to 25 percent of my daily protein intake. Some people may need more, and some may need less.
Collagen is not a complete protein, so it’s important to fulfill your protein requirements in other ways over the course of the day. But if you’re getting diversity in your meals and eating whole foods, you’re already covering your bases.
No, but there are vegan supplements that may help your body’s natural production of collagen. Vitamin C is one. Foods high in antioxidants, like polyphenols, support your body in maintaining collagen, keeping it from breaking down over time from aging, inflammation, and oxidative damage. Think: red wine, matcha, green tea, and berries.
This article is for informational purposes only, even if and regardless of whether it features the advice of physicians and medical practitioners. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. The views expressed in this article are the views of the expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.