The word collagen is a familiar one, usually in the context of beauty products and skin rejuvenation, but most people know little about it. It is part of the connective tissue found all over our bodies and is made from protein and large amounts of two amino acids: hydroxylsine and hydroxyproline. Collagen has a triple-helix structure that gives it great tensile strength. These strands are composed of proline, glycine, another form of proline called hydroxyproline and lysine.
According to the University of Arizona, proline is not actually an amino acid, but an imino acid, yet it is still called an amino acid. It is called a nonessential amino acid, in that it does not have to be obtained from dietary means, but is manufactured in the liver from other amino acids. Proline is needed for the proper function of joints, tendons and ligaments and is also involved in strengthening heart muscle.
Glycine is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of proteins, that composes one-third of the collagen strand called a fibril. Fibrils are the strand of molecules that make up the collagen structure. Whereas most proteins contain very small quantities of glycine, it makes up a third of collagen. Glycine works as a neurotransmitter in the body.
Hyrdoxyproline(also known as L-Hyrdoxyproline or (2S,4R)-4-Hydroxyproline) is produced when a hydroxyl group, an oxygen-hydrogen molecule, is added to the amino acid proline. Vitamin C must be present in the human body for this hydroxyl group to be added. When vitamin C is absent in the diet, hydroxyproline synthesis is inhibited, resulting in certain diseases that are the result of lack of proper L-Hyrdoxyproline synthesis in the collagen molecule, such as difficulty in healing wounds and fractures, problems with blood vessels and the development of scurvy.
Eat legumes, in particular, peanuts,for a significant source of the amino acid lysine. Include chickpeas in your menus as a healthy source of zinc, copper and selenium, minerals needed for collagen production. Satisfy your sweet tooth with deeply colored red and blue berries and fruits such as cherries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries. They’ve been shown to contain anthocyanidins that help link collagen fibers together and strengthen connective tissue.
Eat red, green and orange vegetables to boost your antioxidants and collagen production. Support your collagen tissue by eating a variety of proteins. Fish, lean meats, eggs, low-fat dairy products and nuts and seeds are sources of lysine and proline amino acids.