Bone broth has become very popular recently, especially among health-conscious individuals. This is because it's believed to have many health benefits.
Although there is no published research on bone broth itself, there's plenty of evidence that suggests drinking it may be very beneficial.
This article takes a closer look at bone broth, how to make it and its potential benefits.
Bone broth is made by simmering the bones and connective tissue of animals.
This highly nutritious stock is commonly used in soups, sauces and gravies. It has also recently gained popularity as a health drink.
Bone broth dates back to prehistoric times, when hunter-gatherers turned otherwise inedible animal parts like bones, hooves and knuckles into a broth they could drink.
You can make bone broth using bones from just about any animal — pork, beef, veal, turkey, lamb, bison, buffalo, venison, chicken or fish.
Marrow and connective tissues like feet, hooves, beaks, gizzards or fins can be used.
Summary: Bone broth is made by boiling down animal bones and connective tissue. This nutrient-dense stock is used for soups, sauces and health drinks.
Making bone broth is very simple.
There are many recipes online, but most people don't even use a recipe.
All you really need is a large pot, water, vinegar and bones.
To get you started here is an easy recipe you can follow:
- 1 gallon (4 liters) of water
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) apple cider vinegar
- 2–4 pounds (about 1–2 kg) of animal bones
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Place all ingredients in a large pot or slow cooker.
- Bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for 12–24 hours. The longer it cooks, the better it will taste and more nutritious it will be.
- Allow the broth to cool. Strain it into a large container and discard the solids.
In order to make the most nutritious broth, it is best to use a variety of bones — marrow bones, oxtail, knuckles and feet. You can even mix and match bones in the same batch.
Adding vinegar is important because it helps pull all of the valuable nutrients out of the bones and into the water, which is ultimately what you will be consuming.
You can also add vegetables, herbs or spices to your broth to enhance the flavor.
Common additions include garlic, onion, celery, carrot, parsley and thyme. These can be added right away in step one.
As you can see, bone broth is incredibly easy to make. The following sections list six reasons you might want to try it.
Summary: Bone broth is made by simmering bones in water and vinegar. You can also add other ingredients to create more flavor.
In general, bone broth is very nutritious.
However, the nutrient content does depend on the ingredients you use, as each brings something different to the table.
Animal bones are rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and other trace minerals — the same minerals needed to build and strengthen your own bones.
Fish bones also contain iodine, which is essential for healthy thyroid function and metabolism.
Connective tissue gives you glucosamine and chondroitin, natural compounds found in cartilage that are known to support joint health.
Marrow provides vitamin A, vitamin K2, minerals like zinc, iron, boron, manganese and selenium, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
All of these animal parts also contain the protein collagen, which turns into gelatin when cooked and yields several important amino acids.
As the ingredients simmer, their nutrients are released into the water in a form your body can easily absorb.
Many people don't get enough of these nutrients in their diet, so drinking bone broth is a good way to get more.
Unfortunately, it's impossible to know the exact amount of each nutrient contained in the broth because every batch of bones is so different.
Summary: Bone broth is rich in minerals that help build and strengthen your bones. It also contains many other healthy nutrients, including vitamins, amino acids and essential fatty acids.
Scientists have discovered that your overall health depends heavily on the health of your intestinal tract.
Not only is bone broth easy to digest, it may also aid in the digestion of other foods.
The gelatin found in bone broth naturally attracts and holds liquids. This is why properly prepared broth congeals in the fridge.
Gelatin can also bind to water in your digestive tract, which helps foods move through your gut more easily.
It has also been shown to protect and heal the mucosal lining of the digestive tract in rats. It is thought to have the same effect in humans, but more research needs to be done to show its effectiveness (1).
An amino acid in gelatin called glutamine helps maintain the function of the intestinal wall, and has been known to prevent and heal a condition known as "leaky gut" (2).
Leaky gut, which is associated with several chronic diseases, is when the barrier between your gut and the bloodstream is impaired.
Substances that your body doesn't normally allow through leak into your bloodstream, which leads to inflammation and other problems.
For all of these reasons, drinking bone broth may be beneficial for individuals with leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or irritable bowel disease (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
Summary: The gelatin in bone broth supports healthy digestion. It may be beneficial for individuals with leaky gut or other inflammatory bowel diseases.
The amino acids found in bone broth, including glycine and arginine, have strong anti-inflammatory effects (3).Arginine, in particular, may help fight the inflammation associated with obesity.
One study shows higher levels of arginine in the blood are associated with decreased inflammation in obese women (4).
Another study in rats suggests that supplementing with arginine could help fight inflammation in obese individuals, but more research needs to be done in humans to support these results (5).
While some inflammation is necessary, chronic inflammation may lead to a number of serious diseases.
These include heart disease, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, arthritis and many types of cancer.
Because of this, it's important to eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods.
Summary: The amino acids in bone broth can help fight inflammation. Because of this, eating it may help protect against disease.
Collagen is the main protein found in bones, tendons and ligaments.
During the cooking process, collagen from bones and connective tissue is broken down into another protein called gelatin.
Gelatin contains important amino acids that support joint health.
It contains proline and glycine, which your body uses to build its own connective tissue. This includes tendons, which connect muscles to bones, and ligaments, which connect bones to each other.
Bone broth also contains glucosamine and chondroitin, which are natural compounds found in cartilage.
The proteins in bone broth have also proven beneficial for those with rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes painful damage to the tendons and ligaments.
In one study, 60 people with rheumatoid arthritis consumed chicken collagen for three months. Symptoms improved significantly in all 60 participants, with four showing complete remission of the disease (10).
Summary: The amino acids in bone broth help support joint health, and consuming it may help lessen the symptoms of arthritis.
Bone broth is typically very low in calories, but can still satisfy hunger.
What's more, bone broth contains gelatin, which has specifically been shown to promote feelings of fullness (13).
Another study in 53 men found that, when combined with resistance training, collagen helped increase muscle mass and decrease body fat (15).
Summary: The gelatin in bone broth has been shown to promote feelings of fullness. Consuming it on a regular basis may reduce calorie intake and lead to weight loss over time.
One study found that taking 3 grams of glycine before bed significantly improved the quality of sleep in individuals who have difficulty sleeping (16).
Taking glycine before bed helped participants fall asleep faster, maintain a deeper sleep and wake up fewer times throughout the night. This study also found that glycine reduced daytime sleepiness and improved mental function and memory.
Therefore, drinking bone broth could have similar benefits.
Summary: Glycine has been shown to promote sleep. Taking it before bed may improve quality of sleep, mental function and memory.
Here are some additional tips for making and consuming bone broth.
Where to Get Bones
Instead of throwing leftover bones and carcasses from meals in the garbage, save them to make broth.
You can collect the bones in a bag and store them in your freezer until you are ready to cook them.
However, if you are not someone who typically buys and eats whole chickens and bone-in meat, you may wonder where you can find animal bones to make broth.
You can ask for them at your local butcher or farmers market. The meat department at most grocery stores will often have them too.
The best part is they are very inexpensive to purchase. Your butcher may even give them to you for free.
Do your best to find pastured chicken or grass-fed beef bones, since these animals will be the healthiest and provide maximum health benefits to you.
How to Store It
While it's easiest to make broth in large batches, it can only be stored safely in the refrigerator for up to five days.
To help your broth last longer, you can freeze it in small containers and heat up individual servings as needed.
How Often to Drink It
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to this. Many people recommend drinking 1 cup (237 ml) of bone broth daily for maximum health benefits.
Some is better than none, so whether it be once a week or once a day, drink it as often as you can.
Ways to Eat It
You can drink bone broth by itself, but not everyone likes the texture and mouth feel.
Luckily, there are other ways to enjoy it. It can be used as the base for soups, or to make sauces and gravies.
Here is a simple tomato sauce recipe using bone broth.
- 2 cups (473 ml) bone broth
- 2 cans organic tomato paste
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) of extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) oregano, chopped
- 1/2 tsp (2.5 ml) basil, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan.
- Heat over medium-high heat for 4–6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Reduce to low heat and cover, allowing the sauce to simmer for 5 more minutes.
- Serve over pasta, meatloaf or in a variety of recipes.
Summary: Get bones from your local butcher or farmers market to make your broth. Just one cup a day provides good health benefits.
Bone broth contains many important nutrients, some of which are known to have incredible health benefits.
However, the research on bone broth itself is still emerging.
What is known for sure is that bone broth is highly nutritious and it's possible that adding it to your diet may provide a whole host of health benefits.