In a long-form essay Chelsea G. Summers recently wrote for Unruly Bodies (a series created by best-selling author Roxane Gay and Medium), she details how skincare is as much a personal investment as it is a wider system at work. "My skincare is an army of products I've marshaled with a single intent: to keep aging at bay," she says.
Summers explores how anti-aging has become its own daily process, almost like brushing teeth or combing hair. And even though many women haven't yet experienced the crux of her argument—that altering facial features can disconnect us from our identities—most women have experienced pressure to look young. But is there another way to push off wrinkles without overspending?
According to Brooke Scheller, a certified nutrition specialist, there could be. It all starts with collagen, one of the body's most abundant proteins. "It's a protein found in our connective tissues, like muscles, skin, and the digestive system, that helps provide structure and elasticity," she says. "However, it's widely known to break down over time, leading to physical changes like wrinkles and sagging skin. It can also begin to break down our muscles and joints, too."
Naturally produced collagen begins to decline in our 20s, Scheller notes, and that's why eating foods that feature this structural protein can help keep its production going. While Brooke does say that it's possible to see results with collagen supplements, especially ones that contain only collagen peptides, she outlined a list of foods that you can work into your diet, too. Sure, the grocery store may not be as fun as Sephora, but it'll be a cost-effective and healthy way to see results instead.
"One popular source of collagen is found in bone broth. This is made by cooking chicken, beef, or other animal bones to extract the collagen and minerals," Brooke says. "It's quite a time-consuming process, though, and many companies have created high-quality bone broth products that you can purchase in stores or online, like Bonafide Provisions, Osso Good, and Kettle & Fire." If you want to plug in your crockpot for chicken soup tonight, this recipe gets our vote.
"Gelatin is another source of collagen that many people purchase as a powder to add to smoothies or other meals to increase collagen intake," Brooke says. Try adding gelatin to these eight low-calorie smoothie recipes to work this ingredient into your breakfast routine.
"Eggs—specifically the whites—contain glycine and proline, which are the main amino acids that make up collagen," Brooke says. But don't pass on the yolks! She mentions that these are filled with vitamin D and healthy fats that help skin, bones, and muscles. Opt for these three recipes to make the most of hard-boiled eggs.
Use fresh citrus to get your collagen boost, which Brooke says has high levels of vitamin C that assist its production. Here are all the tools you need to get every last bit of citrus into your diet.
Guess what else has a lot of vitamin C? Broccoli—another one of Brooke's recommendations. We like the idea of eating it mixed with pomegranate seeds and baby kale from Half Baked Harvest's lemon garlic-roasted broccoli salad.
And speaking of salads, leafy greens are also on Brooke's list of collagen-filled picks because they're filled with vitamin C. But don't bum yourself out with a boring bowl of basic greens. Instead, opt for these colorful spring salads that are best enjoyed outside.
"Other minerals like zinc are important for proper collagen production, too," Brooke says. Zinc can be found in foods like nuts, which are perfect for healthy snacking.
Last but not least, Brooke lists mushrooms as another food item that features collagen-friendly zinc. Mushrooms should be in your kitchen anyway since we already know they're great in one-pot meals.
Up next: Skip the Botox and eat these seven collagen-boosting foods for naturally youthful skin.