The Benefits of Bone Broth

Originally published on the Sophia Health Institute blog on July 10, 2015.

Bone broth has become quite a hot topic in the nutrition world as of late, but this incredibly nourishing and healing food is no Johnny-come-lately. People have been making broths for centuries as a rich source of nutrition and in order to use parts of an animal that would otherwise be inedible. By boiling bones, ligaments and other animal parts, the healing compounds in the food are released to create an easily digested source of protein and minerals. These compounds (collagen, amino acids and minerals) have the ability to transform your health, so why not reap their benefits with a delicious, versatile broth?

There are three types of traditional broths – broth, meat stock and bone broth. While these terms are often used interchangeably, and they are all made with similar methods, the ingredients used and the end product are quite different.

Broth is made with meat and a small amount of bones and is simmered for a relatively short time – only 45 minutes to 2 hours. It is lighter in texture and flavor and is not as nutritionally dense as meat stock or bone broth.

Meat stock is prepared using pieces of meat containing joints such as a whole chicken, whole turkey or chicken thighs, or a lamb shank. Meat stock is cooked for about 1 ½ -3 hours for poultry and up to 6 hours for beef or lamb. It has a lighter flavor than bone broth but still offers similar health benefits while being easier to digest for some individuals. Meat stock is great as a base for stew and makes a hearty meal with the addition of vegetables.

Because bone broth contains high levels of the amino acid glutamine, it may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with severely compromised gut health. If this is the case, meat stock is a better option since it has a different amino acid profile than bone broth, mainly glycine and proline, which are more easily digested. Those with histamine intolerance may also have a reaction to longer-cooked broths.

Bone broth on the other hand is made with bones and joints with very little meat included. It is also cooked much longer (up to 24 hours for chicken or fish and 48 hours for beef or lamb), with the addition of an acid such as vinegar to extract the amino acids and minerals from the bones, joints and marrow.

Until about 1930 when pharmaceuticals began to take over, doctors prescribed bone broths for a wide range of ailments including upset stomach in adults, and colic and milk allergies in infants. The “conditional amino acids” in bone broth are considered nonessential but become essential when we are very ill or stressed and unable to produce them. This is one of the main reasons it is such a healing food.

The Amazing Benefits of bone broth:

  • Aids digestion and stimulates production of stomach acid, gastric juices and bile salts.
  • Rich in amino acids (proline, glycine, glutamine, arginine, hydroxyproline) and gelatin which can help heal leaky gut syndrome by “healing and sealing” the gut.
  • Supports detoxification of cells, the gut and the liver.
  • Can reduce food allergies and sensitivities.
  • Can help improve kidney function.
  • Promotes muscle sparing during rapid weight loss due to illness
  • Reduces inflammation in the respiratory system, and mitigates the side effects of colds, flu and upper respiratory infections.
  • Rich in gelatin, glucosamine and chondroitin, which relieve joint pain and promote healthy bones, joints, connective tissue, skin, hair and nails.
  • Increases collagen production, which can reduce the appearance of wrinkles and cellulite.
  • Excellent source of minerals (calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sulfur, silicon and potassium) necessary for bone and dental health – great news for us dairy-free folks!
  • Helps prevent and satisfy cravings.
  • Provides a wide variety of electrolytes to maintain proper hydration and fluid balance.
  • Ideally one should consume 1-2 cups per day, either right before or with your meals. Some people are intimidated by the idea of making their own bone broth, but it is actually quite easy to make using a simple slow cooker recipe.

For the best quality bone broth it is important to source bones from pasture-raised, 100% grass-fed and finished cows, lamb and venison, pastured chickens and wild caught fish. I recommend seeking out a butcher in your area who specializes in local, pastured meats or purchasing from a reputable source online such as US Wellness Meats. You can also check out EatWild’s Directory of Farms to find a resource in your area.

If you don’t want to make your own bone broth there are a few excellent options for purchasing it. Kettle and Fire make shelf stable, organic, grass-fed beef bone broth from pasture-raised cattle. The Brothery makes delicious organic chicken and organic grass-fed beef bone broth. Real Bone Broth also makes organic chicken, organic beef and wild-caught fish broths which are available online at Wise Choice Market and select retailers

There are a few store-bought bone broth options available now but sadly they don’t contain even a fraction of the nutrition and benefits that homemade broth does and they are extremely expensive in comparison to making your own. In addition they often contain flavorings or other ingredients such as MSG or high FODMAP vegetables that can be problematic for those with gut health issues.

In our modern day culture of quick fixes and treat-the-symptoms mindset in the mainstream medical community, it is more important than ever to remember that food can indeed be medicine. Preparing traditional foods is a wonderful way to reconnect with our food and heal our bodies in a delicious and fulfilling way.

References:

Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitroRennard BO, et al. 2011

Aglaée Jacob, M.S., R.D., Digestive Health with Real Food (Paleo Media Group, LLC, 2013)

Bone Broth, Broths and Stocks – by Nourished Kitchen

Bone Broth Benefits for Digestion, Arthritis, and Cellulite by Dr. Josh Axe

Applying GAPS Principles for Better Health by Hilary Moshman, MPH and Victoria LaFont, NTP – Price Pottenger Journal Vol. 39 / No. 1, Spring 2015

The Heal Your Gut Cookbook by Hilary Boynton and Mary G. Brackett

Why Broth is Beautiful: Essential Roles for Proline, Glycine and Gelatin – by Dr. Kaayla Daniel June 18, 2003