From a healing soup base to sipping by itself, bone broth has gained much popularity as a trendy superfood. It can be found in many restaurants and new types and flavors in grocery and health food stores.
Bone broth is suggested to offer extensive health benefits largely due to it being a good source of collagen. Some of the more robust and enticing claims of bone broth relate to improved digestion, bone, joint, skin, and muscle health with some claims even to help reduce the appearance of cellulite.
While the health claims and popularity of bone broth are growing, is bone broth all it's cracked up to be? Read on to learn the truth about the benefits of bone broth, collagen, and tips for how to make bone broth.
What Is Bone Broth?
Simply put, bone broth is a combination of water, animal bones, vegetables, and seasonings. There are various types to choose from and make, including chicken, turkey, and beef bone broths.
Though its relative (or stock) is often used interchangeably, the differentiating factor rests mostly in the cooking time and ingredients. Specifically, more animal meat is simmered for an average of three to four hours to produce a stock while the bone broth may be simmered for longer than a 24-hour day.
The longer simmering time is encouraged to release beneficial minerals from the bone and produce collagen from the joints, ultimately contributing to its proclaimed health benefits.
Therefore, bone broth can provide a source of collagen, but stocks typically made from animal meats do not.
Bone Broth Collagen
Bone broth's collagen and amino acid content hold large roles in building and strengthening bones, muscles, skin, and tendons. However, the contents of bone broth do not necessarily directly go to any specific body part.
Instead, the body will dictate the route of digested collagen and protein (and all other nutrients) depending on its foreseeable needs at the time.
Does this mean bone broth collagen is healthy or not? Although health experts remain skeptical, they do believe the totality of bone broth is nonetheless nutritious.
Swapping out innutritious, processed, and packaged convenience foods with a bowl full of bone broth is certainly much more advantageous and may display helpful properties.
8 Bone Broth Benefits
When it really comes down to the health benefits of bone broth, strong evidence supporting health claims is lacking and remains minimal at this time.
Remember, one single food cannot provide all nutrients for health. A balanced diet, not just one single food, will provide the greatest health benefits.
Nonetheless, bone broth's nutritional components may have a role to provide the following benefits tied to bone health and beyond.
1. Bone Health
The thought behind bone broth's role in bone health relates largely to its hopeful bone-strengthening collagen content. Additionally, the leaked minerals during the simmering process may provide an ample supply of calcium.
But substituting calcium-rich foods (including milk and dairy products, leafy greens, and soybeans) for bone broth is mostly discouraged. This especially serves true until more sound evidence is established regarding bone broth's role in bone support.
2. Hydration Source
With bone broth largely composed of water, drinking it can certainly assist in hydration. The electrolytes in the broth can also replenish electrolytes lost through natural body processes of insensible losses and sweat, along with illness-causing vomiting and diarrhea.
Overall, sipping on bone broth can be a nutritious and healing choice when experiencing gastrointestinal sickness.
3. Digestive Health
Consuming bone broth has been suggestive to support digestive health. Its collagen and amino acids are implied to restore the intestinal lining, especially in the presence of a Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease (IBS), and other medical conditions such as leaky gut.
Knowledge and evidence lack regarding leaky gut. However, some experts suggest a compromised intestinal wall and barrier may allow harmful microorganisms to "leak" out from the gut into the bloodstream.
Despite the unknown cause and solidified treatment of leaky gut, individuals often experience symptoms including gas, bloating, and diarrhea. The collagen and amino acid content produced by simmering the bones is suggested to strengthen the intestinal lining, supplementary healing a "leaky gut." Though bone broth may offer assistance in gut healing and health, these quick tips are shown to improve digestion.
The broth is also mentioned to be easily digested, ultimately reducing the risk of unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms, including bloating and gas.
4. Immune Function
A strong immune system is largely dependent on good nutrition. Bone broth has been suggested to strengthen the immune system, mostly related to its high mineral and bone marrow content.
Additionally, sipping on bone broth can be quite soothing if dealing with a pesky cold or sore throat.
5. Joint Health
The link between bone broth and joint health needs further research, and health claims connecting the two may be over-exaggerated.
The thought is bone broth contains glucosamine, a major component of joint cartilage. Some studies show supplementing with glucosamine, largely derived from shells of shellfish or vegetable sources, may help lubricate joints and prevent their breakdown.
Ample glucosamine may also help ease osteoarthritis symptoms. However, it is not known if glucosamine from bone broth can impact joint health in the same way.
6. Muscle Growth and Maintenance
Bone broth contains valuable amino acids, or the building blocks of protein. A cup of bone broth provides about six grams of protein.
To put this in perspective, daily protein recommendations instruct at least 56 grams for men and 46 grams for women per day.
7. Skin Health
Skin health, like bone support, also relies on collagen, as it is the building block for skin and cartilage. Protein and amino acids further support skin structure and are proposed to offer shine and strength to hair and nails.
Collagen from bone broth is thought to benefit skin health by impacting wrinkle depth, elasticity, and hydration of the skin.
8. Cellulite Fighting
Cellulite is a noticeable fat deposit beneath the skin and can last for years or be lifelong. It is characterized by a lumpy, dimpled appearance, mostly noticed on the thighs, hips, buttocks, and belly regions.
Due to its negative associations, most individuals seek out any sort of treatment to improve or eliminate its appearance. If intrigued by the natural remedy, you should take the recommendations cellu-"lightly," as the direct link to the broth is minimal at best. Drinking bone broth will not automatically get rid of cellulite.
What is known, though, is a diet rich in collagen-containing foods can improve the elasticity and integrity of the skin, thus reducing the appearance of cellulite along with wrinkles. The hydration properties of bone broth may also offer moisture to the skin, brightening its appearance.
How to Make Bone Broth
There are many benefits to making soup, including bone broth. Making a homemade bone broth recipe is cost-friendly and the flavors and ingredients can be tailored as desired. Preparing at home is also a good way to cut down on food waste and use up food scraps!
Before making bone broth note that, as mentioned above, it can be a lengthy process. So, make bone broth on a day where it is possible to keep checking the pot for multiple hours. The longer the broth can simmer with the bones, the more nutrients are released into the broth.
WebMD suggests the following steps to make bone broth:
• Fill a large pot with 1 gallon of water.
• Add two to four pounds of animal bones and, optionally, connective tissue.
• Add desired vegetables, salt, and pepper to taste.
• Bring to a boil.
• Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 12 to 24 hours.
Remember to add in plenty of vegetables and herbs to bring out more depth of flavor and provide even more nutrients to the broth.
In Summary: Is Bone Broth Good for You?
While bone broth has been growing in popularity, so have the health claims associated with it. However, even though bone broth can be a nutritious part of a diet, research does not support claims it is a healing agent or able to prevent certain diseases or sicknesses. Rather, it is a healthy addition to a balanced diet. It can also be a soothing comfort food when feeling sick or when digestion is off track.
So should you be drinking bone broth? Most health experts do not see why not, though sipping on bone broth should not be perceived as the holy grail of health.
However, bone broth can support health by getting you in the kitchen for home cooking. Going back-to-basics, combining ingredients in the kitchen can lessen trips to a drive-thru or convenience store. Consuming home-prepared, nutritionally dense foods over purchased, processed items largely assists in health promotion.
Bone broth can be made at home, and doing so may further enhance the nutritional profile of bone broth. Be sure to add plenty of vegetables to the broth to further boost mineral, vitamin, and antioxidant content.
Word of Caution
As with any "health" food, consume bone broth in moderation. Going overboard on bone broth is not without potential risk, albeit more research is needed. Some studies have shown bone broth may be a potentially high source of lead.
As with any food source for contaminants, it will depend on the soil composition, where the animal was living, and the diet of the animal. These factors determine the potential risk for lead or other harmful components in bone broth.
Brennan D. Bone Broth: Health benefits, nutrients, and more. WebMD. Published November 11, 2020. https://www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-bone-broth.
Heid M. Does bone broth really have health benefits? Time. Published January 6, 2016. https://time.com/4159156/bone-broth-health-benefits/.
Kerley C. Drinking bone broth - is it beneficial or just a fad? Center for Nutrition Studies. Published January 2, 2019. https://nutritionstudies.org/drinking-bone-broth-is-it-beneficial-or-just-a-fad/.