Chances are, you’ve heard about bone broth recently. But maybe you’re wondering what the deal is? And why you would want to consider making a batch for your family?
While it might seem trendy, bone broth is nothing new. In fact, it is one of the most traditional foods. In his 12th century book, On the Cause of Symptoms, Jewish physician Moses Maimonides discusses the healing properties of chicken broth. In Chinese culture, doctors have used fish heads in broth for the healing properties of the thyroid to rejuvenate the elderly for thousands of years.
Sadly, with the advent of meat processing plants, we saw an almost complete decline in the use of animal bones to make nutrient-filled broths. Before boneless chicken breasts were available at the local Safeway, bone-in meat was purchased at the butcher shop, and nothing was left for waste. Fat was rendered into tallow or lard, and bones were used to make broth.
What is Bone Broth?
Bone broth* is a mineral and gelatin rich liquid that results from simmering animal bones in water for a length of time, usually anywhere from eight to 48 hours. (Or in under two hours with an Instant Pot and this recipe.)
As broth simmers, bones, cartilage, and marrow break down to release easy to digest nutrients, including collagen**, minerals, amino acids, and glycosaminoglycans (compounds in connective tissues).
*Bone broth is, technically speaking, different from stock. What I’m describing here is really stock, but since the common phrase is ‘bone broth’, that’s what I’m using. I’m much more interested in sharing bone broth benefits than perfecting my culinary vernacular. If you’re interested, The Kitchn has a great read on the difference between the two.
**Collagen is the main protein in connective tissue and gelatin is the form of collagen that is used in food (like this gelatin, which is used to make food gel); these terms are often used interchangeably.
Bone Broth Benefits
Broth may be a traditional food, but does what we know about physiology today support broth as a super food? Yes! Here are seven bone broth benefits that I hope convince you to get a pot going for your family. Not sure where to start? Try my easy recipe for tasty bone broth.Bone broth is a traditional food, but is it really a 'super' food? I say YES. Find out why. Click To Tweet
1. Aids Digestion and Helps Seal a ‘Leaky Gut’
One of the most common therapeutic uses for bone broth is aiding in digestion. The gelatin in broth attracts liquid, unlike most cooked foods which repel it. Gelatin attracts digestive juices, which helps breakdown any food that is consumed with the broth. This supports healthy digestion, especially in those who have trouble digesting specific foods, like vegetables.
Amino acids in gelatin are known to have digestive aiding and gut healing properties. Glycine helps promote stomach acid secretion, which is essential for proper digestion. Glutamine is required for healthy cells in the mucosal lining of the small intestine and may even be able to help repair a leaky gut.1 Glutamine can also protect gut flora balance by fighting bad bacteria.2
2. Replenishes Deficient Minerals
Minerals are not produced by the human body and are only available in food sources. They play a key role in many, many functions in the body, from facilitating the transfer of nutrients across cell membranes to contracting and relaxing muscles (yes, including the heart muscle — kind of a big deal).
Unfortunately, most of us are deficient in minerals. Highly processed foods are low in vitamins and minerals, but even eating a diet high in mineral rich foods may not be enough. Modern farming practices have depleted soil of nutrients and prioritized yield over nutrition. The food growing in today’s soil has up to 40% less nutrients than the produce growing a generation ago.3
Broth is a source of many minerals, including calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium. The minerals in broth are easy to absorb as they’ve already been extracted from the food source. Try broth next time you need to replenish electrolytes when sick. There’s a good reason chicken soup for the sick has been a tradition for generations.
3. Saves Money
Bone broth can be a way to stretch your meat budget as it is rich in several protein. Unlike animal meat, bone broth is not a complete protein and shouldn’t be a total replacement for meat in your diet. But consuming bone broth regularly reduces the need for protein in the diet. Adding bone broth to your family’s diet is a great way to afford higher quality meat, as less is required. Also, bone broth is the base for many economical meals like stew, soup, and chili.
4. Contributes to Better Sleep
After reading these studies, I started being more consistent with giving my toddler broth daily in her sippy cup (typically I use it to cook with more than for drinking). However, the incoming set of molars seems to be too much for even bone broth.
5. Improves Skin, Hair, and Nails
We may live in the times of botox, but bone broth is a less toxic, and more economical, way to improve your skin.
Hair, skin, and nails are made, in part, of collagen, and as we age our bodies produce less of it. Combine this with also producing less elastin and being subjected to free radicals that over time break down collagen, we start to see the physical effects of aging. The collagen in broth is an easy way to increase collagen in the body and improve skin, including cellulite.
Supplementing with collagen peptides is pricier than making bone broth and doesn’t contain all the nutrients of bone broth. However, it is more convenient. I have been adding a scoop of peptides to my coffee (there is no taste, and unlike gelatin, collagen peptides do not gel), and have noticed big improvement in skin quality and nail growth. Vital Proteins collagen peptides are made from 100% grass-fed beef and Great Lakes supplement (called collagen hydrolysate, but same thing) is grass-fed, but not 100%.
6. Relieves Joint Pain
Glycosaminoglycans are great for joint health and bone broth is rich in several of them. The most widely known of the GAGs, glucosamine, is a common supplement for those with joint pain. And much like collagen peptides, it works well, but the benefit of the obtaining via broth is additional nutrients. Broth also contains the GAGs hyaluronic acid and chondroitin, which you wouldn’t find in a glucosamine supplement.
Regular consumption of bone broth might be a way to naturally relieve joint pain. If it works for Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, it can work for your family, too.
7. Helps with Detoxification
The liver is the workhorse of the body, performing upwards of 500 functions, one of them being detoxification. With the number of chemicals and toxins we are subjected to each day, our modern environment requires the liver to work in overdrive to keep up with detoxification. The liver relies on many nutrients to complete its functions. Its ability to detoxify is only as strong as the available nutrients, including amino acids. Glycine, for example, helps minimize damage in liver cells once they have detoxed chemical substances.
Have I convinced you to make bone broth for your family? If so, you can find my recipe and details on where I source bones and how I store my broth right here.
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I'm a believer that we shouldn't have to compromise our health in the name of beauty. Or performance in the name of safety.