Vegetarian and Vegan Alternatives to Collagen Supplements

I’ve been writing quite a bit about the wrinkle reducing, gut healing, and weight loss benefits of collagen. And I’ve shared that the best sources of this miracle worker are collagen protein powders and bone broth–both derived from animals. Now, if you don’t eat red or white meat, but you still enjoy fish, you’ll be happy to know that fish bone broth exists. It’s delicious!

And it’s an excellent source of collagen. But, what if you eat a vegan or vegetarian diet? You might be wondering what your options are. Well, don’t you worry. I’ve got you covered! First, it’s important to understand that collagen protein powders contain a concentrated source of the key amino acids that your body needs to build new collagen.

This includes primarily glycine and proline. And while science has proven that collagen supplementation is effective, there are plant-based vegan and vegetarian collagen sources that can help boost amino acids.

Plant-Based Sources of Glycine & Proline

Both glycine and proline are considered “conditional” amino acids, which means if conditions are ideal, our bodies are able to create them internally. However, more commonly, conditions are not ideal due to our fast paced, high stress, and sleepless society. This means more often than not we must get these amino acids from the foods we eat. Especially the ones listed below:

Best sources of glycine:

  • Banana
  • Beans
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Cucumber
  • Kale
  • Kiwi
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
Best sources of proline:
  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Beans
  • Buckwheat
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumber
  • Chives
  • Tempeh
  • Watercress
  • White mustard seeds

Synergistic Collagen Boosting Nutrients

Now there’s more to collagen synthesis than just glycine and proline. Your body also needs several other key nutrients, which you can also get from plants. Let’s take a look...
  • Vitamin C: Without a sufficient supply of vitamin C, your body can’t make new collagen. Period. No matter how much glycine and proline you have. And unlike these conditional amino acids, your body can’t make vitamin C. Thus, you must get it from food.
Fortunately, it’s found in many fruits and vegetables in high doses. Especially the ones listed below:
    • Strawberry
    • Brussels sprouts
    • Orange
    • Kiwi
    • Grapefruit
    • Red bell pepper
    • Broccoli
    • Papaya
    • Kale
    • Pineapple
  • Lysine: This amino acid is also required for collagen synthesis. And, it’s one you must pay close attention to because it isn’t as readily available in plant foods like the nutrients discussed above.
So be sure to stock up on the following items to ensure your lysine intake is on par:
    • Black Beans
    • Kidney Beans
    • Lentils
    • Lima beans
    • Pistachios
    • Potatoes
    • Pumpkin seeds
    • Tempeh
    • Quinoa
  • Garlic: This powerful herb contains lipoic acid and taurine, both of which repair damaged collagen. Garlic is also a good source of sulfur, which is a major player in collagen synthesis.
For me, garlic is a natural addition to nearly any sauté. One of my favorite fall recipes is kale or rainbow chard sautéed in olive oil, freshly chopped garlic, and a squeeze of lemon. But you can add garlic to many recipes, including sauces (pesto, anyone?), broths, marinades, and so on. It adds a wonderful depth of flavor all while repairing your precious collagen.
  • Antioxidants: These powerhouses protect your collagen from free radical damage. And the best way to load up on antioxidants is by eating the rainbow. Red beets and peppers, orange carrots and sweet potatoes, dark leafy greens, and purple berries.
These colorful plants also offer a wide variety of enzymes, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs to look and feel its best.

Putting it All Together in the Kitchen

Now, if you’re wondering how to get more of these foods in your diet, smoothies and salads are two excellent options. This pumpkin pie smoothie is perfect for fall. And the pumpkin and banana are both great sources of glycine as well as antioxidants. You could even throw in a handful of spinach without even noticing it’s there. Another vegan and vegetarian collagen supplement is the combination is pineapple, cucumber, kale, and banana.

Yummy! Colorful salads create endless opportunities to incorporate a variety of plant-based foods to protect, repair, and produce new collagen. Consider thinly sliced cabbage and watercress topped with blanched asparagus, fresh sprouts, tempeh, and a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds. A delicious vegan and vegetarian collagen supplement in a bowl! And also note that adding a portion of beans or quinoa to your salad will help increase your intake of lysine.

It’s Not All About the Food

Nutrient rich foods aren’t the only players when it comes to collagen protection and synthesis. Your daily habits are important too. First and foremost is stress. Stress wreaks havoc on your body in countless ways. One of them is by generating free radicals and causing inflammation and oxidative stress. All of which have the potential to destroy your collagen. So find ways to create moments of peace throughout your day. Go for a walk. Breathe deep. Take a bath. Laugh with friends. Or read a book. Just find something that works. And do it!

Another key factor is sleep. Because your body repairs and rebuilds collagen mainly when you’re sleeping. Thus, it’s important to shoot for 7 to 9 hours of shut eye each night. And finally, I recommend lowering your exposure to toxins found in processed foods, pesticides, personal care products, and home cleaners. Because they’re concentrated sources of free radicals that can certainly harm the integrity of your collagen.

The Bottom Line

Consuming a colorful diet of nutrient rich plant foods will help vegans, vegetarians, and meat eaters alike protect their collagen and boost its production. But keep in mind that stress relief and sleep are just as important. So...whip up a salad for dinner tonight, take a relaxing bath, and then hit the hay.

Keep thinking Big and living BOLD!