For thousands of years, there have been traditional foods like fermented vegetables and cultured dairy that have been touted for their health benefits, but one common healing food that is now being recognized for its incredible health benefits is bone broth. It’s so trendy that it’s a staple of the Paleo diet, bone broth supplements are common, and even bone broth shops exist now.
Indeed, bone broth benefits are numerous and extensive. To make it even better, there are many different kinds of bone broths (chicken, beef, fish, powder and more) that you can make, all bringing new health benefits of bone broth to the table.
With that in mind, let me share a few ancient secrets with you on what makes bone broth so remarkable, including its health benefits and nutrition facts.
What Is Bone Broth?
Chicken soup isn’t just good for the soul. There’s a reason that it’s prescribed by doctors and mothers alike when you feel under the weather.
All bone broths — beef, chicken, fish, lamb and more — are staples in the traditional diets of every culture and the basis of all fine cuisine. They’re also now a staple in the Paleo diet and the keto diet.
That’s because bone broths are nutrient-dense, easy to digest, rich in flavor and boost healing.
Bone broth or stock was a way our ancestors made use of every part of an animal. Bones and marrow, skin and feet, tendons and ligaments that you can’t eat directly can be boiled and then simmered over a period of days.
This simmering causes the bones and ligaments to release healing compounds like collagen, proline, glycine and glutamine that have the power to transform your health.
Why is bone broth good for you? Nutrition researchers Sally Fallon and Kaayla Daniel of the Weston A. Price Foundation explain that bone broths contain minerals in forms that your body can easily absorb:
- and others
A study of chicken soup (broth) conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center wondered what it was in the soup that made it so beneficial for colds and flu. Researchers found that the amino acids that were produced when making chicken stock reduced inflammation in the respiratory system and improved digestion.
Also, research shows it can also boost the immune system and help overcome disorders like allergies, asthma and arthritis.
But it’s important to understand that most store-bought “stock” and “broth” today aren’t bone broth or, in some cases, even made from animals. Instead, companies use lab-produced meat flavors in bouillon cubes, soup and sauce mixes.
What is bone broth good for? Here are some of the benefits of drinking bone broth for health:
1. Protects Joints
Bone broth is one of world’s best sources of natural collagen, the protein found in vertebrae animals — in their bones, skin, cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bone marrow. As we get older, our joints naturally experience wear and tear, and we become less flexible.
Why does that matter? As we age, cartilage diminishes as it gets attacked by antibodies (age-related degradation of joint cartilage). As bone broth simmers, collagen from the animal parts leaches into the broth and becomes readily absorbable to help restore cartilage.
One of the most valuable components of bone broth stock is gelatin. Gelatin acts like a soft cushion between bones that helps them “glide” without friction.
It also provides us with building blocks that are needed to form and maintain strong bones. This helps take pressure off of aging joints and supports healthy bone mineral density.
Research done by the Department of Nutrition and Sports Nutrition for Athletics at Penn State University found that when athletes supplemented with collagen over the course of 24 weeks, the majority showed significant improvements in joint comfort and a decrease in factors that negatively impacted athletic performance. This shows how powerful bone broth collagen can be.
2. Boosts Gut Health
Studies show that gelatin is beneficial for restoring strength of the gut lining and fighting food sensitivities (such as to wheat or dairy). It also helps with the growth of probiotics (good bacteria) in the gut and supports healthy inflammation levels in the digestive tract.
A report published in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology indicates that gelatin effectively supports intestinal health and integrity. Plus, it displayed anti-inflammatory effects and is able to inhibit cytokines.
Bone broth stock is easily digested and soothing to the digestive system, unlike many other foods, which can be difficult to fully break down. After all, a food is really only useful if we have the means of absorbing its nutrients.
Studies have displayed that in individuals with digestive imbalances, serum concentrations of collagen are decreased. Because the amino acids in collagen build the tissue that lines the colon and entire gastrointestinal tract, supplementing with collagen can support healthy digestive function.
3. Maintains Healthy Skin
Collagen helps form elastin and other compounds within skin that are responsible for maintaining skin’s youthful tone, texture and appearance. Collagen integrity is accredited with helping reduce the visible signs of wrinkles, decreasing puffiness and fighting various other signs of aging.
Many people report a decrease in cellulite when consuming foods and supplements containing collagen, since cellulite forms due to a lack of connective tissue, allowing skin to lose its firm tone.
Double-blind, placebo-controlled studies investigating the age-defending properties of collagen have indicated that 2.5–5 grams of collagen hydrolysate used among women aged 35–55 once daily for eight weeks supports skin elasticity, skin moisture, transepidermal water loss (dryness) and skin roughness.
At the end of only four weeks, those using collagen showed a statistically significant improvement in comparison to those using a placebo with regard to skin moisture and skin evaporation, plus noticeable decreases in signs of accelerated aging, all with little to no side effects.
4. Supports Immune System Function
One of the most remarkable things about bone broth is its gut-supportive benefits, which as described above actually have a holistic effect on the body and support healthy immune system function.
Leaky gut syndrome occurs when undigested particles from foods seep through tiny openings in the weakened intestinal lining and enter the bloodstream, where the immune system detects them and becomes hyperactive.
This increases inflammation and leads to dysfunctions all over. The immune system releases high levels of antibodies that cause an autoimmune-like response and attack healthy tissue.
Bone broth is one of the most beneficial foods to consume to restore gut health and therefore support immune system function and healthy inflammation response. Collagen/gelatin and the amino acids proline, glutamine and arginine help seal these openings in the gut lining and support gut integrity.
Traditionally made bone broths are believed to support healthy inflammatory response and normal immune system function. Bone broth can even promote healthy sleep, boost energy during the day and support a healthy mood.
5. Boosts Detoxification
Today in the Western world, the average person is exposed to an array of environmental toxins, pesticides, artificial ingredients and chemicals of all sorts. While the human body has its own means of detoxifying itself from heavy metals and other toxic exposures, it often has a hard time keeping up when flooded with an overwhelming amount of chemicals.
Bone broth is considered a powerful detoxification agent since it helps the digestive system expel waste and promotes the liver’s ability to remove toxins. It also helps maintain tissue integrity and improves the body’s use of antioxidants.
Bone broth stock contains potassium and glycine, which support both cellular and liver detoxification. Some of the ways in which bone broth boosts detoxification is by supplying sulfur (especially when you add veggies, garlic and herbs to your broth) and glutathione, which is a phase II detoxification agent that lowers oxidative stress.
A review published in the Scientific World Journal shows that glutathione helps with elimination of fat-soluble compounds, especially heavy metals like mercury and lead. It also helps with the absorption of various nutrients, the use of antioxidants and with liver-cleansing functions.
Bone broth also increases intake of essential minerals, which act like chelators to remove toxins by stopping heavy metals from attaching to mineral receptor sites.
6. Aids the Metabolism and Promotes Anabolism
Amino acids found in bone broth stock have numerous metabolic roles, including:
- building and repairing muscle tissue
- supporting bone mineral density
- boosting nutrient absorption and synthesis
- and maintaining muscle and connective tissue health
Glycine found within collagen helps form muscle tissue by converting glucose into useable energy.
Plus, it slows cartilage, tissue and muscle loss associated with aging by improving the body’s use of antioxidants. Studies reveal that glycine protects skeletal muscle loss and stops the expression of genes associated with age-related muscle protein breakdown.
Glutamine is another amino acid that’s important for a healthy metabolism. It helps us maintain energy by sending nutrients, including nitrogen, to our cells.
Arginine also has the role of breaking down nitric oxide that helps improve circulation and sends blood and nutrients to cells throughout the body. It improves muscle and tissue integrity and promotes normal wound healing.
In addition, these nutrients provide potential to use bone broth for weight loss.
Types of Bone Broth
To get bone broth benefits, you can make it yourself at home. If you don’t want to spend that time or effort, you can also purchase protein powder made from bone broth.
It’s a very popular supplement (with many different flavors) that can be used in smoothies, baked goods and more — and there are plenty of bone broth protein benefits.
To make beef bone broth properly at home and get optimal beef bone broth benefits, you need to get grass-fed bones from your local farmers market or from an online health food store. For a chicken bone broth, simply use the carcass and bones from your already cooked chicken to get chicken bone broth benefits. You can also use chicken feet and more if you can get those animal parts.
How to Make It
Wondering how to make bone broth? There are a few important basics to consider when making good stock.
You can make bone broth with animal components alone, but studies show that the combination of animal products and vegetables seem to have synergistic effects, working together to be more beneficial than either alone.
Experts say that for a quality bone broth recipe, it’s important to use body parts that aren’t commonly found in the meat department of your grocery store — things like chicken feet and neck.
You also want to buy animal products that you know are pasture-fed and free of antibiotics and hormones in order to truly unlock all the bone broth benefits.
For the classic bone broth recipe, Fallon describes the essentials as bones, fat, meat, vegetables and water. If you’re making beef broth or lamb broth, you should brown any of the leftover meat or organ meat before putting it into a stock pot.
Beef bones don’t need to be cooked beforehand. Fish and poultry (chicken or turkey) are fine to put in a pot without browning first. Add a bit of apple cider vinegar to your pot to help draw the minerals from the bones.
Bone broth stock could be called “nature’s multivitamin.” How so exactly? Bone broth nutrition is packed with:
- over 19 easy-to-absorb, essential amino acids and nonessential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins)
- collagen/gelatin, which help form connective tissue
- nutrients that support digestive functions, immunity and brain health
Did you get that? Bone broth benefits literally every part of your body, from your gut to your brain, muscles and ligaments.
It’s also relatively low in calories, yet very high in minerals and other chemical compounds that many people lack. There’s no doubt that bone broth makes a great everyday addition to your diet.
Here are six of the key nutrients in bone broth that help provide all these wonderful bone broth benefits — all for little bone broth calories.
1. Glycosaminoglycans (GAGs)
Glycosaminoglycans have the primary role of maintaining and supporting collagen and elastin that take up the spaces between bones and various fibers. Research highlights that GAGs are supportive for digestive health since they help restore the intestinal lining. This is why a deficiency in these nutrients is linked to digestive challenges.
Several important GAGs are found in bone broth, including glucosamine, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin sulfate.
There are two main types of naturally occurring glucosamine: hydrochloride and sulfate. Both help keep up the integrity of cartilage, which is the rubbery substance within joints that acts like a natural cushion.
Studies show that glucosamine can become depleted as we get older, so supplements are often used to support joint health.
An easy and relatively inexpensive way to obtain glucosamine naturally is from drinking more bone broth. Bone broth helps support the loss of cartilage health, acting as an alternative to pricey glucosamine supplements.
Consuming more glucosamine can help support joint health, flexibility and comfort.
3. Hyaluronic Acid
Found throughout connective, epithelial (skin) and neural tissues, hyaluronic acid contributes to cell proliferation, differentiation and mitigation. This allows our cells to perform various functions throughout the body as needed.
Studies evaluating skin health show that it offers support for multiple skin types and promotes healthy aging, cell rejuvenation and skin firmness.
4. Chondroitin Sulfate
Chondroitin sulfate is a beneficial glycosaminoglycan found in the cartilage within the joints of all animals. It’s often used to support joint health and comfort, especially in combination with glucosamines.
5. Minerals and Electrolytes
Bone broth provides essential minerals, including electrolytes, all provided in an easy-to-absorb form. Electrolytes found within bone broth include calcium, magnesium and potassium (not to mention many other minerals, such as phosphorus).
These are important for supporting healthy circulation, bone density, nerve signaling functions, heart health and digestive health.
When added sodium levels are kept low, bone broth contains an ideal balance of sodium and potassium to support cellular health and efficiency and prevent electrolyte imbalance.
Collagen is the main structural protein found within the human body that helps form connective tissue and “seals” the protective lining of the gastrointestinal tract. It’s also the gel-like, smooth structure that covers and holds our bones together, allowing us to glide and move freely.
Irritation within the gut impairs normal digestive functions and causes permeability, allowing particles to pass into the bloodstream, known as leaky gut.
As a rich source of gelatin, bone broth protects and seals the mucosal lining of the GI tract. That means it improves nutrient absorption and also helps keep particles from leaching out where they shouldn’t be.
7. Amino Acids
Conditional amino acids are those classified as nonessential amino acids that are essential under some conditions. You don’t produce them very well if you are ill or stressed.
Kaayla Daniel of the Weston A. Price Foundation points out that unhealthy Western diets, heavy on processed carbohydrates, low in quality grass-fed animal products, and devoid of homemade soups and broths, make it likely that these amino acids are fundamentally essential.
Talk about some incredible bone broth benefits! For these reasons, I have most of my patients consume bone broth as a partial fast, detox or during meals to help heal their guts and detoxify their cells, gut and liver.
How to Use
So once you’re done making bone broth or you’ve purchased a high-quality broth, what should you do with it?
You can, of course, make soups and other recipes with bone broth, including chicken soup, beef soup, bone marrow soup, and an array of other bone soup and other recipes.
And with the popularity of bone broth these days, supplements are now available. Bone broth is available in powder and capsule forms.
You can use powders to make savory bone broth dishes or nutritious smoothies — it’s easy and eliminates the cooking process. It’s now sometimes used in protein coffee recipes.
How much bone broth should you drink per day? I recommend consuming eight ounces one to two times daily as a bone broth soup, a plain beverage or doing a bone broth fast to get all these wonderful bone broth benefits.
You can even embark on a bone broth diet plan. I typically drink eight ounces upon waking every morning and recommend drinking bone broth daily.
Risks and Side Effects
There are a ton of store-bought bone broth options on the market today, but be aware that they’re not all created equal. Be sure to purchase real bone broth from a reputable company, not one that’s simply made with meat flavorers.
If you are opting for bone broth supplements, you’ll want to make sure they are properly sourced — without antibiotics and other additives.
The bottom line, the best bone broth is often made at home.
- Bone broth is rich in minerals that support the immune system and contains healing compounds like collagen, glutamine, glycine and proline. The best part is you can make broth right at home and take advantage of bone broth health benefits.
- The collagen in bone broth helps heal your gut lining and reduces intestinal inflammation. Also, the glycine in bone broth can detoxify your cells from chemicals and improve brain function.
- It is so healthy that bone broth for dogs can even be beneficial.
- Making bone broth at home is the best option, but you can also buy a good-quality broth or use bone broth protein powders or capsules for its amazing health benefits.