What is Bone Broth? Does It Actually Do Anything?
Whether you’re worried about finding yourself ill in the middle of cold and flu season or you have achy joints, chances are, you’ve heard someone mention bone broth as a solution.
It sounds easy enough: just add a little bone broth to your diet–generally without packing on a huge number of calories–and you can enjoy any number of great health benefits!
In fact, there’s now even bone broth protein powder available on the market to get some of the benefits while increasing protein intake for muscle growth!
The question, of course, is, does bone broth actually do anything?
What Is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is broth made by cooking the bones of your meat – typically chicken, turkey, cow, or pig, but you can use whatever bones you happen to have on hand – for several hours in order to break down the bones and bring out all of the health benefits.
The biggest difference between bone broth and traditional stock comes from the length of time that the bone broth is cooked: substantially longer than most people cook their cooking stock.
Bone broth is touted as having several health benefits that make it worth your while including increased gut health and an improved immune system.
The question is, does it really have all of those benefits?
How It’s Made
The easiest way to make bone broth is to start by having a meal that includes the bones of the animal.
Cook a whole chicken or turkey, grab a ham that’s still on the bone, or choose a bone-in steak or roast.
Cook the meat as usual.
When you’re done, clean most of the meat off of the bone.
Don’t worry if there’s still a little meat left, it will just add flavor to your bone broth.
If you’re using beef bones, toss them back in the oven and roast at 350 degrees for about an hour–it will make the flavor of your dish much better!
Otherwise, just toss the bones straight in a crockpot.
Add salt, pepper, celery, peppers, onion, carrots, or any other vegetable you’d like.
Cook on low for 8-24 hours.
Bone broth can be stored in the fridge for short-term use or frozen if you’ve made a big batch and want it to last longer.
The Health Benefits of Bone Broth
Advocates of bone broth ascribe a wide range of health benefits to this simple concoction. Dr. Axe claims that it will help treat leaky gut syndrome, improve joint health, boost your immune system, and even reduce cellulite. Seems like a perfect combination, doesn’t it?
In order to fully understand the benefits of bone broth, however, it’s important to study what’s really in it and how it actually affects the body.
What’s in bone broth?
The long cooking process that creates bone broth helps to make use of every part of the animal.
It breaks down the marrow in the bones and helps extract nutrients that were stored by the animal.
Bone broth is an excellent source of a number of amino acids that can be beneficial to your body in many ways, including boosting joint and bone heath – but it’s also not the only source of those vital amino acids. They can also be found in chicken, eggs, and other meats.
What about that vital collagen addition?
One of the much-touted benefits of bone broth is its high collagen content.
According to bone broth’s backers, ingesting collagen in its natural form will decrease cellulite, increase joint health, and offer a number of other benefits.
Skeptics, on the other hand, argue that simply ingesting collagen may not be enough to take it where the body needs it most.
One study, however, suggests that some people may be able to benefit substantially from adding collagen to their diet when it comes to cellulite: compared to those who took a placebo, daily collagen supplements did significantly reduce cellulite in study participants.
Drinking collagen through bone broth therefore has the potential to offer the same benefits – and potentially to provide some of the joint-cushioning impact that many athletes are hoping for when they add bone broth to their diets.
Note, however, that the body doesn’t absorb collagen whole; instead, it’s broken down into those critical amino acids that the body uses for overall health. The amino acids are then directed where the body needs them most–potentially including moving them toward joint health.
Can bone broth really provide an immune system boost?
Chances are your grandmother recommended chicken soup every time you had so much as a cold or the sniffles. Maybe you’re even lucky enough to have had the kind of grandmother who would cheerfully bring you a fresh pot any time you were sick.
As it turns out, science does back the old family assertion that chicken soup can help your immune system and allow you to recover from cold or flu symptoms faster–and those benefits extend to bone broth, too. There are several reasons for this:
- Hot liquids help thin mucus and decrease its buildup in the chest.
- Chicken soup limits the movement of the white blood cells that fight infection, reducing the body’s response and therefore decreasing cold symptoms.
- Chicken soup helps cilia work more effectively, decreasing the instance of illness.
- Chicken soup naturally increases hydration, which is critical during any illness.
While it’s unclear whether or not other types of bones offer the same benefits, bone broth made with chicken bones will certainly offer the same benefits as traditional chicken noodle soup. It’s also a rich source of nutrients that the body needs in order to stay healthy, which makes it well worth the investment.
Will bone broth help you sleep?
One of the odder claims about bone broth is that if you consume it on a regular basis, it can lead to a deeper night’s sleep. Here’s the surprising fact: it can!
Glycine, which is one of the common amino acids found in bone broth, can have a calming effect on the body, which can lead to a deeper night’s sleep.
Does bone broth fight inflammation?
If you’re recovering from injury or illness, one of your priorities may be fighting inflammation–especially inflammation in your gut.
The amino acids in bone broth that provide so many other benefits can offer some inflammation-fighting properties, which will make you more likely to recover faster.
This property can also help decrease joint pain, especially in athletes who are struggling with the recovery process.
If you are adding bone broth to your diet, can it lead to weight loss?
Bone broth for weight loss: it’s yet another “miracle cure” for this popular substance.
You likely already know that there’s no magic pill that will make weight loss a snap.
Consuming a broth-based soup before your meal, however, can offer the benefit of decreased calorie intake over the course of the meal.
Consuming bone broth can also help you feel full longer, which may lead to reduced snacking between meals. As a result, weight loss may follow.
So what’s the verdict on bone broth?
While bone broth has the potential to offer several health-related advantages, it’s not the cure-all that proponents would have you believe.
If you’re sick or having trouble recovering from a hard workout, bone broth certainly won’t hurt you – and it does have several dietary benefits, especially if you’re not in the habit of eating healthily on a regular basis.
By adding bone broth to a diet that is already health-conscious, you’ll experience some benefits – but you shouldn’t expect a magic fix, either.
Bone Broth: Your New Recovery Drink
One place where bone broth does show significant promise: as an athletic recovery drink. If you’ve been using additive-filled sports drinks to fuel your post-workout recovery, bone broth can offer a number of substantial benefits that may lead you to replace your typical post-workout drink with bone broth–or at least a soup made from it.
Consider these benefits:
- Bone broth is often high in sodium, which can replace the electrolytes lost during an intense workout.
- Bone broth will replenish water lost through sweat.
- Amino acid building blocks can help rebuild muscle after an intense workout.
Even if you aren’t able to enjoy the other health benefits of bone broth, it certainly makes a nice workout recovery drink–and that may make it well worth adding to your diet.
The important thing with bone broth, as with any addition to your diet, is to note that it’s not a cure-all. Consuming bone broth offers several health benefits–but so does eating eggs or meat and drinking milk. Rather than focusing on one individual aspect of your diet, savvy athletes take a well-rounded approach, consuming a wide variety of vitamins, minerals, and proteins.
The jury may still be out on the full benefits of bone broth, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a healthy addition to your diet! Try it for yourself and see whether or not you appreciate the benefits, whether as a sports drink or as an immune system boost in the middle of cold and flu season.