Bone broth is a traditional food that dates back to prehistoric hunter-gatherers, hence why it’s often on a paleo diet protocol.
Today, preparing it is still an age-old custom in many parts of the world. The current bone broth craze in the U.S. largely began many years ago in New York City by chef Marco Canora who ladled out this hearty brew from a takeout window.
Now, people all over the planet have embraced it by the cupful for its many revitalizing health benefits, making it homemade or adding dehydrated bone broth protein powders to their morning rituals.
Most bone broth recipes are essentially made by slow-cooking or low-pressure cooking the bones and connective tissue of animals. It's commonly sourced from beef and chicken bones. However, seafood sources are also secondary alternatives if you'd rather eat lower on the food chain.
In many cultural traditions, when using animals as food, typically nothing goes to waste and making this nutritious liquid is one such example.
While the average home cook might throw out the bones, there are many major reasons to consider using them to make your own bone broth.
It is important to take note that bone broth, however, is a bit different than "stock" or "broth", which aren't necessarily made from the bones but meat, meat flavorings and/or other ingredients.
Typically, in a culinary sense, the bones, marrow and connective tissues are used to impart a deep unctuous flavor profile to a broth. In gourmet cooking, it is known that long-simmering techniques or slow cooking for up to 24 hours are needed to achieve this goal.
Healthwise, this longer time frame is also required to release and maximize all the beneficial components that make bone broth so good for you.
Here are the many reasons you may wish to consider drinking it, the best types for highest nutrition, plus a word of caution about quality.
Before we get into the main health benefits let's take a look at what IS IN bone broth that makes it so nutritious.
When bones and connective tissue are simmered in water with an acid like vinegar, there are several different nutrients released or unlocked from the bone matrix, cartilage and marrow.
The one most highlighted today is COLLAGEN, the most abundant source of protein in the human body. This collagen then turns into GELATIN and its derived AMINO ACIDS after a prolonged cooking time, making it easily absorbable.
Bone broth is also a source of other polysaccharide compounds known as GLYCOSAMINOGLYCANS (GAGs) like glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate as well as hyaluronic acid.
The minerals present in the bones and connective tissue also break down when slow-cooked and infuse into the brothy liquid.
Collagen-rich foods are very supportive to the joints of the body and the gel-like structure that connects the bones and permits easy joint movement.
Bone broth is the highest dietary source of collagen and its healing gelatin nutrient. This is the constituent that makes the hot broth so thick, turning jelly-like when cooled.
Since bodily collagen degrades as we age, supplementation can offer a preventative approach and help to preserve collagen levels.
There's really "no bones about it", bones are highly mineralized structures and the broth made from them provides a mineral-rich drink when consumed, encouraging healthy bones and joints.
It can also be a very nourishing food when healing from bone-related injuries or joint sprains affecting tendons and ligaments.
The various minerals present are usually calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon and sulfur.
Likewise, the broth contains both glucosamine and chondroitin, two nutrients promoted in supplement form for maintaining comfortable movement of the joints, often used by those with arthritic conditions.
One of the most widely recognized benefits of bone broth by health experts is its use for nurturing gut health.
Its many nutrients, including glycosaminoglycans, collagen, gelatin and the amino acids proline, glycine and glutamine, make it a beneficial food for soothing gastrointestinal inflammation and restoring the mucosal lining of the intestines and stomach.
This means that many disorders like GERD, colitis, leaky gut and gastric ulcers that involve inflammation (*) or weakened permeability of the GI tract, might be alleviated by consuming it.
In some reports, it is recommended to keep your bone broth very basic (with no added seasonings) when initially using it as nutritive therapy for such issues.
Its nutritive compounds support optimal digestive capacities so we get what we need out of the foods we eat. Moreover, broth gelatin is a prebiotic food source that can help to encourage the overall health of the gut microbiome.
Want more reasons to save your bones for a bone broth recipe? Similar to the use of British "beef tea" or American "chicken soup" as an old-fashioned cold remedy, another benefit of this nutritious liquid is that it fortifies immune functions.
Gut health (which bone broth promotes) is one of the foundations of a healthy immune system. This is because the intestinal tract works in conjunction with a mass of tissues that makes immune cells called the "gut-associated lymphoid tissue".
Bone broth made with red bone marrow (ribs and vertebrae) with its stem cell factors can additionally help to revitalize immune functions.
Some research indicates that the glutamine content in bone broth may also encourage an immune-supporting influence.
Of course, collagen is very well-known for its nourishment to the skin and hair, but bone broth is also full of minerals and cell-proliferating hyaluronic acid.
Drinking it can offer wound and scar healing properties as well as encourage cell rejuvenation and firm yet supple skin, making it useful for things like stretch marks, cellulite and wrinkles.
Dietary use additionally fosters shiny and strong hair follicles.
Bone broth can either be purchased as a shelf-stable product or found as a frozen liquid.
Because of its popularity, it is also widely available as a dehydrated powder as well as a supplement.
The biggest thing about bone broth is that you really want to go for the highest quality that you can find.
Firstly, you want "real bone broth" made from animal bones NOT ones made with meat stock flavorings or lab-produced meat substitutes.
Second, we would personally only recommend broth derived from grass-fed and pasture-raised sources. Not conventionally-raised cows, buffalo, chickens or pigs that eat GMO livestock feed like soy and corn. Wild game animals can sometimes be even better.
Third, organic quality can be of particular importance because a commonly used herbicide known as glyphosate is often concentrated in animal collagen. In addition, non-organic animal bone broths have been shown to have some toxic heavy metals.
The best bone broth to consume is the one you make yourself from quality ingredients.
Some experts recommend selecting a variety of different bones when making homemade bone broth to get the most well-rounded nutrition. Collagen-rich sources include tendons and cartilage. Beef and chicken feet are especially high in collagen. Likewise, marrow bones have more fat which may benefit a keto diet.
You can collect your own bones, saving and freezing them from meals or leftovers, until you have a good amount for making your bone broth recipe.
Many supermarkets will also sell them cut and ready-to-cook, fresh or frozen.
Apple cider vinegar is added because the acidity helps to break down bone collagen and nutrients. Some people roast the bones to give the broth a deeper flavor, but it is not necessary from a nutritional standpoint. Once you get the basic recipe down, you may want to try adding other spices, kelp seaweed, shiitake mushrooms or a mirepoix (a combination of vegetables).
So, once you make or purchase a high-quality bone broth, how do you use it?
Bone broth can be served hot all by itself and is very good with a bit of miso paste. It's often recommended as an energizing breakfast drink to start the day, sometimes used IN coffee or as a replacement for it.
It can of course be very useful as a type of stock base for soup and stews to increase nutrients as well as enhance flavor. It's also ideal as a liquid for many grains or sauces.
How much bone broth is an average daily serving? Usually between 8-ounces (1 cup) to 16-ounces (2 cups) is the amount recommended for highest health benefits.
For bone broth supplements and powders, follow directions on product labels. Bone broth protein powders often come in an assortment of flavors and can be used in blended drinks.