If you think your body's natural aging process is harsh on your collagen levels, you might want to stay out of the sun. The sun speeds up the breakdown of collagen, and if you want youthful skin later in life, you'll want to protect yourself daily with sunscreen [source: American Academy of Dermatology].
Amino Acids and Collagen
The building blocks that make up all proteins, including collagen, are called amino acids. If you lack the amino acids that combine to form collagen, your body's cells can't produce enough of it. What are the amino acids necessary for collagen production, then, and how can you make sure you're getting enough for your body?
Threonine is an essential amino acid for collagen production. An essential amino acid is one your body cannot make, so you have to get it from food or dietary supplements. You can get threonine from foods such as lentils, peanuts, eggs, milk, pork, beef and chicken. If you prefer a vegetarian diet, you can also get threonine from soybeans, chickpeas, hummus, snap beans and asparagus [source: Das]. Everything from a chicken dinner to a mid-day peanut snack may provide a benefit to your skin.
Another amino acid that aids in collagen production is proline. Unlike threonine, proline is a nonessential amino acid; nonessential amino acids are ones that either the body or other essential amino acids can produce. You can also help your body by eating foods high in proline, such as gelatin, soy, milk, cheese, beef and cabbage [source: Nutrition Data]. And as we mentioned before, vitamin C works along with proline to promote collagen production. Foods such as oranges, lemons and limes contain vitamin C.
You don't have to wait until the fine lines on your face turn into heavy wrinkles to think about preventing the signs of aging. You don't have to resort to expensive plastic surgery, either. To find out lots more information about collagen and basic skin care, see the links on the next page.