Few foods compare to bone broth in their ability to nourish the body, heal the gut, and comfort the soul…BUT, is bone broth good for bone health?
I’ll cover what the research says about bone broth plus how to make your own and a whole lot more, including:
What is bone broth?
What nutrients are in bone broth?
Health benefits of bone broth?
Is bone broth good for bone health?
How to make the best bone broth?
How to store bone broth?
How to use bone broth?
Where to get bone broth if you don’t want to make it?
What is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is one of the most nourishing, enjoyable superfoods of our ancestors. It’s made by simmering a variety of animal bones, skin, and connective tissue for anywhere from 24-72 hours.
This slow simmering over a long period of time helps bones and connective tissue release their minerals, collagen, amino acids, and other nutrients into the liquid broth.
How its prepared, length of simmering, and which bones you use all influence the nutritional profile of your broth.
What nutrients are in Bone Broth?
Collagen makes up about one third of the protein in our bodies and is the main component of our bones, skin, tendons, cartilage, and ligaments. It’s needed for the growth and repair of cells and tissues in our body.
Collagen comes in many different types, with the most common found in bone broth being:
Type I – from beef hide, bones and tissues, fish skin, eggs
Type II – from chicken bones and tissues
Type III – from beef hide, bones and tissues, eggs
By using a variety of bones, skins, and tissues, you can increase the types of collagen in your broth.
Gelatin is the byproduct of simmering collagen rich tissues for extended periods of time. This is what gives cooled bone broth its Jell-O like jiggle. Gelatin contains a variety of amino acids and is known for aiding in digestive, joint, and skin health among others.
GAGs are a type of complex carbohydrate that support and maintain collagen. They help collagen and elastin (found in our skin) retain moisture, and they work with other proteins to create lubrication for our joints in the form of synovial fluid.1
Glycine is the primary amino acid found in collagen. It acts as an important neurotransmitter in our nervous system and may have the potential to dampen inflammation, protect the liver, and promote effective sleep among other benefits.2 3
Proline is the second most abundant amino acid in collagen. It works in conjunction with glycine to synthesize collagen and helps support wound healing.4
Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in human blood and skeletal muscles and is also found in collagen. One of its most important roles is to serve as a primary fuel source for enterocytes, the cells lining our intestines.5
Bones are a rich source of minerals including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, copper, zinc, potassium, and sodium. In order to extract these minerals from the bones so they end up in your bone broth, you’ll want to use an acidic medium like apple cider vinegar. ¼ cup per gallon of filtered water should do.
Health Benefits of Bone Broth?
While there’s little actual research on the benefits of bone broth specifically, there is research supporting the benefits of bone broth’s constituent parts. And research aside, if you’ve ever incorporated bone broth into your diet for even a short period of time, you can likely attest to some of the benefits below:
1. Helps to heal and maintain the lining of your intestines.
Our intestines are lined with a single layer of epithelial cells which are covered in a thick mucousal barrier. This barrier is one of our first lines of defense against toxins, pathogens, and undigested proteins. The gelatin and glutamine found in bone broth can help maintain this important barrier, aiding in the prevention of “leaky gut” (better known as intestinal permeability).6 7
2. Reduces inflammation
Glutamine has been shown to exert anti-inflammatory properties by positively influencing inflammatory signaling pathways, including Nuclear Factor Kappa B (NF-κB).8 NF-κB is a protein found in every cell of the body that can induce the expression of pro-inflammatory genes.9 As it relates to bon health and osteoporosis, anything we can do to reduce inflammation (which can increase bone breakdown) is a positive.
3. Promotes Healthy Skin
Components within bone broth have been shown to benefit skin in a few ways. Collagen has been shown to improve skin elasticity and moisture content.10 Plus, collagen and GAG’s are found in large amounts underneath the dermis (skin layer). Consuming bone broth could help support these skin layers.
4. Improves Sleep Quality
The glycine in bone broth has been shown in studies to aid in helping people fall asleep and achieve deeper sleep.11 Ending your evening with a mug of warm bone broth may help.
5. Could Aid In Weight Loss
Bone broth is a low carb, protein-rich drink that is a great way to break a fast or use as a meal substitute. I usually enjoy a warm mug every morning. The gelatin found in bone broth is also incredibly satiating and can provide feelings of fullness without sacrificing nutrients.12
6. Improves Joint Health
Proline and glycine, two of the amino acids found in bone broth, are used by your body to build its own connective tissues (tendons and ligaments). An abundant supply helps to maintain and rebuild these tissues. Bone broth also contains glucosamine and chondroitin, which has been shown in studies to decrease joint pain and relieve osteoarthritis symptoms.13
7. Better Digestion
Glycine helps stimulate stomach acid which breaks down protein.14 In addition to breaking down proteins, we need sufficient stomach acid to absorb certain bone healthy nutrients like vitamin B12, vitamin C, calcium, iron, and magnesium. 15 Glycine is also an important component of bile acid, which is needed to help break down fats.16
Digestive issues could be a contributing factor to your osteoporosis, and it’s one of the important topics I touch on in my Stronger Bones Masterclass.
Is Bone Broth Good For Bone Health?
While I’d love to be able to say definitively “yes, bone broth is good for bone health,” I can’t.
There is no research showing how bone broth specifically directly impacts your bone health or bone building efforts.
Does a lack of research on bone broth mean it won’t confer its health-promoting properties upon you?
Could your bones still benefit from the individual nutrients found in bone broth?
I think yes.
And I think it’s a worthy addition to your diet.
How to Make The Best Bone Broth?
What you’ll need (kitchen supplies)
Mason Jars (optional)
What you’ll need (ingredients)
2-5 lbs of bones (marrow, knuckles, joints, and feet). Sources can include beef, chicken, veal, fish, wild game, bison, and more.
Apple Cider Vinegar (organic, raw, unfiltered)
Vegetables – carrots, onions, mushrooms, garlic, celery, herbs and spices (optional)
How To Make Bone Broth Step-By-Step
1. Gather together your favorite bones.
This includes marrow, knuckles, joints, and feet. Nutrient-dense and collagen-rich broths use a mixture of bones. Chicken feet especially are a rich source of gelatin and are relatively inexpensive. Make sure you know the source of your bones. Ideally they’ll be from organic, grass-fed, pastured, and free-range animals that weren’t administered hormones or antibiotics.
2. Roast the bones in the oven at 425 degrees for 60 minutes. (Optional. Can skip if short on time or prefer not to)
Turn/flip the bones halfway through. This will brown the bones and enhance the flavor of your broth. Use a stainless steel roasting sheet or pan in this step. The reason: aluminum follows the same pathways as calcium to be deposited into our bones. When you scrape your pan to get all those flavorful brown bits, you don’t want to scratch off any aluminum into your broth.
3. Add your bones to your slow cooker or stock pot.
Be sure to scrape up and add the brown bits, juices and fat from the roasting pan.
4. Add your vegetables (optional).
Onions, garlic, carrots, celery, herbs and spices. Just a few for flavor.
5. Fill your stock pot or slow cooker with filtered water.
Make sure the water covers and submerges the bones.
6. Add 1 Tbsp of sea salt for every gallon of water.
7. Add ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar for every gallon of water.
8. Let simmer for 24-72 hours.
9. When broth is done, use your tongs to remove the bones and set aside in a glass bowl.
10. Use a strainer to strain your broth in a separate glass bowl
To avoid lifting a heavy pot of hot broth and pouring it over your strainer, use a ladle.
11. Once strained, transfer your broth to glass mason jars.
Use a ladle to transfer to the glass mason jars (or other glass container) for storage in the refrigerator.
12. (Optional) To compress time, this process can also be done in a pressure cooker.
How to Store Bone Broth?
If you plan to consume your bone broth within 5 days, it’s okay to store it in the refrigerator.
Note: If you want to save broth for any time after 5 days, you’ll want to let the broth cool completely and then store small (8-12oz.) portions in ziploc freezer bags. These frozen bags will keep for up to 6 months.
Use your ladle to spoon the broth into individual wide mouth mason jars.
Wait until the broth has cooled. Then, put the lid on and place the jars in the refrigerator.
After the broth has been in the refrigerator overnight, you’ll notice a layer of fat on top of the broth. This is completely normal. The fat layer actually helps to keep your broth fresh.
When you’re ready to drink your broth, you can use a knife to remove the layer of fat.
Don’t throw the fat away! You can store it in the refrigerator and use it for cooking later on. You can use it for cooking eggs and sautéing vegetables.
How to use Bone Broth?
Bone broth can be used as the base for vegetable-rich soups.
Simply swap in bone broth for any recipe that calls for a vegetable stock or even chicken (or other) stock.
It can also be used on its own and sipped straight out of a mug.
Empty one of the bone broth mason jars into a small pot on the stove. Heat it on low.
Pour it into your favorite mug (other than pictures and memories, mugs are probably the only thing I collect when I travel). Sip and enjoy!
Where to get bone broth if you don’t want to make it?
Homemade bone broth is hard to beat—especially from a nutritional perspective. But, if you don’t have the time or desire to prepare it, you still have options.
Most stores sell shelf stable bone broths. You can tell a broth from a stock by looking at the protein content. Broth will typically have close to 10g of protein for an 8 oz. serving. Stock will have almost none.
If you’re going to buy shelf stable, you want broth over stock.
For the most part, though, I’m not a big fan of shelf stable broths, with the exception of Kettle & Fire brand.
Look for bone broth in the freezer section. A great brand is Bonafide which can be found at Whole Foods, Walmart, and even local grocery stores.
Bonafide has free-range chicken and grass-fed beef broths. It’s about $10 for 24 ounces.
You can also have frozen broths delivered straight to your door (Osso Good Bone Broth is an example) as a subscription service.
How else can you get collagen in your diet?
Collagen peptides are a great way to add additional collagen, amino acids, and protein to your diet, especially if consuming bone broth is a challenge.
Two great options:
Fortibone (which actually has a study behind it for bone health)
While collagen peptides won’t have all the same benefits as bone broth, it still makes a great addition to the diet… both are loaded with nutrients, health-promoting properties, and will nourish your body. Enjoy!
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1 – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1074552105000426 2 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16095452 3 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29559876 4 – https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/147/11/2011/4743236 5 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5454963 6 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4040816/ 7 – https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00726-014-1773-4 8 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5454963/ 9 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5661633/ 10 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23949208 11 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4397399/ 12 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18319637 13 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25589511 14 – https://www.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/ajplegacy.19126.96.36.199 15 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4110863/ 16 – http://www.biochemj.org/content/174/2/621
1 – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1074552105000426
2 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16095452
3 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29559876
4 – https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/147/11/2011/4743236
5 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5454963
6 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4040816/
7 – https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00726-014-1773-4
8 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5454963/
9 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5661633/
10 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23949208
11 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4397399/
12 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18319637
13 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25589511
14 – https://www.physiology.org/doi/abs/10.1152/ajplegacy.19188.8.131.52
15 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4110863/
16 – http://www.biochemj.org/content/174/2/621
The information shared above is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical or nutrition therapy advice; it does not diagnose, treat or cure any disease, condition; it is not to be used as a replacement or substitute for medical advice provided by physicians and trained medical professionals. If you are under the care of a healthcare professional or are currently using prescription medications, you should discuss any dietary and lifestyle changes or potential dietary supplements use with your doctor. You should not discontinue any prescription medications without first consulting your doctor.
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