Embryonic foods such as eggs, nuts, seeds, and legumes are packed with nutrients that are especially beneficial for skin.
Embryonic foods enhance collagen production because they contain a vital blend of collagen synthesis promoting compounds such as essential fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin A, copper, and other nutrients that stimulate collagen manufacturing in the body.
Eating a diet rich in these foods as well as embracing a healthy skin care regimen will ensure that you promote collagen production for life.
Embryonic foods: eating for ultimate collagen synthesis
Somewhere around 2,500 years ago (460 B.C.) a Greek physician named Hippocrates summed up his philosophies on medicine with two important dictates which are still highly respected today: The Hippocratic Oath (“First, do no harm”) and “Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food.”
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine thy food.”
- Hippocrates -
Today, researchers in the field of nutricosmetics, the study of foods that help us achieve beautiful, healthy skin, are learning the value of eating embryonic foods such as eggs, nuts, and seeds to enhance skin health. In fact, what we are learning is that embryonic foods can enhance collagen synthesis and promote collagen turnover throughout our lives, even after the age of 40.
What are embryonic foods and why are they so good for the skin?
Foods like eggs, beans, and seeds contain an embryo within their seeds or shell. Think of the pea within a pea pod. Like peas, beans such as lima, fava, and kidney beans also grow in pods and are, thus, embryonic foods. With beans, we just discard the less nutritious pod when we eat them. Like the egg white, which surrounds and protects the nutrient dense, fatty acid-rich yolk, embryonic foods always have a carbohydrate-rich shell which protects and surrounds an embryo that contains even more nutritious compounds within it.
Today, scientists and dermatologists have learned much about the nurturing benefits of embryonic foods for the skin. What makes embryonic foods uniquely beneficial is that they contain an entire complex of skin-benefitting vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, isoflavones, and other nutrients combined with essential fatty and amino acids. These amino acids and fatty acids are key to the nutritive power of embryonic foods, acting as transport molecules that deliver these nutrients directly to our cells, enabling them to be more easily utilised by the body.
For skin then, embryonic foods are what we might call “hyper-nutritious.”
In Hawaii, coconut embryo, “Buwa” is a favourite dish that is literally packed with all kinds of nutritious compounds that are just now being researched today. So far, scientists are learning that coconut embryo yield wonderful benefits for the immune system, thyroid health, weight loss, and for giving individuals glossy, strong hair and beautiful skin. 1
What all embryonic foods share in common is that they nourish, protect, and stimulate collagen synthesis, while being rich in an astounding array of nutrients that benefit virtually every aspect of skin health.
Collagen promoting foods: why we need them
Collagen is our skin’s structural net. We are constantly losing collagen and manufacturing more within the body. And we manufacture collagen out of vitamins and minerals we eat. In fact, collagen itself is comprised of three amino acid molecules and an ascorbic acid molecule. So vitamin C and amino acids (as well as many other isoflavones and vitamins that stimulate collagen production) are crucial to manufacturing healthy collagen stores.
Collagen is what makes us look young. In short, to explain its overall importance, collagen is the one compound in our skin that gives us that youthful, supple, “bouncy” skin that has that dewy, plump, springy appearance we all had as teens.
Unfortunately, after 20, our collagen stores in the body begin to deplete at a rate of 1% per year. At age 40, collagen production really drops off. After this age, we can lose as much collagen as 2% a year, especially after menopause.
Every year we lose collagen, our skin is becoming less resilient. As a result, Dr. Murad, dermatologist, notes “the skin becomes thinner and more fragile.”2
Menopause then takes a more drastic toll on collagen, speeding up the rate of collagen loss during the first five years after menopause.
As Dr. Axe explains, “Why is collagen [and replenishing it] important? As we age, our collagen production naturally begins to slow down. Thanks to decreases in collagen, we get sagging skin, wrinkles and weaker cartilage in our joints.”3
Because we are losing collagen throughout most of our adult life, Dr. Murad recommends that we:
“…eat foods that are rich in collagen-boosting ingredients such as embryonic foods that contain amino acids (eggs, beans and seeds), antioxidants, which inhibit damage to collagen (pomegranates and goji berries are great) and good fats (like walnuts and avocado) to replenish collagen stores and slow the aging process as much as we can.”4
Why are embryonic foods good for the skin? All kinds of reasons
If there is one type of food we can look to for help in replenishing the collagen we lose as we age, it is collagen-synthesis promoting embryonic foods.
These foods contain all the fats, fatty acids, amino acids, minerals, and collagen-stimulating agents we need to keep our skin as full of collagen stores as we can. Finding ways to include an array of nuts, seeds, legumes in our diet, as well as eating more eye, hair, and skin-nourishing eggs, can help us to stave off ageing as much as we can and help us to enjoy plump, taut skin much longer than we are genetically programmed to.
As we discussed earlier, food is key in enhancing collagen production because it gives us these collagen-promoting nutrients in their most bioavailable form, more than synthetic vitamins of any kind.
Just one of the collagen promoting nutrients in beans, for example, is sulphur, and sulphur is crucial for collagen production.5
Eggs: the real secret to clear, youthful, glowing skin
Eggs are perhaps the most important food for collagen synthesis and protection.
Eggs themselves are rich in collagen, from the collagen-rich membranes that line the egg shell to help keep bacteria out, to the collagen-rich yolk.
In fact, the level of collagen in the yolk and the membranes of eggs is quite impressive. Researchers have found that both the outer and inner membranes of eggs contain a substance almost biologically identical to type I and V collagen in humans.6 Egg yolks are very rich in collagen as well.7
In one 2015 study, scientists actually tested the efficacy of the collagen in eggshell membranes for skin health and found that egg collagen heals wrinkles, loss of moisture, and sun damage. Egg collagen is also able to suppress skin ageing and mitigate wrinkles caused by sun exposure.8 Now, egg collagen is being used in an array of skin supplements and topical creams.
Nutrition-wise, within these collagen-rich membranes, the egg white and the egg yolk contain compounds that are vital for collagen synthesis.
In addition to giving your body a dose of healthy protein that it needs, egg whites are high in both the chief amino acids controlling collagen production, lysine and proline. Lysine and proline, combined with vitamin C—are the amino acids that control collagen production in the body. We can only get lysine from food sources, and chief sources of lysine are all the embryonic foods such as eggs, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
Eggs are also rich in collagen-promoting compounds such as proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, sulphur, and vitamin E. In fact, sulphur is necessary for both the production of collagen and keratin, which help create and maintain shiny hair, strong nails, and glowing skin. As Laymen’s Medical Reference notes,
“sulphur helps to ensure skin elasticity and maintain the shape of the body. A lack of sulphur may contribute to premature age-related problems like wrinkles, sagging skin, thin and fragile hair or painful joints.”9
In fact, the egg yolk contains such powerful collagen-promoting compounds that studies have proven that egg yolk can be used to heal third degree burns.10 Any food that is that good for wound healing will have highly beneficial effects upon the skin and collagen because collagen production is necessary to heal burns.
Egg yolks are also rich in three other compounds crucial for collagen production and health: lysine,11 zinc,12 and lecithin13 –all essential for collagen synthesis.
As far as what types of eggs to eat for maximum skin health, a new type of egg being sold today, Omega-3 Eggs, are proving to be more nutritious for their high DHA and EPA fatty acid content than conventional eggs or even pasture-fed eggs.
Plus, as these chickens are fed flaxseed, which is also full of collagen-promoting agents, Omega 3 eggs are good to put on the menu for younger skin and collagen enhancement.
Beans and legumes: full of collagen promoting compounds hard to get anywhere
Beans are loaded with compounds that directly promote collagen production that are hard to find anywhere else in the food spectrum, especially hyaluronic acid and genistein.
The first compound beans are uniquely rich in is a compound called hyaluronic acid (Hyaluronic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, HA) which is one of the most important ingredients for youthful skin, especially for dewy, moisturised skin that is full, plump, and voluminous.
As one researcher notes, “Naturally found in the body, hyaluronic acid secures moisture and creates fullness—youthful skin naturally abounds with hyaluronic acid . . . Interestingly, the average human has approximately 15 grams of hyaluronan (hyaluronic acid) in the body, one-third of which is ‘turned over’ (degraded and synthesized) every day.”14
Where hyaluronic acid is crucially important is for the moisture content in the skin as HA helps trap and hold moisture in our skin to keep it youthful.
This is important because our skin loses moisture quite significantly as we age, which affects the elasticity of the skin and leads to wrinkling and sagging. Because hyaluronic acid helps skin to hold in moisture, it is very important for that younger, dewy-looking skin we all crave.
In a 2014 study, Kawada et. al. found that “ingested HA increased skin moisture and improved treatment outcomes for patients with dry skin” . . . and “contributes to the increased synthesis of HA and promotes cell proliferation in fibroblasts.”15
The beans richest in hyaluronic acid are baked beans, kidney beans, and butter beans. All of these types of beans can help replace the loss of this acid in the skin. As Nicky Hambleton-Jones from the TV show 10 Years Younger TV explains, “When we’re born our skin is pumped full of this and it makes it look plump and smooth. As you age levels fall, but eating plenty of beans can help replace it.”16
Beans and legumes are also rich in another collagen-promoting agent called genistein. Genistein is an isoflavone that promotes collagen production and blocks enzymes that break down collagen as well. Legumes like fava beans, soybeans, and kudzu, in particular, are rich in genistein.17
Nuts and seeds: snack your way younger
The nutrients most necessary for collagen production, which are copper, zinc, B vitamins, vitamin A, vitamin C, essential fatty acids such as the Omega 3s and healthy forms of Omega 6 (and 9), and vitamin E—are found most plentifully in nuts and seeds. Nuts like walnuts and almonds and seeds like sunflower, flax, and chia seeds are collagen-promoting powerhouses for taut, bouncy, youthful skin. Although basically all nuts and seeds contain collagen promoting nutrients, none are as important for collagen synthesis as the following four, which contain special complexes of amino acids and nutrients that super-enhance collagen production.
Almonds are packed with nutrients that support collagen production such as healthy monounsaturated fats, copper, zinc, vitamin B1, B5, B6, calcium, and vitamin E.
Chia seeds are an amazing nutrient-dense food, boasting more Omega 3s than fatty fish and more iron than meat! They are also wonderful for collagen promotion because they contain all 9 of the amino acids we need for growth and repair of all the tissues in the body and are especially important for collagen repair and production.
Although we don’t recommend eating the hull because it can puncture the gut lining, the meat within the carbohydrate-rich shell of sunflower seeds is a wonderful source of minerals which are crucial for the protection and production of collagen such as zinc, copper, and magnesium. Combined with the seed’s rich store of essential fatty acids, sunflower seed meat delivers these hard-to-get trace minerals directly into your cells for easy absorption.
As we are learning, walnuts are one of the healthiest nuts on earth because they are so rich in hard to find DHA and EPA. They are also rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that are crucial for the protection of collagen and collagen synthesis. They are also packed with protein and amino acids which help promote the production of new collagen.
To fight back against collagen loss, try eating a diet rich in more embryonic foods. Not only will these foods help promote fresher more youthful looking skin; they will slow ageing as well. Research is only scratching the surface of the full potential of embryonic foods to help us slow collagen loss and stay more youthful looking for longer.
References and Sources:
- Healthy Mixer. (2016). The intriguing benefits of buwa coconut embryo. http://healthymixer.com/intriguing-benefits-buwa-coconut-embryo/
- Murad Blog. (2014). Collagen and elastin: the skin’s youth proteins. https://www.murad.com/blog/collagen-elastin-the-skins-youth-proteins/
- Dr. Axe. Egg collagen benefits your joints and skin. https://draxe.com/egg-collagen/
- Murad. Ibid.
- Richards, M. P., et. al. (2003). Sulphur isotopes in palaeodietary studies: a review and results from a controlled feeding experiment. International Journal of Osteoarchaeology. 13: 37–45. https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/9821/ff7e1c326b13354799de3dcad24a328e876c.pdf
- Wong, M., t. al. (1984). Collagen in the egg shell membranes of the hen. Developmental Biology. 104(1):28-36. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/6203793
- Yamauchi, K., Matsumoto, Y., and Yamauchi, K. (2016). Egg collagen content is increased by a diet supplemented with wood charcoal powder containing wood vinegar liquid. British Poultry Science. 57(5): 601-611. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27376436
8. Yoo, J. H., et. al. (2015). Effects of Egg Shell Membrane Hydrolysates on UVB-radiation- induced Wrinkle Formation in SKH-1 Hairless Mice.Korean Journal of Food Science and Animal Resources. 35(1):58-70.
- Laymen’s Medical Reference. Sulfur: Health benefits and deficiency.http://www.healthpedian.org/sulfur-health-benefits-and-deficiency/
- Rastegar, F., et. al. (2011). The effect of egg yolk oil in the healing of third degree burn wound in rats. Iran Red Crescent Medical Journal. 13(10): 739–743. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3371884/
- James, M. How to naturally increase collagen production in the skin. http://natural-alternative-therapies.com/how-to-increase-collagen-production/
- Tengrup, I., et. al. (1981). Influence of zinc on synthesis and the accumulation of collagen in early granulation tissue. Surgical Gynecology. 152(3):323-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7466582
- Rauta, S., et. al. (2012). Lecithin organogel: A unique micellar system for the delivery of bioactive agents in the treatment of skin aging. Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica B. 2(1): 8-15. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2211383511001079
- Ella Vonne. Beauty from Within. Benefits of hyaluronic acid.http://organicbeautyandskin.com/what-is-my-skin-type/benefits-of-hyaluronic-acid.html
- Kawada, et. al. (2014). Ingested hyaluronan moisturizes dry skin. Nutrient Journal. 13: 70. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4110621/
- 10 foods you must eat to fight wrinkles. http://www.wilsons-ha.co.uk/article.php?id=2035
- Schmid, Dr. Daniel. (2008). Use of soy isoflavones for stimulation of skin collagen synthesis.
https://mibellebiochemistry.com/app/uploads/2015/03/Lipobelle- Soyaglycone_Use_of_Soy_Isoflavones_for_Stimulation_of_Skin_Collagen_Synthesis_C osmeticsDesign_Feb_2008.pdf