There are a few staple foods in my diet that when consumed I immediately feel great. Bone broth is one of those foods. There is an old proverb that says “good broth can resurrect the dead”, that may be stretching it a bit, but I feel totally revived, more vibrant and alive when I eat it. But there are a lot of pretty big claims out there about bone broth. Is bone broth really that good for you?
What exactly is bone broth?
Bone broth is simply a yummy flavorful liquid made by boiling the bones of any combination of poultry, beef, pork, bison, fish, or lamb in water, oftentimes with veggies and aromatic spices for a long period of time. The liquid is then strained from the bones, veggies, and aromatics and the resulting product is called broth or stock.
What is the difference between broth, stock, and bone broth
Honestly, the difference is merely semantics. Some may tell you that broth is made with more meat, i.e. a whole chicken rather than just chicken bones, and cooked for a shorter period of time. Some may say that “stock” has less meat, more bone, and cooks for a “medium” amount of time. Bone broth may be described as being made with primarily bone and cooked for the longest amount of time 24-48 hours and some even say up to 4 days. I will tell you there is no clear definition between the three, and as long as you are making a stock or broth with bone involved you are getting at least some of the benefits of bone broth. I use the terms interchangeably.
Is bone broth good for you?
Bone broth is said to be a rich source of calcium, magnesium, phosphorous and numerous other minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants. The actual breakdown of these minerals in bone broth is honestly quite small and variable, depending on the quality, type, and quantity of bone used.
Notably, bone broth is also a great source of two amino acids; proline and glycine.
Proline and glycine are not essential amino acids, meaning your body already produces them and ideally should produce them easily and abundantly. However, there is certainly nothing wrong with consuming extra dietary proline and glycine, in fact, it will definitely do the body good!
What's so great about proline and glycine? Here is a quick rundown (this is only a partial list):
- Glycine is required for DNA and RNA synthesis and thus plays a role in nervous system health, and wound healing
- Glycine is involved in glucogenesis (the making of glucose) and low levels may produce hypoglycemic-like symptoms
- Glycine helps to regulate the secretion of gastric acid and the synthesis of bile salts, i.e. aids in digestion
- Glycine could help improve the function of phase II liver detoxification because it is the precursor amino acid for glutathione, glutathione the master antioxidant (my biggest anti-oxidant crush) is essential for proper detoxification
- Proline helps your body break down proteins and create new healthy muscle cells
- Proline is a precursor for hydroxyproline which the body uses to make collagen, tendons, ligaments, and heart muscle.
- Proline is great for skin health, especially when combined with vitamin C
Bone broth also contains glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) a big word that essentially refers to a family of carbohydrates found in bone and connective tissue. Several GAGs have been studied as supportive of joint and bone health. Hyaluronic acid, for instance, has been shown to be an effective treatment for osteoarthritis (mainly studied as an injection). Chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, two other GAGs have been shown to reduce pain in arthritis and reduce inflammation in joints. Glucosamine and chondroitin are both well studied, pricey supplements so why not consume bone broth for great joint benefits!
Cysteine, an amino acid found in chicken, can thin mucus in your lungs and make the mucus less viscous and sticky so you are able to expel it more easily. One specific reason why chicken soup is such a great cold and flu remedy.
Collagen is a structural protein and the most abundant protein found in connective tissue in aminals. Collagen is broken down to form gelatin in bone broth and the benefits of consuming gelatin (side note: gelatin and collagen are terms that are oftentimes used interchangeably, gelatin is what's produced when collagen is heated and/or broken down) are purportedly quite abundant. From sealing your gut lining to improving your hair skin and nails, you could read hundreds of (paleo) blog posts telling you that the secret sauce in bone broth is actually the collagen! It is unclear how much dietary collagen equals more actual collagen in your body, but there are a few studies that have shown promising results in regards to dietary collagen encouraging more collagen production in the body. So for now, let's go with it 🙂
I can't find 100's of peer-reviewed articles to back the claims of bone broth enthusiasts, but quite frankly I don't think very many people or organizations are investing money in researching exactly how good bone broth is for you. I will, however, use some critical analysis to say that although some claims are lofty bone broth, of some sort, has been consumed for centuries in many cultures. Chicken soup is your Grandmother's cure for the common cold, and your Grandmother is brilliant. I know that I feel great when I consume bone broth, and I feel like it's an easily digestible form of nutrients and minerals, and we can all definitely use more of that.
What's a good bone broth recipe?
What are the best bones to use for bone broth?
I like to use a mixture of chicken and beef bones, but honestly, I tend to just use whatever I have saved in my freezer from roasts or other such recipes. It is important to source high-quality bones from organic and/or grass-fed animals. Since the bones from a grass-fed cow could cost upwards of $8-12/lb and I personally think stock is meant to be a humble food made from humble ingredients or leftovers, I try not to purchase bones specifically for bone broth, but rather save various scraps in my freezer until I have enough.
Knuckles, neck bones and chicken feet contain a lot of collagen which gives body and flavor to the stock and also a ton of the above-mentioned health benefits. My organic, free range chickens from my local CSA have the neck bones included. These are all saved up in my freezer for stock day. I have yet to use chicken feet, because… chicken feet, but I understand the benefit and this is a great way to achieve a rich, nutrient-dense stock for less money.
You can roast your bones before you make stock, but again most of the time I am saving pre-roasted bones from various other recipes. If you have only raw bones you may find that your stock has a bit of a metallic flavor and roasting the bones can help to prevent that.
Can I reuse bones?
YES! Oh my goodness yes! I will try to get at least 2 stocks out of one group of bones, the second round won't be as flavorful so maybe I'll add stronger aromatics like lemongrass and ginger, but regardless you are still getting the health benefits of bone broth and saving a ton of money!
My bone broth flow chart looks something like this:
→ Roast a chicken – save the carcass in the freezer
→ Make split pea soup with a ham hock – reserve the ham hock, freeze
→ Make bone in lamb stew – reserve the bones, freeze
→ Look in my freezer – hey! I have enough bones for bone broth
→ Make bone broth – strain liquid, reserve bones, put back in freezer
→ Make second batch of bone broth.
→ Winning at bone broth life.
Adding Vinegar to Broth – Fact of Fiction?
Vinegar is supposed to help create a more acidic environment which helps to leach more minerals from the bones. Honestly, I haven't found any information or studies that can prove this to be true. I will continue to do it because I think it's an easy addition, that doesn't take much time and if there is even a small benefit why not. My formula is about 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar per batch, and allow bones to soak for at least 15 minutes.
I don't want to make bone broth, can I just buy it?
I hope I've convinced you to make your own, but if you really just want to buy it here are my two favorite brands. I love Broth Masters, a small family-owned business that hand makes small batch bone broth. Each batch cooks for at least 24 hours. It arrives frozen and should remain so until you are ready to use it. I typically keep a supply of broth masters bone broth in my freezer for when I run out of my homemade broth. Kettle and Fire also makes a decent bone broth that is shelf stable, I find the flavor of Kettle and Fire to be far inferior to homemade or broth masters, but it works in a pinch. You can get purchase Kettle and Fire at a great discount from Thrive Market.
How much bone broth should I eat daily?
Well, I would love to have a cup per day but I don't always have it available. I have certainly read reports of all kinds of crazy healing happenings when you include regular consumption of bone broth, but to align with my overall food philosophy, get it in when you can. If you are hoping to encourage healing on a deeper level then have more, and see what your results are. There is no prescribed amount here, but rather an invitation to explore for yourself how bone broth makes you feel.
I hope this clears up some of the bone broth hype! If I missed any other questions you have about bone broth comment below 🙂
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