If you’re reading this, chances are you’re invested in your physical health and taking care of your body – and in that case, then you’ve also heard of bone broth. But do you know everything there is to know about it, in particular the amazing benefits which include everything from your gut to your skin?
Although bone broth may seem like a relatively new, trendy health fad supported by celebrities and the ‘better for you’ online communities, the truth is that bone broth is an ancient Chinese medicinal practice that has been around for centuries. And spoiler alert, bone broth is living up to the hype.
What is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is a highly nutrient-dense liquid made by simmering animal bones and their connective tissues in water for many hours so that the flavor and nutrients from the bones infuses the water to create bone broth. Many times the bones are simmered with vegetables, vinegars, and herbs for added flavor and health benefits.
Bone Broth can be made from just about any animal bones you can think of including chicken, turkey, pork, beef, and lamb. Each kind of animal bone has a unique flavor that can be paired with herbs and spices to further enhance that flavor. The bones are simmered for many hours to fully extract the flavor, but more importantly, to extract the nutrients. Poultry bones can be simmered up to 24 hours, while red meat bones can go for as long as 48 hours.
The practice of boiling animal bones to create a broth to drink originated centuries ago, dating back to the beginning of Ancient Chinese Medicine in 200 BC and before. As traditional Chinese Medicine was born during this time, there is documentation that bone broth was used as a nourishing treatment for joint pain, kidney and liver problems, and overall healing the body . The consumption of bone broth has remained a prominent part of many Asian cultures throughout the years, and it seems like the rest of the world is finally catching on to the healing and wellness properties of bone broth.
Key Nutrients Found in Bone Broth
The nutrients found in bone broth are a powerful combination of healers and energizers. Bone broth is full of easily digestible amino acids, plus collagen and gelatin to support bone and tissue growth. Add in the abundance of healing nutrients that promote immunity and gut health and it’s no wonder that many health professionals recommend bone broth as a staple in your daily diet.
We could spend all day discussing the key nutrients found in bone broth and their health benefits, but a few in particular that are worth calling out.
Collagen is the primary material that makes up the connective tissues in our bodies from including our joints, ligaments, skin, and tendons. Believe it or not, collagen makes up 25% of our body composition.
As we age, the elasticity of the collagen in our bodies becomes less effective and can lead to a variety of collagen vascular diseases . Most commonly, the depletion of collagen can cause us to lose elasticity in our skin (ie. more wrinkles and stretch marks) and cause joint pain.
The good news is that we can make up for that lost collagen as we age by eating it. While consuming collagen-rich foods doesn’t directly add more collagen to our bodies, it does assist in the synthesis of creating new collagen. To ensure you’re reaping the full benefits of the collagen you’re consuming, also include enough anti-inflammatory nutrients like those found in green leafy vegetables in your diet.
If those aren’t enough reasons to boost your intake of collagen, here are a few more:
- Reduce the signs of wrinkles/aging skin
- Reduce the appearance of cellulite
- Increase skin hydration
- Protect and sooth the digestive tract
- Support a healthy immune system
- Decrease joint pain
If you’ve ever made homemade broth or roasted meat in a pan, you’ve probably seen the gel-like material that forms at the top of the broth. Many people scrape it off and discard it, but think twice before throwing it away next time. This is the gelatin that comes from the breakdown of ligaments, tendons, and cartilage in the bones, and is what ultimately sets bone broth apart from other broths and stocks.
What’s the difference between collagen and gelatin? Gelatin is essentially a broken-down version of collagen. They still share the same amino acid chains once broken down, however, so they’re similar in their nutritional benefits. Some people find they are able to digest gelatin easier than collagen because of its simplified form.
In addition to being highly nutritious, it’s been found that gelatin is soothing to the gut, and promotes the growth of healthy probiotics. Since gelatin breaks down proteins in the gut lining, it can be helpful in treating symptoms of different ailments like leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome .
Another benefit of gelatin is its ability to help those with food allergies and sensitivities consume certain foods. The amino acids in gelatin play a key role in repairing damaged gut lining which makes some foods easier to digest for people who with sensitivities.
Many of bone broth’s healing properties come from the Amino Acids found in the gelatin (which is another great reason to never skim it off your bone broth) Protein is a crucial part of all of our bodily functions and structures, and amino acids are the building blocks that make up those proteins in our bodies. The key amino acids found in bone broth are:
Each of these amino acids contributes to the healing properties of bone broth in a different way. Arginine helps the immune system function properly and also aids in repairing and healing of damaged systems. Glycine is a detoxifier and helps prevent the breakdown of muscle tissue. Proline is a regenerative protein that helps repair the cartilage around your joints. Glutamine helps protect your gut lining and improves metabolism.
We typically get amino acids through our food when eating a balanced diet, but amino acids can also be found in different supplemental forms. You should always read the labels of these kinds of supplements carefully before adding them to your diet, however. Some may cause unwanted side effects, while others simply do not contain the full proteins due to overprocessing. When in doubt, getting nutrients from whole foods (like bone broth) is the best way to nourish your body.
Benefits of Drinking Bone Broth
We’ve alluded to this already but there are so many benefits to drinking bone broth. From treating stomach troubles to assisting with weight loss, the benefits of bone broth can apply to anyone and any lifestyle. Below we go into more detail on the top benefits.
1. Improve Gut Health
This is a big one. Documentation shows that the earliest uses of bone broth were not only to nourish the body, but to treat inflammatory issues in the gut. Your stomach and intestines are a breeding ground of good bacteria and probiotics that aid in digestion but what you may not know is that the foods you’re eating may be harming your digestive system. Symptoms like gas, bloating, and uncomfortable constipation might be a normal part of your day, but they’re actually your gut trying to tell you something.
If you’re experiencing some of these symptoms, you may have food sensitivities that are worth investigating. If your body is sensitive to different food groups (wheat and dairy tend to be the most common sensitivities) they could be causing damage to your gut without you knowing it.
Even if you are not experiencing any of these symptoms regularly, chances are you don’t eat a perfectly clean diet 100% of the time, so some of the highly processed, sugar laden snacks you’ve consumed may be causing issues in your gut as well.
The nutrients found in bone broth helps improve your gut health in a few important ways.
- Bone broth gelatin helps restore the strength of your gut lining that has been damaged by digesting certain foods.
- Bone broth collagen helps to repair and rebuild digestive tissues supporting a healthy digestive system.
- Bone broth is easily digestible so your gut doesn’t have to work as hard to process it.
2. Sleep Better
You read that right – drinking bone broth can help you sleep better. But how? It all comes back to those powerful nutrients found in bone broth that help regulate your body’s systems.
The amino acid glycine, which is abundant in bone broth, has been proven to not only help your body reach a deep, restful sleep, but to diminish daytime fatigue as well. This little amino acid works with other nutrients in bone broth to promote healthy digestion, which is a major function our bodies are doing while we sleep. Easy-to-digest food means a more restful sleep for you.
Sipping a cup of hot bone broth before bed not only puts you in a soothing state of mind, it can also help calm your nervous system which is working to recharge your mind and body while you sleep. Studies have shown that it’s important to wind down, turn off your devices, and let your body relax before falling asleep, and a steaming cup of bone broth can do just that.
3. Natural Source of Protein, Collagen, and Amino Acids
There are a variety of ways to add protein, collagen, and amino acids to your diet, but only a few ways to do so naturally. Protein powders and powdered collagen are great for the sake of convenience, and many amino acids can be found in pill form. While these supplements will give you some of the intended benefits, they are highly processed which compromises many of their nutritional properties.
Whey protein goes through many processes before ending up as that cake-flavored powder in your shaker bottle. Plant-based proteins aren’t much better, as their original sources are pressed, ground, and refined, and their protein content is not as high to begin with. Additionally, these forms of protein aren’t always the easiest to digest, so it’s common for many people to experience dairy intolerance symptoms like uncomfortable bloating after drinking a protein shake.
You can now find bone broth in a powdered protein form as well but like other forms of protein supplements, bone broth protein must go through many stages of processing to get it from the jiggly broth on your stove to the chalky powder at the health food store.
By consuming real bone broth instead, you’re reaping the nutritional benefits of an all natural source of protein, natural collagen and gelatin straight from the source, and four powerful amino acids in their naturally occurring state. The natural form of these nutrients makes bone broth much easier on the digestive system than many supplements helping you feel your best.
4. Improve Skin
The collagen content in bone broth truly has age-defying properties that will make your skin glow. Collagen helps form elastin which is responsible for the youthful elasticity of your skin, a.k.a fewer wrinkles and imperfections. Other benefits of collagen include the reduced appearance of cellulite, fewer blemishes, decreased puffiness, and better hydrated skin.
Collagen found in bone broth is in its most natural state which can directly assist in the synthesis of new collagen in your body. This newly formed collagen will help alleviate the aches, pains, and skin symptoms of aging.
5. Weight Loss
Many products tout the ability to help you lose weight but when it comes to bone broth, the proof is in the science. A healthy gut is the foundation for a healthy body. Your digestive system is incredibly complex, and is tasked with the important responsibility of breaking down the food you eat into nutrients that your body can use as fuel.
Fueling our bodies with nourishing foods should be a foundational principle we all live by, but the fact is that we don’t always think about the health of our gut before ordering tacos and queso. If poor eating habits get out of control, our gut suffers the most, and we sometimes end up gaining weight.
Bone broth alone will not cause you to lose weight, but it will help detox your body by flushing out toxins in your gut, bringing your digestive system back to full functionality, and weight loss could be a side effect.
6. Detox Your Body
Our gut is home to millions of different kinds of bacteria (mostly good bacteria) but it can also hold on to toxins that come from artificial sweeteners, chemicals, and additives in our food. Over time, these toxins can mix with the bacteria in our gut and build up, damaging the gut lining.
Bone broth is an example of a super food that does a great job of flushing these toxins out of our bodies. Full of potassium and glycine, bone broth uses these powerful nutrients to aid our digestive system in expelling waste and building new tissues. The nutrients in bone broth can also help the body use antioxidants found in other foods such as fruits, further protecting it from toxins and disease.
A newly popular way to use bone broth is as a full body detox or cleanse. This means consuming only bone broth and whole, fibrous foods for 3-10 days depending on your goals with the cleanse. The purpose of doing this is to flood your digestive system with an abundance of easy-to-digest nutrients, allowing it to do a ‘reset.’ Many people have found they feel much lighter and less bloated after completing a bone broth cleanse.
7. Promote Joint Health
The importance of collagen and gelatin keeps coming up when discussing bone broth, but for good reason. Since collagen makes up 25% of our body’s mass and it starts diminishing as we age, it’s important to know how our bodies function, and how we can help maintain our health.
If you’re over 25, you may be starting to experience less flexibility, creaky joints, or stiff muscles that comes from the breakdown of cartilage in our joints. There is no avoiding it, this is a natural part of aging. However, there are steps you can take to minimize this cartilage break down, and drinking bone broth is one of them.
The collagen in bone broth works to help restore the cartilage in your joints, and the gelatin content gives your joints more cushion as the work hard to move your body. Maintaining healthy joints allows you to continue being active as you age, also improving overall cardiovascular health.
8. Easy to Absorb Nutrients
You may think that eating nutrient-dense foods is enough to give your body the fuel it needs, but there is something called ‘bioavailability’ to consider when thinking about the food we eat.
Bioavailability is how easily and efficiently nutrients can be absorbed by the circulatory system in our body. When we eat food, our digestive system is responsible for breaking down that food into nutrients for our body to absorb and use as energy. When it’s difficult for our bodies to absorb those nutrients, we aren’t getting their full benefits.
Osso Good Bone Broth does a good job explaining bioavailability in this article, and goes on to explain why certain parts of the process of making bone broth are important to keeping those key nutrients in tact .
How to Make Bone Broth
One of best things about bone broth is that it is easy and affordable to make yourself, unlike many other superfoods out there. There are two really key factors in making bone broth: having plenty of connective tissues with your bones, and the amount of time you take to simmer the bones. These two elements are what separate great bone broth from regular store-bought stock.
To make bone broth, decide on the kinds of bones you want to use. Beef and chicken bones are the most common, and typically the easiest to find at most grocery stores, but you can use turkey bones, pork bones, or any animal bones as long as they have plenty of ligaments and cartilage attached.
To Make Chicken Bone Broth:
- Purchase a whole chicken from your local supermarket and roast it. This gives you delicious chicken for the week, and the carcass can go directly into a stock pot to make your bone broth. It is best to get an organic, non-gmo chicken if possible because there will be fewer impurities that come out of the bones when simmering.
- Make sure to leave all of the cartilage, ligaments, and tendons on the chicken bones; this is where the collagen and gelatin will come from that makes bone broth so nutritious.
- Next add your vegetables and spices. These can be vegetable scraps leftover from meal-prepping or you can dice an onion, some carrots, and some celery to add to your broth. Apple cider vinegar is another great addition that helps bring the nutrients out of the bones.
- Fill the pot with filtered water until it is covering the bones and vegetables by about an inch.
- Simmer at medium-high until just bubbling, then reduce heat to low, cover with lid slightly ajar, and simmer for 24 hours.
- After 24 hours, strain the broth from the other ingredients using a mesh cloth if possible for smooth broth. Pour in an air tight container (mason jars or plastic pouches work well) and store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, or the freezer for up to 1 month.
- Once chilled, the broth should be a gel-like consistency that becomes liquid again when heated. If your broth has a layer of fat on the top, you can scrape this off to use in your cooking.
How should I use bone broth after I’ve made it? You can use bone broth just as you would use regular stock. Use it in your favorite recipes for an added nutritional punch, or drink it warm just like you would coffee or tea. As a matter of fact, bone broth makes a great alternative to your favorite caffeinated beverage, and it tastes just like you’re drinking a big bowl of chicken noodle soup.
Important Factors to Consider When Buying Bone Broth
Not interested in making bone broth? No problem! There are great options you can buy at your local grocery store or online instead. There are some important things to keep in mind when buying, however, to make sure you’re getting the most out of your bone broth.
One critical factor is buying perishable bone broth vs. shelf stable. If bone broth is able to sit on a shelf for months and months on end, it means it was heated at extremely high temperatures to kill off bacteria, but this process of high heat kills off both good and bad bacteria. It also makes the nutrients left in the bone broth more difficult for your body to absorb. Which kind of defeats the purpose of investing in bone broth, don’t you think?
When shopping at your local grocery store, head to the frozen section rather than the stock section. If a bone broth is highly perishable, it will come frozen and you will need to keep it frozen until ready to eat.
Where to Buy Bone Broth
Real bone broth, not just stock, is mainly found at specialty and organic supermarkets such as Fresh Thyme, Whole Foods, or Sprouts. You can also buy many different brands of bone broth online through independent brand websites or on Amazon. It can be tough to shop for organic, all natural food online, so be sure that the bone broth brands you’re considering are highly perishable and ship frozen rather than shelf stable.
Is Bone Broth Here To Stay?
Yep, bone broth is more than just a trendy diet fad that will disappear in a few weeks. The nutritional benefits of bone broth have become more widely known over the years and more and more health professionals are singing it’s praises. While there may be other new superfoods that show up, you can’t argue with the science behind bone broth. If you don’t believe me, try it for yourself!