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Bone broth has many supposed health benefits. It’s said to support the gut microbiome, reduce inflammation, and even improve the appearance of aging skin. Bone broth has grown more popular, but people across cultures have been making it for centuries.
Bone broth consists of bones (and sometimes meat) from animal carcasses boiled in water. Acidic ingredients like vinegar or tomatoes are often added to help extract more nutrients from the bones. Additions like vegetable scraps and garlic may also be added. The broth typically simmers for anywhere from four to more than 24 hours. The lengthy cooking time contributes to the many nutrients that bone broth offers.
More research is needed to determine benefits specific to bone broth itself, but research on nutrients in bone broth offers promising findings.
The terms “bone broth” and “stock” are often used interchangeably. Both are made from simmering animal bones, and sometimes meat, in water. However, unlike most stocks, bone broths cook for many hours. The lengthy cooking time allows more nutrients to seep out from the bones and into the cooking liquid.
Bone broth contains high amounts of nutrients like collagen. Collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. It provides structural support and elasticity to bones, tendons, skin, cartilage, and joints. Bone broth is also significantly higher in protein compared to stock.
Bone broth offers many potential health benefits, including joint, gut, and skin support.
1. May Support Joints
Collagen is a protein that provides structure to skin, bones, tendons, and ligaments in the body. For example, collagen-rich foods may provide relief for conditions like osteoarthritis, a joint condition in which the tissue surrounding bones gets worn down and degrades over time.
Bone broth supplies the body with collagen, which may help repair joint damage and improve arthritis-related pain. However, most research focuses on the impact of collagen supplements, not bone broth itself, in the treatment of joint pain.
In addition, bone broth does not seem to contain as many amino acids, such as glycine and proline, as collagen supplements. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. They help create connective tissue like tendons (which connect muscles to bones) and ligaments (which connect bones to other bones).
Many bone broths are made with healing herbs and spices like turmeric that help reduce inflammation in the body and, by extension, may improve joint pain. For example, one systematic review of ten studies found that turmeric helped improve knee pain and function in people with osteoarthritis.
2. Supports Gut Health
Bone broth contains an amino acid called glutamine. Glutamine helps maintain the structure and function of tissue that lines your gastrointestinal tract. It may also reduce inflammation throughout the gut.
While glutamine is nourishing, limited studies confirm the specific benefits of glutamine-rich bone broth on the gut microbiome. That said, consuming glutamine-rich sources of protein is safe, and a high-quality bone broth is a nutritious, anti-inflammatory alternative to ultra-processed proteins like deli meats, bacon, or sausage.
3. Contains High-Quality Protein
Bone broth is relatively high in protein. Eating adequate amounts of protein supports your body’s metabolism (how your body uses energy from the food you eat). Protein also provides structure and support to cells, helps cells communicate, and protects the body from viruses and bacteria.
Bone broth tends to be richer in protein than a classic stock because the longer cooking time extracts more protein from the animal bones. One serving of chicken broth may contain just one gram of protein, but one serving of chicken bone broth can provide up to 20 grams of protein. Most bone broth offers about 10 grams of protein per cup.
The exact amount of protein per serving varies based on how you cook your bone broth or the brand of bone broth you purchase. A product’s recommended serving size also influences the amount of protein you see listed on its nutrition facts panel.
4. May Improve Skin Elasticity
The body naturally produces less collagen with age. This can contribute to wrinkles and decrease skin elasticity over time.
Most research focuses on the role of collagen supplements on skin health rather than bone broths specifically, but some studies have reported promising findings. For example, one systematic review of eleven studies found that collagen supplements appear to assist in healing wounds and delaying signs of aging on the skin. More research is needed to determine how exactly collagen benefits skin health.
Collagen supplementation and bone broth are only likely to be helpful if consumed on an ongoing basis. Unfortunately, drinking a cup of bone broth every few weeks will not magically smooth wrinkles. It generally takes at least eight weeks to see the results of collagen consumption.
5. Provides Some Electrolytes
Bone broth contains electrolytes, which are minerals that support fluid balance in your body. Electrolytes found in bone broth can include sodium, potassium, and calcium.
Electrolytes help regulate functions such as:
- Signaling between your brain and nerve cells
- Muscle contractions
- Hydration (balancing water inside and outside of cells)
The nutritional profile of bone broth depends on the recipe used or the brand purchased. For example, bone broth will only contain carbohydrates if vegetables are added during cooking.
An average one-cup serving of store-bought bone broth contains:
- Calories: 80
- Fat: 0.5 g
- Protein: 10 g
- Carbohydrates: 5 g
- Sodium: 450 mg, about 20% of the daily value (DV)
Like many other pre-made soups and stocks, bone broth tends to be high in sodium. In general, foods that provide 20% or more of the daily value for sodium (salt) per serving are considered high-sodium foods.
Choosing bone broths that contain less than 20% of the DV for sodium or making your own bone broth can reduce its sodium content. This might be especially important if you have hypertension (high blood pressure) or need to limit your salt intake due to another medical condition.
One small pilot study found that bone broth may contain higher levels of heavy metals like lead compared to broths made from meat alone. The researchers reported that lead from the environment tends to accumulate in animal bones. Therefore, broths that involve cooking animal bones for an extended period of time may extract more of these toxic materials.
More research is needed to determine potential risks of bone broth. As with most foods, it’s probably safe to enjoy bone broth in moderation.
Bone broth can be enjoyed in a variety of ways. Here are some ideas for how to incorporate it into your diet:
- Enjoy sipping on bone broth like a cup of tea
- Cook whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, or farro in bone broth instead of water for a richer flavor
- Use bone broth in homemade soups and stews
- Combine bone broth with coconut milk and spices to create a tasty base for homemade curries
- Add bone broth (or ice cubes made from it) to a smoothie
Bone broth can be made from beef bones, poultry bones, fish bones, or a combination of animal sources. Different forms of bone broth provide slightly different flavor profiles, so choose depending on your taste preferences or how you’re planning to use the bone broth.
Bone broth is often celebrated for its ability to promote a healthy gut microbiome, improve joint pain, and support skin health. While bone broth contains protein-rich collagen and healthy minerals, it’s not a magic bullet on its own.
Enjoy nutrient-dense bone broths in addition to making other health-supporting nutrition and lifestyle choices. Store-bought bone broths can be high in sodium, so check nutrition labels or prepare it yourself if you’re watching your salt intake.