Vegan Collagen Supplements: What Are the Options for Plant-Based Eaters?

Article at a Glance:

  • You're interested in collagen, but why is getting so much attention?
  • Best way to get collagen as a plant-based eater is by making sure your diet and supplements are checking all the right boxes.
  • Our recommended supplement for vegans looking to boost collagen and the desired health benefits.

If you’re one of the millions of people who eat a vegan diet, you know the health benefits of all those plants are crystal clear. Vegan, and even lower meat, plant-forward diets are associated with a lower risk of chronic diseases and many types of cancer. Plant eaters also tend to have an easier time maintaining a healthy weight. [1] 

However, passing on all animal foods might also leave a few gaps in your diet. Some of those gaps can get wider once you’re over 30, so it might be time to give your diet a check-up. It's also a good idea to make sure you’re taking the best vegan supplement available to satisfy your needs. 

One supplement that seems to be on everyone's radar lately is collagen. They’re all the rage – but does everyone need that extra collagen? And where do you find a vegan collagen supplement?

Why is collagen getting so much attention?

If it seems like collagen is suddenly the number one supplement on everyone’s shelf, it’s not your imagination. Sales of collagen supplements and collagen-containing products were up nearly 34% last year. [2] 

Collagen is a family of 28 different proteins found in bones, connective tissues and tendons throughout the body. (3) Think of it as the glue that holds your body together. One type of collagen is also a significant component (about 80%) of healthy skin and helps to regenerate and hydrate skin cells. [3] Collagen is also essential for healthy joint function and bone density; it strengthens hair and nails, and it’s also linked to a stronger gut lining. [4]

Your body makes collagen, but once you hit your 30s, you make about 1% less each year. [5] Unfortunately, as production declines, your needs increase because of the accumulated effects of sun exposure, damaging free radicals in the environment, and other effects of aging. 

A reduction in collagen is one likely reason many of us experience joint and tendon pain as we age. It also reflects the health of our hair, skin, and nails. Our hair loses its shine, our skin loses elasticity, gets that crepey appearance with age and new wrinkles seem to appear overnight. And our once healthy nails become weaker and split.

Collagen has been getting so much attention lately because some research shows supplementing with it might help to hold off some of the signs of aging. There is evidence that it might be helpful for minimizing symptoms of joint pain related to osteoarthritis. [5,6,7,8] Other studies suggest that it may have benefits for skin health, especially improving the skin’s elasticity and moisture content, and reducing the depth of wrinkles. [3,5,8,9]

An important thing to know about collagen supplements is that they're made from animal sources, like bones, hides, and connective tissues of animals, or from fish bones and scales. In other words, there is no such thing as plant-based collagen or a vegan collagen supplement.

The best way to get collagen if you’re a vegan

Even though your plant-based diet is keeping you extra-healthy on the inside, you’re probably wondering how you can score some extra collagen on a vegan diet. After all, you want to stay active and look your best on the outside too, right? 

Here’s the good news: You can make your own collagen. All you need are the right nutrients. 

A well-balanced diet combined with the right vegan multivitamin supplement can supply your body with the ingredients it needs to keep making collagen.

Here’s what to look for to make sure your diet and supplements are checking all the right boxes:

First, does your diet provide the proper collagen-boosting base?

All the supplements in the world can’t fix a poor diet, so pay close attention to the types of foods you eat most. A healthy vegan diet is based on a wide variety of whole foods. They have the nutrients your body needs to create new cells, tissues, and yes, even proteins like collagen.  

If you’re relying on processed foods and fake meat products, you may be doing your body more harm than good. Your diet should feature a solid base of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Ideally, it has several servings of legumes or whole soy foods, as well as a mix of nuts and seeds for protein and some avocado and lots of olive oil for healthy fats each day.

Next, are you meeting your protein needs?

Vegan diets are usually lower in protein than the standard American diet, but typically, most still provide adequate protein. All vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are great sources of protein, so the key to meeting your protein needs is to get enough variety.  

Here’s the thing about the protein you eat, whether it comes from collagen or any type of protein-rich food: All protein is broken down into amino acids once it's digested. 

Your body chooses how to use those amino acids – not you. So even if you do take a collagen supplement, there’s no guarantee that it will do what you want it to do. 

Amino acids are the building blocks of all of the different proteins throughout your body - including collagen. And your body always prioritizes what it needs to build now, and what it can put on the back burner. Your hair, skin and nails, and your achy joints will be low on the priority list if you’re not getting enough protein to maintain strong heart muscle and make red blood cells in the first place.

At a minimum, you need about 0.36 grams of protein for every pound of body weight. However, some people can benefit from more protein. Some research suggests that 25 to 30 grams per meal is a good goal. [10]

So, you don't actually need a vegan collagen supplement. If you’re eating enough protein, your body acts as its own collagen booster and can use any available amino acids to produce collagen. Proline and hydroxyproline are amino acids that are especially important for stable collagen, and they’re widespread in plant proteins.

Finally, is your nutrient tank full?

No matter how healthy and balanced your diet is, there are some nutrients that you may still be lacking. That’s because they’re not abundant in a vegan diet, and also because they’re not as wide-spread in our food supply due to modern agricultural and manufacturing practices. Research suggests vegan diets can be low in the following nutrients: [11,12]

  • Vitamin B12 
  • Vitamin D3 
  • Choline
  • Zinc
  • Calcium
  • Iron
  • Iodine
  • Essential fatty acids EPA and DHA and 
  • Branch chain (muscle-building and collagen-building) amino acids


While plant foods supply small amounts of most of these, you may not get as much as you need unless you have a generous appetite. And, in most cases, vegan diets alone don’t provide adequate amounts of vitamin B12 and the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA. [11,12,13]

And speaking of nutrients, you can load up on protein to boost the production of collagen, but if you don’t have the necessary vitamin and mineral cofactors to add to the recipe, no collagen will be made. Vitamins and minerals are like the switches that turn your protein-making machine on. The following vitamins and minerals are some that are essential for natural collagen synthesis:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C
  • Copper
  • Manganese
  • Zinc


The best vegan collagen-building supplement

It’s always best to take a food-first approach because food provides so much more than just vitamins and minerals. However, adding a specially designed vegan supplement to your daily routine is an excellent idea. The right vegan multivitamin supplement provides everything you need, including adequate amounts of the above nutrients. It allows your body to run optimally so you won’t have to tap into any protein or vitamin stores. It’s like the (dairy-free) icing on the cake.

When comparing vegan supplements, it’s important to consider not only what’s in it, but also what’s not in it. In addition to excluding animal-based products, Healthycell has designed its new Vegan Essentials multivitamin supplement to be free from common allergens like wheat, nuts, and peanuts, as well as artificial colors and flavors. You also won’t find binding glues, coatings, flow agents, and fillers that are commonly found in most supplement pills.  

What you will find is a complete package of nutrients you need to support a healthy vegan lifestyle and make that extra collagen, in the most absorbable form available. What’s more, the nutrients in the Vegan Essentials formula are sourced to synergistically enhance absorption and balanced to be delivered in the proper amounts.

Many people don’t realize that the supplement ingredients in tablets, capsules, and powders are 10-100 (sometimes 200) times too big for our GI tract to absorb. Instead of a hard-to-swallow and poorly absorbed pill, Healthycell’s MICROGEL™ technology is a delicious-tasting gel with medical-grade absorption. It’s a first-of-its-kind, using patent-pending technology which ensures you’re getting the nutrients your body needs to function optimally and to keep you feeling strong and looking ageless for a long time. 

Taking Vegan Essentials each day is a way of ensuring that your tank is not just full but topped off. And that lets you build plenty of collagen and everything else your body needs.

To your health,

Anne Danahy MS RDN
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist


References:

[1] Kahleova H, Levin S, Barnard N. Cardio-Metabolic Benefits of Plant-Based Diets. Nutrients. 2017 Aug;9(8). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579641/
[2] Collagen product sales are skyrocketing, from products to food.  Nutritional Outlook. http://www.nutritionaloutlook.com/beauty/collagen-product-sales-are-skyrocketing-supplements-food. Published June 11, 2018. Accessed October 14, 2019.
[3] Sibilla S, Godfrey M, Brewer S, Budh-Raja A, Genovese L. An Overview of the Beneficial Effects of Hydrolysed Collagen as a Nutraceutical on Skin Properties: Scientific Background and Clinical Studies. https://benthamopen.com/contents/pdf/TONUTRAJ/TONUTRAJ-8-29.pdf
[4] Chen Q, Chen O, Martins IM, Hou H, Zhao X, Blumberg JB, Li B. Collagen peptides ameliorate intestinal epithelial barrier dysfunction in immunostimulatory Caco-2 cell monolayers via enhancing tight junctions. Food & function. 2017 Mar 22;8(3):1144. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28174772
[5] Collagen supplements review. ConsumerLab.com. https://www.consumerlab.com/reviews/Collagen_Supplements_Review_Peptides_Hydrolysate/collagen/. Updated October 11, 2019. Accessed October 14, 2019.
[6] Zdzieblik D, Oesser S, Gollhofer A, König D. Improvement of activity-related knee joint discomfort following supplementation of specific collagen peptides. Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism. 2017;42(6):588-95. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28177710
[7] Lugo JP, Saiyed ZM, Lane NE. Efficacy and tolerability of an undenatured type II collagen supplement in modulating knee osteoarthritis symptoms: a multicenter randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Nutrition Journal. 2016;15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4731911/
[8] Czajka A, Kania EM, Genovese L, Corbo A, Merone G, Luci C, Sibilla S. Daily oral supplementation with collagen peptides combined with vitamins and other bioactive compounds improves skin elasticity and has a beneficial effect on joint and general wellbeing. Nutrition research (New York, NY). 2018 Sep; 57:97. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30122200
[9] Asserin J, Lati E, Shioya T, Prawitt J. The effect of oral collagen peptide supplementation on skin moisture and the dermal collagen network: evidence from an ex vivo model and randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials. Journal of cosmetic dermatology. 2015 Dec;14(4):291.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26362110
[10] Lonnie M, Hooker E, Brunstrom JM, et al. Protein for Life: Review of Optimal Protein Intake, Sustainable Dietary Sources and the Effect on Appetite in Ageing Adults. Nutrients. 2018;10(3):360. Published 2018 Mar 16. doi:10.3390/nu10030360 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5872778/
[11] Craig WJ., Saunders A. Critical nutrients in a plant-based diet. In Craig WJ. (ed) Vegetarian Nutrition and Wellness. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press Taylor Francis Group; 2018:213-224.
[12] Craig WJ. Nutrition concerns and health effects of vegetarian diets. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2010 Dec;25(6):613-20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21139125
[13] Saunders AV, Davis BC, Garg ML. Omega‐3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and vegetarian diets. Medical Journal of Australia. 2013 Jun;199:S22-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25369925