The health benefits of bone broth have been heavily touted in recent years. But is it super fad or superfood? It really depends on who you ask. Humans have enjoyed the taste of animal bones simmered in water since prehistoric times, and bone broth has long held a place in traditional medicine. Some say it can have a wide array of health benefits, while others suggest the flavorful liquid is nothing special.
What Is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is a liquid made by simmering animal bones and connective tissue in water. With a couple of other added ingredients, like vinegar, collagen, amino acids, minerals, and other nutrients are drawn from the bone and tissue. When it’s all said and done you’re left with a nutrient-dense liquid that is easy to digest. It can serve as the base for soups, sauces, and gravies, or even stand on its own as a drink.
There is a chance you’ve had it before without even really knowing it. For example, if you are a fan of oxtail stew, you’re getting plenty of bone marrow. Anything you’re cooking slowly that features animal bones and connective tissue is essentially a bone broth.
What’s the Difference between Bone Broth & Regular Stock?
There is not a huge difference between bone broth and regular stock. However, there may be some minor distinctions. Take a look at the table below to see what they are.
Broth vs. Stock
|Generally made with only bones and connective tissue, a little vinegar, and maybe some herbs and onion||Typically made with a greater combination of meat, herbs, and a number of vegetables|
|Simmered for around 10 hours (or up to 24)||Simmered for six to eight hours|
|Subtle flavor||More robust flavor|
|Thin and light consistency||Thicker consistency|
If you accidently buy stock instead of broth at the grocery store, don’t stress it. The difference is not major. And if you’re making it home, it’s unlikely that you can tell the difference. Adding a few extra vegetables, after all, won’t detract from the nutrition.
What Is in Bone Broth?
Some suggest the best bone broth is made with a diverse array of animal bones and tissue. Marrow, knuckles, feet, tail, and other bones are all rich in a number of healthy nutrients that may contribute to some of bone broth’s purported benefits, which include better digestion and immune strength. Its nutritional profile is dependent on three parts and cook time.
Bone: May supply plenty of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, silicon and other valuable minerals.
Marrow: May offer plenty of vitamin A, vitamin K2, omega-3s and -6s, while also offering minerals like zinc, iron, selenium, and manganese.
Connective tissue: A rich source of collagen, glucosamine, and chondroitin.
Of course, the amount of each of these nutrients will depend on the ingredients in your broth and how long it is cooked for. If you’re buying it in the store, read the nutrition label for exact numbers.
The Health Benefits of Bone Broth
Many of bone broth’s benefits are theoretical. There is very little scientific evidence to specifically suggest that bone broth can improve health, but that doesn’t mean that all is lost or that it’s a sham.
What we do know is that many of the nutrients found in bone broth are associated with better health outcomes in a number of areas. Here are a few of the purported benefits.
Greater Immune Strength
A global pandemic with no end in sight has really got people thinking about how to build a stronger immune system. Although bone broth is unlikely to be a decisive tool in immune strength, it might be a helpful one.
Marrow and connective tissue are rich in gelatin, which is a great source of glutamine. Glutamine is an abundant amino acid that may help maintain the strength and integrity of the intestinal wall.
Additional dietary glutamine might help reduce the risk of leaky gut syndrome, a condition that can lead to systemic inflammation and other issues. We have to stop short of saying bone broth is a cure for leaky gut, but there is a chance it might help.
Other nutrients in bone broth have anti-inflammatory capabilities that could promote a healthy immune system.
May Aid Digestion
Bone broth might be a great option for people suffering from digestive issues. It is very easy to digest on its own, and might make other foods more digestible. Some evidence has shown that gelatin might attract and hold liquid, helping food to move through your system a little easier.
Might Promote Joint Health or Reduce Joint Pain
Once again, we’re looking at gelatin as the main driver of a probable bone broth benefit. When marrow and connective tissue is cooked, collagen is drawn out and broken down into gelatin. Gelatin is a rich source of two amino acids central to bone health: proline and glycine. These amino acids help the body build the connective tissue that is required for healthy strong joints.
Bone broth can also contain glucosamine and chondroitin, which are associated with less joint pain and more manageable osteoarthrosis symptoms.
Could Help with Weight Loss
Would it really be a superfood if it didn’t help you lose weight? Not only is bone broth low-calorie, there is evidence that compounds in it might help increase satiety (feeling full) and reducing hunger. Once again, gelatin appears to be the primary catalyst behind these effects.
What to Look for When Buying Bone Broth
Buying bone broth might seem easy, but there are some things to look for to ensure you’re getting collagen-rich, nutrient-dense ingredients.
- Frozen: Frozen bone broth is a good sign. That typically means its flavor and nutrition is locked in and it is free of preservatives or shelf-stabilizers.
- Filler-free: It is free of filler broths like vegetable broth.
- Gel-like: It solidifies or takes on a gel-like texture when refrigerated.
How to Make Bone Broth
Making your own bone broth is pretty easy for those who regularly eat whole animals or bone-in cuts. Just save the bones and other tissue. From there, you will only need a few other ingredients.
If you don’t eat a lot of whole animals, no worries. Simply head to your local butcher and ask for some bones. Some might sell them to you for a small price, while others may be happy to hand them over free of charge.
Once you’ve got your bones, here’s what else you will need: apple cider vinegar and water.
Bone Broth Recipe:
- 2-3 lb. chicken broth
- 1 gallon water (enough to cover contents in large pot)
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 onion (optional)
- 3-5 garlic cloves (optional)
- Dash of salt and pepper (optional)
- Put the bones, onion, and garlic in a large pot.
- Pour water in so it covers everything.
- Add a little salt and pepper, if desired.
- Add vinegar.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer and cover.
- Simmer for 10 to 12 hours, or until liquid has reduced by one-third to one-half.
After you’ve made your bone broth, it can be refrigerated or frozen. You can use it as base for soups or sauce, add it to nutritional shakes, or drink it straight. It’s really up to you!
Is Bone Broth Good for You?
Although there is no research looking specifically at the health benefits of bone broth, it has the potential to supply beneficial nutrients. The serving size of nutrients depends on how long you cook your broth and how many bones and connective tissues are used.
But that doesn’t mean bone broth is the best source of these nutrients, or that it is particularly safe. There is some evidence that chicken bones can be high in lead. You can reduce your chances of potential heavy metal exposure in your bone broth by selecting grass-fed, organic meats and making sure you cook it properly. If those directions are followed and you consume it moderately, it is unlikely to cause harm.
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