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. If you’re wondering, “is collagen vegan”, just know this...
Vegan 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 for you. You see, if you look at supplements online, you might wonder “is collagen vegan?” That’s because there ARE vegan collagen supplements on the market.
That being said, these “collagen supplements” are not the same as actual collagen, 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 what collagen is, what it does, why vegan 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 vegan collagen doesn’t exist, we should answer the question, “Is collagen good for you?”
In short? It’s a big YES.
Collagen has become a widely accepted health and beauty supplement, and its benefits are more than just skin deep.
While collagen 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.
Collagen even has some medical applications!
There are numerous benefits to including collagen peptide protein into your diet, even if your diet is mostly plant-based one.
If you’re wondering, “how long does it take for collagen to work?” The answer to that depends on your age, activity level, nutritional needs, and the quality of the collagen you’re supplementing.
Generally speaking, if you’re taking a high-quality collagen supplement, you should see results within 90 days. That is, if you aren’t attempting to achieve results with “vegan collagen.”
Why vegan collagen does not exist
To understand why there is no such thing as true vegan 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 a vegan form of 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, our bodies produce collagen as a structural support for our bones, joints, skin, and other connective tissues. The thing is, our natural collagen synthesis and production drastically decrease by the time we are in our mid-twenties.
After the age of 25, 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 on 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 they are 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 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 in an attempt to naturally boost collagen production. This can be done in the form of daily supplements, or by targeting certain plant-based foods in your diet.
So what are these vegan-friendly collagen-boosting sources? Let’s take a look at some plant-based collagen boosters.
Vegan 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.
When looking for foods that can boost collagen production, you should ensure 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 citrus fruits, vegetables, and whole grains contain collagen-boosting vitamins and minerals, making it easy to include these in a collagen-boosting diet.
Some plant-based foods that have the potential to be vegan collagen boosters 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 that’s why plant-based collagen-boosting supplements exist! To make it easier to get all the nutrients you need.
Vegan collagen-boosting supplements include concentrated amounts of vitamins and minerals that could aid in collagen synthesis. This includes amino acids, antioxidants, vitamin C, manganese, copper, zinc, and more.
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.
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 care.
Although three main amino acids make up collagen protein, when looking at vegan 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 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 tools necessary to construct collagen in your body.
It is important to keep in mind that although many vegan 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.
So is collagen vegan? Not right now, but a vegan form of collagen might exist in the future!
Vegan collagen supplements may be on the way
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, vegan collagen-boosting supplements are the next best option.
Of course, there may be situations where collagen-boosting supplements aren’t enough, such as after an intense injury or surgery.
When collagen boosters don’t cut it
While living a plant-based lifestyle is a wonderful idea in theory, it’s not the best when it comes to wound healing. There are many studies out there that have begun to show that a plant-based diet and wound healing may not mix.
Generally speaking, the best diet for wound healing is a well-balanced, high-protein diet. It’s also not much of a “diet” at all - it’s the opposite, because of the increased nutritional demand of a healing wound.
The reason is simple, your body is working hard to send necessary resources to heal your wound site and build new tissue. To do that, you need ample protein, minerals, and amino acids.
In a study published in the December 2020 issue of Dermatologic Surgery, it was found that a vegan diet negatively affected wound healing in multiple ways.
And what does your body use to create new tissue cells? COLLAGEN. So if you have a wound that won’t heal, it may be time to switch to emergency collagen supplements - even if you’re a strict vegan.
The best collagen for wound healing
While collagen-boosting supplements may have their benefits, they are a far cry from actual collagen protein. Of course, not all collagen is created equal to begin with, so if you are looking for the best collagen for wound healing, it’s important to look for a high-quality hydrolyzed collagen.
Hydrolyzed collagen has gone through the process of hydrolysis to break the molecules down into easily digestible pieces. Hydrolyzed collagen is more bioavailable, so it’s easier for your body to absorb, synthesize, and direct to areas in need.
If you REALLY want to ensure you are getting a quality collagen supplement, you can look for a medical-grade collagen protein like the collagen from ProT Gold. This is collagen that is FDA regulated and trusted for use in thousands of medical facilities in the USA.
Even better, ProT Gold is nano-hydrolyzed for full absorption in 15 minutes or less, and has the necessary amino acids added in to make the collagen a complete protein. This means it will be incredibly easy for your body to utilize for healing, or any of the other collagen benefits you hope to achieve.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, and collagen-boosting supplements aren’t cutting it, it might be worth trying ProT Gold medical-grade collagen just until you’re back on your feet. Otherwise, stick with those collagen boosters!
No matter your lifestyle or diet, collagen is crucial for your health, and boosting your natural stores can only have positive effects on many areas of your life.