If you follow a vegan lifestyle or have a vegetarian, plant-based diet, finding a collagen supplement may seem impossible. Well, that’s because it is. Plant-based collagen does not exist.
The only way to truly add collagen to your diet is to consume animal-derived collagen supplements or animal products.
For some consumers, adding a collagen supplement to their diet isn’t a concern. However, for strict vegans with a moral opposition to using animal products in any aspect of their lives, consuming collagen is out of the question.
But what if you are still seeking the health benefits of a collagen supplement and you are a vegan or vegetarian? Is there a way to make that possible?
There is some good and bad news in this arena because there are vegan collagen supplements on the market, but they are not the same as actual collagen supplements and will not interact with your body in the same way that animal-derived collagen does.
Before you go out and buy just any vegan collagen, though, you should know a thing or two about why plant-based collagen doesn’t exist, and what they really mean when they say “vegan collagen” on product labels.
What is collagen good for anyway?
Before we start talking about all of the reasons why plant-based collagen doesn’t exist, we should discuss some of the reasons why collagen could be a beneficial supplement to add to your diet. Although collagen has become a widely accepted health and beauty supplement, it works more than just skin deep.
While it may improve overall skin health and appearance (from improving skin elasticity to minimizing wrinkles) it also has the potential to help with injury or wound recovery, joint health, hair growth, athletic performance, and weight loss. It even has some medical applications!
There are numerous benefits to including a collagen peptide protein into your diet, even if your diet is a mostly plant-based one.
Why plant-based (vegan) collagen does not exist
To understand why there is no such thing as true plant-based collagen, we need to talk about where collagen actually comes from. Collagen supplements are made from the bones, muscles, skin, tendons, and ligaments of animals.
Once you know that one fact, it is easy to see why vegan collagen can’t exist.
However, you may also be wondering: “If collagen comes from animals, wouldn’t humans just produce their own?”
We do, in fact, produce collagen ourselves as a structural support for our bodies. Collagen exists in our bones, joints, skin, and other connective tissues. The thing is, our natural collagen synthesis and production drastically decreases by the time we are in our mid-twenties.
After the age of twenty-five, you may start to notice it takes longer to recover after a hard workout, that your joints feel more achy than you remember. You might even see more lines and wrinkles in your skin.
Enter the collagen supplement.
Simply adding a high-quality, easily absorbed collagen supplement to your daily routine has the potential to support your health, athletic performance, and recovery time.
Not only are some collagen supplements designed to replace and replenish collagen that your body is no longer producing, but it is intended to help boost natural collagen production as well.
If you are someone that isn’t living an ethical vegan lifestyle, but are eating a plant-based diet for health reasons, that means that implementing collagen into your diet is possible and could have some incredible benefits.
However, ethical vegans will not be integrating these products into their lives despite potential health advantages. That’s why vegan collagen has entered the supplement market.
Still, if there is vegan collagen on the market, what does that mean, and how does it work?
Are there vegan collagen alternatives?
Luckily, there are some ways that vegans can improve their natural collagen production. However, that’s all these ‘vegan collagen’ products will be doing within your body - attempting to boost collagen production.
Since they don’t replace or replenish collagen, most of the plant-based collagen options available combine ingredients to attempt to naturally boost collagen production. This can be done in the form of supplements, or by targeting certain plant-based foods in your diet.
Plant-based collagen food sources
If you already eat a primarily whole foods plant-based diet, we have some good news for you - you’re already likely eating most of these collagen-boosting food sources.
The main thing to search for when looking for foods that can boost collagen production is that they contain the three primary amino acids in collagen proteins: proline, glycine, and lysine.
Some plant-based collagen food sources that are high in these amino acids include:
- Soy products
- Legumes (black beans, kidney beans, etc.)
- Nuts (cashews, pistachios, etc.)
- Seeds (pumpkin, chia, etc.)
After that, the next best ingredients will be vitamin C, zinc, and antioxidants. Even if you are taking an animal-derived collagen supplement, including more vitamin C, zinc, and antioxidants in your diet could help with absorption.
Many fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will contain collagen-boosting vitamins and minerals, making it easy to include these in a plant-based collagen-boosting diet.
Some plant-based foods that have the potential to boost collagen production include:
- Bell peppers
- Leafy greens
- Tropical Fruits
Whether you are vegan, vegetarian, or an omnivore, pursuing a well-balanced whole-foods diet is an integral part of achieving your health goals with or without the help of collagen.
Although eating an entirely whole-food plant-based diet may be the goal, sometimes life gets in the way, and no one is perfect. That’s normal, and that’s why plant-based collagen-boosting supplements exist.
Most of these plant-based collagen supplements will include concentrated amounts of amino acids, antioxidants, vitamin C, manganese, copper, zinc, and other vitamins and minerals that could help with collagen synthesis.
Just as when looking for plant-based foods that contain these vitamins, minerals, and amino acids, if you’re a vegan looking for high-quality collagen-boosting supplements, check the ingredients.
Ensuring that the plant-based collagen supplements contain at the very least vitamin C and proline is very important for collagen synthesis and natural production.
Your collagen production slows down in your twenties, and so does your skin’s vitamin C production. It makes sense that these would slow down around the same time because you need vitamin C to produce collagen. So, if one decreases, the other decreases as well.
Vitamin C resides in your inner and outer skin layers, strengthening and protecting the skin’s elasticity. Adding vitamin C to your diet through whole foods (or a supplement) helps bring vital antioxidants back to the skin and improves natural collagen synthesis to support skin elasticity.
Although three main amino acids make up collagen protein, when looking at plant-based collagen supplements, it is most important to search for the amino acids glycine and proline.
Glycine makes up at least one third of a collagen molecule, and then proline is the next largest molecule in the protein structure. When taking a collagen supplement, your body breaks the collagen back down into the amino acids to apply them where needed.
By consuming the individual amino acids, you provide the building blocks necessary to construct collagen in your body.
It is important to keep in mind that although many plant-based collagen-boosting supplements will be advertised and labeled as ‘vegan collagen’ or ‘plant collagen,’ they don’t actually contain any collagen. Their intention is to boost your own production of collagen, and to protect the collagen already in your body.
Genetically engineered vegan collagen supplements
Many vegans will be happy to hear that scientists have discovered a way to genetically engineer collagen proteins without the use of animals.
Researchers discovered that they could engineer collagen using genetically modified yeast and a bacteria called P. pastoris. They then add four human genes to construct the proper genetic microbe structural code humans use for collagen. Finally, by adding in the digestive enzyme pepsin, scientists started to produce collagen building blocks in the human body.
This is an interesting and exciting development, BUT it has yet to be put on the market. Still, it is good to know that vegans may eventually have access to a collagen supplement somewhere down the line. Until then, plant-based collagen-boosting supplements are the next best option.
Collagen peptide proteins vs. collagen-boosting supplements
The main takeaway you should be getting from all this is that although there is no vegan source of collagen available at the moment, there are collagen boosters that both vegans and non-vegans can benefit from out there.
Before investing in a plant-based collagen supplement, or a collagen peptide supplement for that matter, it is essential to remember that prevention and a healthy lifestyle go hand-in-hand with health results and supplementation.
While collagen-boosting supplements have their apparent benefits, they are a far-cry from actual collagen peptide proteins. That being said, more research is needed within the realm of vegan collagen supplements before we can begin to make a proper comparison of health benefits between the two.
Ethical vegans are at a bit of a standstill when it comes to pursuing the benefits of collagen peptide proteins. Although plant-based collagen boosters exist, a complete protein supplement like ProT Gold makes getting the performance and recovery benefits of collagen easy, no matter your lifestyle.
ProT Gold liquid collagen is a complete protein containing twenty-one amino acids that give your body the building blocks it needs to protect, restore, and recover muscles and other connective tissues in the body. It is hydrolyzed collagen, which means the molecules are small enough for easy digestion - and for helping you receive all the benefits of your collagen supplement.
No matter your dietary choices, boosting collagen within your body is helpful for everyone. You could look, and feel, younger, just from a daily dose of this vital supplement.
So whether it’s hydrolyzed liquid collagen, or a plant-based collagen-boosting supplement, there’s an option for people with all lifestyles and diets to partake in the numerous potential benefits of collagen.