The Surprising Health Benefits of Bone Broth

Medically reviewed by Peggy Pletcher, MS, RD, LD, CDE on January 19, 2016Written by Rena Goldman on January 19, 2016
bone broth

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Bone broth is commonly found in African, Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisines. Traditionally, these cultures have used it more for its flavor than for its potential health benefits. But be aware that bone broth is not the same as chicken or beef broth. Chicken or beef broth is made mostly out of meat, while chicken or beef stock is made with bones. This is similar to bone broth.

Recently, Americans have been catching on. Bone broth is quickly becoming a trendy health food in the United States. But is it really all it’s cracked up to be?

Read on to learn more about its health benefits.

What Is Bone Broth?

Bone broth is prepared by cooking animal bones in water for several hours or days. This ensures that the nutrients inside the bones get released into the water. It can be made from the bones of different types of meat and fish, including:

  • beef
  • lamb
  • pork
  • poultry

In some cultures, it’s also common to include different parts of the animal, like feet and joints.

How Do You Prepare It?

Bones must be simmered for at least eight hours in order to release their healthy compounds.

Tara Coleman, San Diego-based clinical nutritionist, recommends preparing bone broth as follows:

  1. Place bones in a stock or slow cooker. Cover with filtered water.
  2. Add 2 tbsp. of apple cider vinegar to the water. This helps pull the minerals from the bones.
  3. Add carrots, onions, garlic, and celery for added nutrients and flavor.
  4. Cook on low heat for 24 to 48 hours.

Bone broth can be eaten alone. It can also be used to give extra flavor to other foods like soups, sauces, or sautéed dishes.

When choosing bones to use, Coleman recommends going organic. “Bone broth is only as healthy as the animal it came from. So if you are using bones from an animal that has been exposed to chemicals or heavy meals, there’s a chance you can absorb them, too. It’s best to choose pasture-raised, grass-fed animals when making your broth,” she says.

Why Is It Good for You?

Bone broth is rich in nutrients like amino acids (the building blocks of protein) and minerals.

Coleman says that the most powerful thing about bone broth is the way its nutrients are absorbed into your body.

“The nutrients found in the broth are in a very bioavailable form. This means that your body can easily absorb them. This is critical because the amount of nutrients that you eat isn’t as important as the amount of nutrients that you absorb,” she explains.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the nutrients and what they do for the body.

Minerals

  • Magnesium. Used for a variety of chemical reactions in the body, such as making proteins and for muscle and nerve function. Also used for blood pressure and blood sugar control.
  • Calcium. Needed for building and maintaining healthy bones and teeth. Also important for healthy blood vessel and muscle function, nerve function, and helping to balance certain hormones.
  • Phosphorus. Needed to produce and store energy in the body and maintain healthy muscle function.

Amino Acids

  • Glutamine. Helps muscles and removes toxins from the liver.
  • Glycine. Helps promote healthy muscle tissue, digestive health, and aids the central nervous system. It’s also an antioxidant.
  • Arginine. Good for the immune system. Helps heal wounded skin and helps with nail and hair health.
  • Glucosamine. Promotes joint health. It’s also been studied widely for osteoarthritis of the knee and is used as a treatment option.
  • Proline. Helps produce cartilage and collagen, aiding muscles and joints.

Health Benefits

You’ve probably heard from your grandmother that chicken soup can help with a common cold and other respiratory infections. But there’s actually some science to back these claims.

A study published in the journal Chest found that eating chicken soup helped to reduce some inflammation. It also helped reduce symptoms associated with respiratory illnesses like a cold or the flu.

While experts know that bone broth contains a variety of healthy nutrients, it’s hard for them to figure out how much of each is actually in the broth once it’s prepared. This is why studies, other than the ones done on chicken soup, aren’t available to support its health benefits with clinical evidence.

How Much Should You Eat?

Eating 8 to 12 ounces of bone broth two to three times a week should be enough to get the nutritional benefits.

If you’re sick with the cold or flu, ask your doctor if eating more bone broth might be beneficial to your health.

Try It!

If you want to enjoy the healthy benefits of bone broth, but don’t have time to cook, you can always buy a premade version. It even comes prepackaged in K-cups for an instant broth you can make in your Keurig coffee maker.

Pacific Natural Foods Bone Broth, Organic Chicken with Ginger. $7

This convenient broth has a flavorful ginger taste. Just pour it in the pan and heat, or make it into soup by adding meat, vegetables, or rice.

LonoLife K-Cups, Chicken Bone Broth. $20 for 10

You can get more from your Keurig than just coffee and tea. Brew bone broth from a K-cup and enjoy an instant lunch. 

Osteobroth, Powdered Chicken Bone Broth. $50

To enjoy this powdered version of bone broth, just add 8 ounces of hot water. It has a two-year shelf life for long-term use. 

The Takeaway

Overall, bone broth is considered safe and healthy. Of course, you want to be mindful of the seasoning you’re using. Too much salt can contribute to high blood pressure.

Talk to your doctor or nutritionist about making bone broth a regular part of your diet.

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