The Health Benefits of Bone Broth and How To Make and Use It
Bone broth and the bone broth diet have been an internet sensation the last few years, claiming to heal everything from leaky gut to wrinkles. Is there any truth to these claims?
Bone broth does appear to have some data-verified health benefits. When used in the context of an appropriate diet, it supports weight loss and improved cardiometabolic health. Let’s explore what bone broth is, what it can do for you, and how to make your own.
What Is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is essentially broth made by slowly simmering animal bones and joints for 24-36 hours. Bone, joint, and cartilage tissue is naturally rich in collagen, gelatin, minerals, and the amino acids L-glycine, L-proline, and L-glutamine. When bones and joints are slow-cooked, these nutrients dissolve into the bone broth so you can eat them and enjoy their benefits.
You can make your own bone broth at home or buy it at your local grocery store. The two most common commercial bone broths are chicken bone broth and beef bone broth, but bone broth can be made from any animal bones, including fish.
Drinking bone broth has become popular with the paleo diet principle of eating “nose-to-tail” as a strategy for getting the most nutrient-dense foods possible. Is bone broth the superfood it’s been made out to be? Let’s explore the nutrition profile and health benefits of bone broth.
What Is the Bone Broth Diet?
The 21-day bone broth diet is a modified intermittent fasting diet protocol popularized by Dr. Kellyann Petrucci in her book, Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet. The diet asks you to include two bone broth fasting days per week. On those days, you eat only broth. On the other five days, you eat a low-carb, whole food, paleo diet plan.
This 21-day plan is rich in healthy fats, veggies, and whole foods like avocados and low in sweeteners or added sugars. Like the keto diet and paleo diet, it’s gluten-free and is intended to improve metabolic health, cardiovascular health, and to support weight loss. Low-carb diets like the paleo diet have been shown to provide these types of health benefits [1, 2, 3]. The GAPS diet also relies heavily on bone broth fasting during the elimination phase.
Health Benefits of Bone Broth
There aren’t yet a lot of direct studies on the health benefits of bone broth, but there are studies demonstrating the value of the individual components of bone broth. Let’s explore what we know about how bone broth elements can support your health.
Gut Health Benefits of Collagen from Bone Broth
Collagen is one of the main beneficial elements of bone broth. Collagen is a group of proteins that are a significant portion of the connective tissue of mammals. It’s been used as a supplement for skin, hair, nail, and gut health. Collagen is composed of gelatin and many amino acids, primarily including glycine, glutamic acid, and proline . High-quality human trials show collagen improves skin elasticity and moisture [5, 6, 7].
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the dose of collagen in bone broth varies widely depending on the preparation method and is usually less than the amount used in studies. So it may be difficult to presume that drinking bone broth will provide the same benefits as collagen supplementation.
We have preliminary data (from animal and cell studies), which suggest that collagen may provide some gut-healing benefits.A study of human cells showed that collagen peptides significantly decreased intestinal permeability (leaky gut) , which occurs in many digestive system disorders [9, 10].
Another study showed glutamic acid improved intestinal permeability in pigs , and rats given L-glycine prevented ulcers . More research may illuminate this further in the future, but as long as it’s looked at reasonably, bone broth appears to be a good source of collagen, gelatin, and amino acids that are likely beneficial for your gut lining.
Anti-Inflammatory Health Benefits of Bone Broth
While a single food generally isn’t responsible for a dramatic inflammation reduction, bone broth is one important ingredient in an anti-inflammatory, whole foods diet because it’s high in the amino acid glycine. Along with eating a diet rich in grass-fed meat, poultry, and fish, fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds, glycine-rich bone broth can support the reduction of inflammation.
One benefit of glycine may lie in its ability to improve LPS symptoms. Bacterial overgrowth can lead to high levels of lipopolysaccharides (LPS), which can damage the lining of your gut and trigger intestinal inflammation, gut permeability, and immune system activation . LPS toxicity has even been associated with the inflammation that causes cardiovascular disease .
In one animal study, glycine was shown to reduce injury in the intestines from LPS . A cell line study demonstrated that gelatin reduced inflammatory cytokines in cells that were exposed to LPS . These data are preliminary, but we can cautiously infer that glycine can help reduce inflammation.
Weight Loss on a Bone Broth Diet
The 21-day bone broth diet is a modified intermittent fasting routine, with five days on a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet followed by two days of bone broth fasting. Intermittent fasting has been shown to lead to small improvements in blood sugar levels, insulin levels, cardio-metabolic markers, and to encourage people to lose weight . While simply adding bone broth to your diet is unlikely to lead to significant weight loss, using bone broth as part of an intermittent fasting regime may encourage minor weight loss.
Sleep Benefits of Bone Broth
Bone broth is naturally high in L-glycine, which has been shown in studies to improve sleep. Glycine inhibits neurotransmitters and is an essential amino acid that we need to partially acquire from our diet . According to one study, 3 grams of glycine consumed before bedtime shortened the time it took to fall asleep and improved overall sleep . Another study has made this association as well . If you struggle with insomnia or falling asleep, you might drink bone broth before bed for a simple, non-toxic sleep aid.
Bone Broth as a Source of Minerals
Bone is said to contain minerals, but the available data suggest that amounts of minerals like calcium and magnesium are very low. The cooking time and (especially) cooking method can affect the mineral yield in bone broth, even with optimal cooking methods .
Longer cooking time yields not only more minerals but also more collagen . For this reason, home-cooked bone broths likely have more nutrition than commercially made bone broths, but purchasing bone broth is often more convenient.
Where To Find Bone Broth
The easiest way to find bone broth is to make it at home with whole poultry carcasses or grass-fed meat soup bones (see recipe below). But if you aren’t interested in cooking your own broth, bone broth is easily found at your local grocery, health food store, or online from suppliers like Amazon. Companies known for their bone broth include Kettle and Fire and Pacific Foods. You can also try bone broth protein powder from Ancient Nutrition.
Make Your Own Bone Broth
Homemade bone broth is simple to make, but it does require a time investment. The stovetop or slow-cooker method requires at least 24-36 hours of simmering. You can reduce this cooking time and get the same quality of broth by using a pressure cooker like the Instant Pot.
To make your own bone broth, you’ll need to start with a good source of bones. A simple choice is to use the carcass of a chicken you roasted or bought pre-cooked. However, you can also buy “soup bones” from your meat counter or butcher.
For the best quality, choose organic bones, and look for bones from free-range, organic poultry or grass-fed beef products, available at your health food or regular grocery store, butcher shops, or farmers’ markets.
You can increase the collagen content in your bone broth by choosing cuts with lots of cartilage and connective tissue, including whole chicken carcasses and beef knucklebones.
Bone Broth Recipe
This recipe is for chicken or beef bone broth. However, you can substitute any type of bone, including fish bones.
- 1 whole chicken carcass or 3-4 lbs of beef bones
- A generous pinch of sea salt
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp sea salt
- Optional: aromatic vegetables and herbs, such as carrots, celery, kale, parsley, and/or cilantro
- Optional: additional seasonings, such as turmeric or chili flakes
Stove Top or Slow Cooker Method
- Place bones in a large pot, Dutch oven, or slow cooker. Add water until bones are completely covered.
- Add apple cider vinegar (this will help drain minerals from the bones) and salt.
- Bring to a boil and turn down the heat to simmer slowly for 24-36 hours.
- Add aromatic vegetables, herbs, and seasonings for the last 6-8 hours of cooking time.
- Turn off heat, allow the broth to cool slightly, and strain out bones and other ingredients.
Pressure Cooker Method
- Place bones in a pressure cooker. Add water until bones are completely covered. Do not exceed the maximum fill line.
- Add apple cider vinegar (this will help drain minerals from the bones) and salt.
- Add aromatic vegetables, herbs, and seasonings.
- Set the pressure cooker to 120 minutes. Allow a natural release.
- Allow the broth to cool slightly, then strain out bones and other ingredients.
The Bottom Line on Bone Broth
Bone broth is a nourishing, delicious addition to your diet and a helpful adjunct to an anti-inflammatory, gut-healing diet. While collagen, glycine, and gelatin content of bone broth can help heal leaky gut, your joints, your skin, and improve your sleep, bone broth is not an impressive source of minerals. Include bone broth in your diet as a nutrient-dense, healing food, or even explore intermittent fasting if you are looking to fast-track weight loss and improve your cardio-metabolic health markers.
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