It’s little surprise that Google searches for “collagen” are the highest they’ve ever been as of summer 2018, according to Google Trends. WebMD claims that U.S. Consumers are expected to spend $122 million on collagen products in 2018, a 30% increase from last year1.
Given increasing streams of information about skincare and wellness, collagen can sometimes be thought of as a “fountain of youth” tool, or something used mainly for cosmetic purposes.
However, its real value goes far beyond vanity, and it is even an important staple for those following the keto diet.
Collagen is the most abundant protein we contain—specifically, it makes up one third of the protein in our bodies. It holds the body together, and is found throughout—but particularly in the skin, bones, and connective tissues.
This fibrous protein consists of molecules packed together to form long, thin fibrils like a chain.
Combined, these fibrils act as supporting structures that anchor cells to each other, strengthening the skin and giving it elasticity. That helps keep your skin supple and maintain a healthy glow.
Collagen plays a role in replacing and restoring skin cells, and some collagens act as protective coverings for organs such as the kidney, which are more delicate.
Some of the many other benefits of collagen include the following:
- Keeping nails and hair strong and healthy
- Allowing muscles growth and regeneration
- Strengthening bones
- Keeping eyes, gut, heart, and brain healthy2
The body produces less collagen with age–which is pretty much unavoidable. Think back to when you were 20 years old. It turns out that your skin’s highest level of collagen production is actually at this age and produces 1 percent less collagen in the skin each year.
Joint cartilage weakens and wrinkles form, which obviously affect a person’s skin and overall physical health. Factors that can damage collagen levels include: high sugar consumption, smoking, sunlight, and some autoimmune disorders3.
While you can get collagen directly from supplements, you can’t get it directly from food—your body has to produce it.
Foods in the keto diet are critical sources for your body to produce collagen, particularly since the diet is based around healthy proteins and fats. About 21 amino acids are needed to form collagen, and these can be found in protein-rich foods.
The top keto foods highest in protein are:
- Cod fish
Other nutrients besides protein are necessary for collagen production. A Vitamin C deficiency can stop collagen production. Some keto-friendly foods that are Vitamin C sources include:
- Peppers (chili, red sweet)
Keep in mind, excess collagen can actually be harmful. For example, it can worsen heart functions. Vitamin E is helpful to counteract this.
Keto foods rich in Vitamin E are:
- Sunflower seed butter
- Pine nuts
Nuts are a good sources of healthy fats, proteins, and micronutrients. Just make sure your daily carb and protein intake doesn’t exceed your macronutrients
Omega 3 fatty acids are extremely critical for producing optimal collagen levels. It can help decrease the excess collagen issue discussed earlier, and help with ligament healing.
Keto foods rich in omega-3 fatty acid are:
- Flaxseed oil
- Hemp seeds
- Pine nuts
Collagen supplements can be an option in case eating the appropriate keto-friendly foods is a challenge. These supplements are essentially small collagen chains extracted from animal tissues.
However, there seems to be debates in the scientific community about whether or not consuming collagen in supplement form can help, at least at the skin level.
These supplements consist of animal parts, and can be susceptible to heavy metal contamination.
Regarding cows in particular, supplements that include ground-up hooves, hides, and nerve tissues could carry mad cow disease or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, so be careful!
Like any other dietary item, you should read the ingredients, and look for companies that get their bones and tissues for their collagen supplements from cage-free, free-range, and antibiotic-free sources.
Finding trusted brands with a third-party label like NSFP or USP are important. Also, try to stay away from mixtures that combine collagen with probiotics, fiber, or other additives that could change the efficacy of collagen4.
On the topic of supplements and creams, Mary Stevenson, M.D. and NYU dermatology professor says, “A lot of patients ask me about taken collagen orally.
We do not have good data in suggesting that ingesting collagen will result in it reaching your skin. Generally speaking, unless you are deficient in protein, your body is remarkably efficient at absorbing what you need and discarding what you don’t.
However, many [collagen-boosting creams] have peptides and antioxidants that can help boost collagen.”
Products that she recommends include TNS Essential Serum and Alastin Skincare Restorative Skin Complex, which contain peptides to help restore elastin and collagen5.
When all is said and done, nutrition is truly key for good collagen production. Some additional tips to protect the collagen you already have are wearing SPF, reducing your sugar intake, and picking the right moisturizer.
With the right diet and maintenance, along with a little supplementation, in addition to boosting your health and skin, you’ll feel like you’re 20 years old again.
 Marshall, Linda. “Collagen: ‘Fountain of Youth’ or Edible Hoax?’” WebMD.com, March 8th, 2018.
 McIntosh, James. “Collagen: What is it and what are its uses?” Medicalnewstoday.com, June 16th, 2017.
 Obagi, Suzan. “Why does skin wrinkle with age? What is the way to slow or prevent this process?” Scientificamerican.com, September 26th, 2005.
 Marshall, Linda. See 
 Ledbetter, Carly. “Experts say this is the best way to boost your collagen production.” Huffingtonpost.com, September 18th, 2017.