Bone broth is the newest (and at the same time, oldest) healthy food trend to be popping up in cookbooks, blogs, and restaurants nearly everywhere. Bone broth is claimed to fight inflammation, alleviate joint pain, boost your immune system, strengthen your bones, and more. But is bone broth just hype? Here’s everything you need to know about bone broth health benefits, myths about bone broth, and an easy bone broth recipe to make yourself.
What is bone broth?
Bone broth is a type of stock made by cooking animal bones in water for several hours, usually with other flavorings like vegetables and herbs. It’s typically simmered much longer than the broth you find in cans, so more nutrients can be leached out of the bones and into the liquid.
Although it might seem like a newly-discovered trendy food, it’s actually far from new. People all over the world have been using bones, connective tissue, tendons, and more to make broths for centuries. It’s always been known as a nourishing, hearty food – just think of the tradition of eating chicken noodle soup to cure a cold – but recently, claims of the health benefits of drinking broth have skyrocketed.
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Bone Broth and Collagen
Most of bone broth’s claimed health benefits are chalked up to its high levels of collagen. Collagen is a protein found all over our bodies. It makes up connective tissue, tendons, cartilage, bones, joints, nails, and hair, and it gives our skin elasticity and strength. When the bones, connective tissue, and more of animals are cooked for a long time, the collagen is released into the liquid, and collagen-rich bone broth is formed.
image: Cascadian Farms via Flickr
Bone broth and bone & joint health
It would make sense that consuming collagen from animals would in turn give our bodies more collagen to strengthen our bones and joints – right?
Just like every other protein, collagen is made up of amino acids. When we eat proteins, our bodies break them down into amino acids and use those amino acids wherever they’re needed. When you consume collagen protein, the resulting amino acids aren’t automatically rebuilt into collagen in your body or sent straight to your bones and joints (or hair, nails, skin, etc.); they’re used in the same way that amino acids resulting from any other protein source would be used.
Bone broth is also claimed to support joint health thanks to its glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate content. There’s a significant amount of research looking at the effects of glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate on joint pain, but it’s pretty inconclusive. Many studies have found no significant improvements in joint pain after glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate supplementation, or only found some relief for those with severe joint pain. While there may be some joint pain relief resulting from these compounds, it’s also important to note that there’s no single recipe for bone broth. People make bone broth with varying amounts and types of bone, different cooking times, and so on, so it’s difficult to know how much glucosamine or chondroitin sulfate (or any other nutrient, for that matter) you’d really be getting from sipping a cup of it.
image: Jules via Flickr
Bone Broth and Immune Health
The claims that bone broth boosts your immune system are rooted in its content of minerals like calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus, and its glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate content. Although a diet rich in vitamins and minerals is certainly healthy and can help boost your immune system, sipping on a cup of bone broth likely won’t provide exceptional amounts of these minerals (again, recipes differ so greatly that there’s no real way to know!). No studies have looked at bone broth and immune health, so I’d take this claim with a grain of salt. If chicken soup makes you feel better when you have a cold, bone broth might do the trick too, but not because it has magic properties.
Should you be drinking bone broth?
The key with bone broth, as with most other foods with long lists of health claims, is to go into it knowing that it’s not likely to be a miracle cure. Bone broth won’t necessarily rebuild your bones or eliminate your wrinkles, but it’s still worth including in your diet if you enjoy it!
When cooked long enough for plenty of collagen to be released, bone broth can be a great source of protein. Don’t expect that collagen content to work magic on your arthritis, but it’s protein nonetheless! Bone broth, like any liquid with sodium added, can also be great for replenishing electrolytes after a tough workout without all the sugar of most typical sports drinks.
All in all, bone broth isn’t a miracle worker, but it sure is savory and delicious, and if you’re in the mood for a cozy, warm drink, I’d recommend sipping on it over a sugary latte any day.
Easy Bone Broth Recipe
Bone broth can get expensive (like, $9.00 per 16-oz bottle expensive), but it’s one of the easiest things you can make. If you’re planning to keep warm with a cup of bone broth this winter, I’d suggest making your own! Check out my super easy bone broth recipe here.
Do you like bone broth? Have you ever made your own?