- Will Bone Broth Really Cure What Ails You?
- Bone Broth: Nutrition Fact vs. Fiction
- Why Bone Broth May Not Be Ideal For Healing
- How Does Commercial Broth Stack Up?
- Hormel Solutions™ High Protein Chicken Broth
- Bone Broth: Superfood Cure-All or Overhyped Hot Soup?
- What is Bone Broth?
- Why Has Bone Broth Become So Popular?
- What Is the Nutritional Value of Bone Broth?
- Does It Help Gut Health?
- How About Joint Health?
- Should You Be Making Bone Broth?
- What Is Bone Broth?
- Why Is Bone Broth So Popular?
- What Does the Research Say About Potential Bone Broth Benefits?
- Lead — A Serious Concern with Bone Broth
- Ethical Concerns
- What Are Some Healthy Alternatives to Bone Broth?
- What’s In a Bone?
- Benefits of Bone Broth: Joint Health
- Benefits of Bone Broth: Digestion
- Benefits of Bone Broth: Detox
- Benefits of Bone Broth: Marrow
- Benefits of Bone Broth: Minerals
- Benefits of Bone Broth: Other Benefits
- Dangers of Bone Broth: Microwaves and Lead Poisoning
- Ways to Eat Bone Broth
- Substitutes for Bone Broth
- Top 5 Nutritional Benefits of Chicken Broth
- 5 Benefits of Chicken Broth Nutrition
- The Benefits of Homemade vs. Store-Bought
- How to Consume More Chicken Broth
- Health Benefits of Chicken Broth
- The Perfect Chicken Broth
- 1. Bone Broth Boosts Immunity
- 2. Bone Broth Alleviates The Common Cold And Bronchitis
- 3. Bone Broth Fights Inflammation
- 4. Bone Broth Strengthens Bones And Teeth
- 5. Bone Broth Promotes Weight Loss
- 6. Bone Broth Improves Hydration
- 7. Restore Exercise Capacity with Bone Broth
- 8. Build Muscle with Bone Broth
- 9. Improve Mood with Bone Broth
- But What about A Broth For Vegetarians?
- Related posts:
Will Bone Broth Really Cure What Ails You?
It appears that bone broth — otherwise known as homemade beef or poultry stock to grandma— is the latest ancient remedy turned modern-day “super food”. Home cooks and chefs have been simmering up pots of the stuff for ages without ado, but now it has acquired an almost cult-like following by Paleo dieters and others who swear by the brew’s supreme nourishing powers. Websites and health personalities claim that sipping on broth can promote digestion, strengthen bones, boost immunity, fortify hair and nails, reduce joint pain, even cure certain digestive disorders.
I love a big pot of homemade stock as much as the next person, but I think what we have here is another classic example of a perfectly healthy, natural, good-to-the-bone (ha!) food being ascribed medicinal powers that it doesn’t possess. Sipping on warm, homemade broth is wonderfully soothing and settling, especially when you’re not feeling well, but it’s not a cure-all. It makes me wonder … why can’t we just enjoy homemade broth as another healthy food in the sea of nutritious choices without trumpeting its “healing effects”? Why can’t it just be a basic staple for healthy home cooking, rather than a “trend” that we feel the need to drink every single day without exception or spend $6 a cup on at a fancy-schmancy New York City eatery?
Bone Broth: Nutrition Fact vs. Fiction
Many of the health claims made for bone broth are rooted in its unique protein composition. A cup of homemade chicken stock contains around 6 grams of protein, according to the USDA nutrient databaseUSDA nutrient database (slow-simmered broths made with lots of bones may contain more). Much of that protein comes from the collagen found in the bones and connective tissue, a protein that transforms into gelatin as it cooks. Since collagen plays an essential structural role in our own joints, skin, and hair follicles, the argument is that drinking gelatinous broth will help to strengthen these parts of the body.
The problem is that your body doesn’t absorb proteins intact. The digestive system breaks proteins down into their individual building blocks, called amino acids, which are then absorbed in the gut. The body then distributes and uses those amino acids to build the proteins it needs in the right amounts, which means the amino acids you ingest in the form of beef broth are no more likely to end up as collagen in your body than the amino acids you get from fish or lentils. Your body is calling the shots and directing its protein resources to where they are most needed. Gelatin proteins do have a higher proportion of a few specific amino acids relative to other food proteins (namely glycine and proline); however, these amino acids are readily synthesized by the body from other amino acids in food. And while broth’s effects on bone and skin health haven’t been directly studied (surprise, surprise, right?), collagen supplements have. To date, there is no convincing evidence from high-quality, randomized controlled human studies showing that collagen supplements ease joint pain or ward off wrinkles.
Homemade stock is also praised as a rich source of minerals, which are leached from the bones during cooking — but that’s a bit of an overstatement. While the mineral content will vary depending on the amount and types of bones and vegetables used as the base, the USDA database provides some useful averages. For instance, a cup of homemade beef broth provides approximately 19 mg calcium (2% of the Daily Value) and 17 mg magnesium (4% Daily Value). Homemade chicken stock provides even less, according to USDA data. Broths do appear to be a good source of potassium, providing in the range of 7%-12% of the Daily Value, but those aren’t really standout numbers. For comparison’s sake, a cup of black beans provides 30% Daily Value for magnesium, 17% Daily Value for potassium, and 5% Daily Value for calcium. So, broth or no broth, it’s important to eat a well-rounded diet including a variety of vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, and whole grains to meet your daily micronutrient needs.
Why Bone Broth May Not Be Ideal For Healing
There’s no denying that a steaming bowl of broth or soup can feel restorative when you’re recovering from a cold, but you may not want to rely too heavily on broth for nutrition if you have a critical illness, are recovering from surgery, or have a health condition that increases nutrient requirements including certain cancers. These conditions can increase calorie and protein needs while suppressing appetite, so you may be advised to eat calorie-dense foods. Broth is a high-volume food that makes you feel full quickly but provides minimal calories and only a modest amount of protein, so it may not be the best choice under these conditions (at least in large quantities or as a substitute for other foods). For these individuals, pureed or chunky soups made with rice, vegetables, and high-protein ingredients like chicken or tofu can provide more nutrition in the same comforting package.
How Does Commercial Broth Stack Up?
You may be wondering how store-bought broths compare to the “real stuff” you make at home. Commercial chicken and beef “broths” are typically made with meat rather than bone and often enhanced with chicken or meat flavoring. These contain negligible collagen, as evidenced by their watery consistency and 0 gram protein content. However, premium brands of “stock” are more likely to be made with bones and may be more similar to homemade broths in protein content. DIY stocks slow-simmered with fresh ingredients likely provide more minerals as well, although the amounts aren’t all that significant, as discussed above. More importantly (at least by my estimation) homemade soup broth tastes richer and more unctuous, and you can control the salt content. That’s a major plus since sodium numbers on some storebought broths are sky-high. My husband and I freeze extra bones and carcasses until we have a good supply and then make a big batch of homemade broth (which can then go back in the freezer). To speed things up, we often make stock in our pressure cooker, and I find this methods produces an even thicker, more gelatinous broth. However, I readily admit that we don’t make enough stock to cover all of our cooking needs, so we also keep boxed low-sodium varieties in the pantry.
Bottom line: If you regularly make homemade stocks, the more power to you. But let’s all appreciate “bone broth” for what is — a comforting, flavorful concoction that also happens to be extremely versatile in the kitchen — without hyping unsubstantiated health claims. In any case, I think a simple, understated appreciation for broth’s goodness is more suited to the brew’s very humble and practical origins.
This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.
Bone broth is quickly becoming the “it” beverage – but this isn’t just any broth. Today we’re Getting the Skinny with Molly on the health benefits of bone broth, what to look for on labels, and how to make it yourself.
Bone broth is becoming mainstream, with how-to recipes online and grab-&-go single-serving cartons in stores. Sip it hot by the cupful, or use it as a base for your favorite soup.
The theory is that the collagen-rich broth provides our body with essential amino acid building blocks, which, along with other health benefits, helps to support our body’s ability to repair connective tissue like tendons, ligaments and cartilage. It may also help boost appearance, texture, & the health of your skin.
Bone broth (typically beef, chicken, or turkey) is made by simmering the meat and bones, usually with vegetables, herbs, and spices. It’s cooked for hours – as long as 24 hours – so that more nutrients – including protein-rich collagen – are pulled into the broth.
- One cup of bone broth typically has 35-50 calories and 30-50 grams of protein.
- Sodium varies by brand from 95 mg to nearly 600 mg sodium per cup; higher-sodium, electrolyte-rich bone broth can be an excellent option for athletes who need the extra sodium
Store-bought Bone Broths & Stocks:
Pacific Organic Bone Broth (chicken or turkey) – in quart ($5.49) & grab-&-go single serving cartons
- Per cup: 35 calories, 95 mg sodium, 0 fat, 0 carbs, 9 grams protein
- Single-serving cartons available with herbs like lemongrass, ginger, rosemary & sage
Pacific Organic Bone Stock – Unsalted (chicken or turkey) – $4.99/quart
- Per cup: 60 calories, 150 mg sodium, 0 fat, 0 carbs, 14 grams protein
LonoLife All Natural Bone Broth K-Cups (beef or chicken) – $19.99 for 10 K-cups
- Per cup: 40-49 calories, 503-584 mg sodium, 0-1 gram fat, 3 grams carb (chicory root), 8-10 grams protein
- Electrolyte-rich; good option for athletes & those needing to replenish sweat losses
Cleaver & Co Bone Broth – $7/quart
- Beef – turkey – chicken – lamb – pork bone broth – all raised with organic, sustainable practices
- All-local (within 200 mile radius); Beef & pork are grass fed & pasture-raised
How to make it:
Simple Low-and-Slow Bone Broth
From Power Souping by Rachel Beller, RD
- 3-4 pounds grass-fed beef bones or organic chicken bones
- 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- Filtered water
- 2 large onions, skin on, cut in half
- 3 carrots, cut into large pieces
- 3 stalks celery, cut into large pieces
- 6 cloves garlic
- Small bundle fresh parsley
- Small bundle of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
- Sea salt
Place bones in slow cooker and add the vinegar and enough water to cover the bones by about an inch. Stir in the onion, carrots, celery, garlic herb bundles, bay leaves, and peppercorn and set the slow cooker on low. Allow to cook for at least 12 hours, and up to 24 hours.
Strain and discard the solids. Season with salt to taste.
Want more from Molly? Click here to sign up for Nutrition Bites, her weekly e-newsletter with links to her Get the Skinny TV segments here on WGNO, and her weekly column in NOLA.com|The Times-Picayune! And you can follow Molly on Facebook, Twitter, & Instagram: @MollyKimballRD
Hormel Solutions™ High Protein Chicken Broth
Hot broth makes a satisfying alternative to cold fortified beverages. Perfect for clear liquid diets, too.
8 grams of protein and 120 calories per 6 fluid ounce serving
Fortified with 10% of 19 vitamins and minerals
2 appealing flavors: beef and chicken
Packaged in air-tight foil pouches to preserve freshness
Makes eight – 6 fluid ounce servings per pouch
Ingredients: maltodextrin, sodium caseinate (a milk derivative), natural and artificial flavors (including monosodium glutamate, hydrolyzed corn protein, autolyzed yeast extract, garlic powder), hydrolyzed soy protein, contains 1% or less dipotassium phosphate, salt, disodium inisinate and disodium guanylate (flavor enhancers), onion powder, polysorbate 60, yellow 5, ascorbic acid, Vitamin E acetate, ferric orthophosphate, dicalcium phosphate, zinc sulfate, Vitmain A palmitate, niacinamide, copper gluconate, calcium pantothenate, pyridoxine hydrochloride, thiamine hydrochloride, Vitamin D3, riboflavin, folic acid, biotin, potassium iodide, Vitamin B12
Contains: milk, Soy
Case Size: 12 – 9.1 ozServing Size: 43g Case Yield: 96
Shelf Life: 3 years
Bone Broth: Superfood Cure-All or Overhyped Hot Soup?
The popularity of bone broth has well surpassed the usual rise and fall path of of most trendy “superfoods.” Why all the fuss? Though it’s certainly tasty, a quick online search will give you the answer. Consuming bone broth regularly has been touted for improved gut health, strengthened immunity, joint health and even wound healing.
Sounds pretty good, right? I agree, but before I pulled out my stockpot, I needed to know a little more: What exactly is bone broth? What’s in it that’s supposed to be giving it these potential healing capabilities? And is there actually any published, scientific research to back the health claims?
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What is Bone Broth?
Based on culinary definitions, bone broth is technically a “stock” because it is made by simmering bones, and sometimes associated parts like tendons, cartilage and skin, along with vegetables, for 6 to 24 hours.
The long-cooking process allows nutrients in the bones (such as the proteins collagen and gelatin) to leach into the water creating a flavorful liquid that is thicker than normal broth. Bones from beef and poultry are most common, and they are usually roasted before simmering if not from a previously cooked animal.
Why Has Bone Broth Become So Popular?
Stocks and broths have been made for hundreds of years and were considered just an ordinary recipe ingredient—until a few years ago when the Paleo Diet became popular. The Paleo Diet and similar eating plans brought to light the concept of using all parts of an animal, including the bones, for proper and adequate nutrition.
The bone broth trend grew from this, slowly becoming associated with good health thanks to proteins like collagen and its associated amino acids.
What Is the Nutritional Value of Bone Broth?
Well, it’s hard to say. The nutritional content of bone broth varies greatly, and changes based on recipe, type of bones, ingredients, and cooking time. The USDA Nutrient Database states that 1 cup of homemade chicken or beef stock ranges from 31 to 86 calories, 0.2 to 2.9g fat, 4.7 to 6g protein, and varying amounts of calcium, iron, potassium and other minerals.
Image zoom Janet Yeh
Proponents of bone broth state the protein collagen, gelatin, and amino acids such as glycine, glutamine, and proline are what promote joint healing and gut health. However, these aren’t nutrients typically measured or assessed in food analysis. And remember, the amounts of these will also vary among broths and cooking methods.
Does It Help Gut Health?
New research continues to suggest that there is a link between our gut microbes and overall health, and this has triggered an interest in eating to restore the intestinal linings and microbe balance. Gelatin and amino acid glutamine in bone broth are suggested as two ways to naturally heal the gut lining. However, there is little to no evidence that compounds in it can improve gut health or digestion.
How About Joint Health?
Collagen is a major component in bones, muscles, cartilage, ligaments, tendons, skin, and even blood vessels, and most will agree that bone broth is a good source of collagen and its components.
There are studies suggesting a regular intake of collagen supplements can preserve existing cartilage, may increase bone density, and even have a slight anti-inflammatory effect. Because of this, proponents encourage consumption for joint health and to alleviate pain associated with arthritis.
However, it’s important to note that just because you’re consuming collagen, that doesn’t mean that the amino acids you’ve digested will then be used to make collagen in your body.
Your grandmother may have been ahead of her time when she told you to eat chicken soup to get well because there’s actually some research to back this home remedy. Bone broth (that homemade chicken soup is made from) appears to have some anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects in the body. In fact, studies suggest that consuming chicken soup reduced mucus better than other hot liquids and inhibited white blood cells associated with inflammation. But were these effects seen from drinking a warm, protein-rich liquid or specifically from the chicken bone broth in that liquid? We really don’t know.
“Detoxing” has a range of meanings these days, but for many it means cutting out the chemicals, preservatives, and toxins, and using food to restore the body.
RELATED: Start 2018 Right with Our 3-Day Detox
Bone broth is sometimes advocated as an ideal way to “detox” because not only is low in calories, but it contains key nutrients needed by the liver during the detoxification process. However, there’s no research suggesting that bone broth is an essential component needed by the liver.
Also, detoxing strictly on bone broth isn’t recommended. It can lead to extremely low calorie intake and a lack of other essential nutrients.
Should You Be Making Bone Broth?
The bottom-line on bone broth is that we just really don’t know much about it. This doesn’t mean bone broth should be avoided, but it doesn’t need to be considered an essential part of a healthy diet just yet. We do know that bone broth is usually a low-calorie source of protein and that homemade stocks and broths add great flavor to soups and recipes. Any other health perks are a bonus and probably don’t come exclusively from bone broth. Other ways to reap similar benefits are to opt for protein-rich soups and consume foods rich in Vitamins C and A.
Bone broth has become popular. You may have seen the countless blogs and media outlets touting its many presumed health benefits.
Marketing for bone broth claims it’s a high-protein comfort food for on-the-go lifestyles. It’s also considered a magical elixir that can cure leaky gut — and help with all manners of ailments from arthritis to a weak immune system.
Restaurants now serve bone broth, food delivery services offer it, and lifestyle celebrities and athletes endorse it. You can even find a bone broth to-go chain in New York City and a line of bone broth made especially for dogs and cats.
But what’s the truth about bone broth? Is it the magical elixir it’s claiming to be?
What Is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is a broth made by boiling the roasted bones and the connective tissue of animals for a long time.
The long cooking time — ranging from eight to over 24 hours — draws gelatin and minerals, including calcium and phosphorus, out of the bones and into the broth.
Some recipes may use apple cider vinegar or red wine, which help extract nutrients. And sometimes it will include vegetables, such as carrots, onions, and celery. Once cooked, the liquid is strained, the solid parts discarded, and the remaining broth seasoned.
Why Is Bone Broth So Popular?
Bone broth advocates say it can relieve joint pain and osteoarthritis, detoxify the liver, aid in wound healing, prevent aging skin, support digestive health, balance hormones, increase energy, strengthen bones, improve quality of sleep, alleviate symptoms from certain autoimmune conditions, and boost immune function.
Praised for providing all these health benefits, bone broth also provides enormous profits.
The retail sales of shelf-stable bone broth products increased from $5.83 million in 2016 to $17.54 million in 2017. According to a report by Global Market Insights, Inc., analysts predict the global bone broth market will surpass $2.8 billion by 2024. Also, one of the foremost bone broth advocates, Dr. Josh Axe, recently raised $103 million from investors to expand his own bone broth business.
What Does the Research Say About Potential Bone Broth Benefits?
There’s a growing interest in bone broth due to the long list of purported benefits. But what does the science say? Does bone broth measure up to these claims?
Claim #1: It’s a Nutritional Goldmine
Bone broth gets a lot of attention for its “unique” nutritional profile. People praise it for being a low calorie, high-protein food, and providing minerals, such as calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.
The earliest study to mention bone broth is from 1937, which looked at the nutritional value of bone and vegetable broths. Both were common ways of nourishing infants at the time. The researchers concluded that while neither was a very good source of nutrition, the broths that provided the highest mineral content contained the most vegetables.
Far more recently, in 2017, a study in the journal Food and Nutrition Research analyzed bone broth and found that it was not an especially good source of calcium or magnesium.
While marketers tout bone broth for its mineral content, it seems the vegetables used in the cooking process — not the bones — may provide many of the helpful nutrients.
An average cup of bone broth contains zero to 19 mg of calcium and six to nine grams of protein. But when you compare it to some other sources of these nutrients, the protein content isn’t terribly impressive:
- Collard greens: 1 cup = 150 mg calcium
- Navy beans (boiled): 1 cup = 126 mg calcium
- Baked beans: 1 cup = 14 grams protein
- Unsweetened soymilk (Edensoy): 1 cup = 12 grams protein
- Peanut butter: 2 tablespoons = 7 grams protein
So yes, bone broth does provide some calcium and protein. But so do many, many other foods.
A cup of cooked kale contains ten times as much calcium as a cup of bone broth. A cup of baked beans contains nearly twice as much protein as a cup of bone broth. And most Americans may be getting too much protein (at least from animal sources), anyway.
Claim #2: It Will Strengthen Bones, Relieve Achy Joints, and Keep Skin Youthful
Collagen is the main protein in your body. It protects your organs, joints, and tendons; holds together bones and muscles, and maintains the lining of your gut. Plastic surgeons like it because it promotes skin elasticity.
Your body makes its own collagen, but as you age, you won’t make quite as much of it. So, much of the marketing says that, because bone broth contains collagen, it will help your body make more collagen.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that eating collagen is directly helpful to your body. Many experts agree that because your body doesn’t absorb collagen in its whole form, the idea that eating collagen helps bone growth isn’t borne out in reality. Your body breaks collagen down into amino acids. So in the end, it’s just another form of protein.
You’ve probably seen collagen supplements sold for skin health. Some research suggests that collagen supplements may help to reduce visible signs of aging — like wrinkles and cellulite — but the collagen in supplements is hydrolyzed, or broken down to make it more usable for the body. The collagen in bone broth is not hydrolyzed and does not have the same effects in the body.
If you want to help your body build collagen, the best way is to eat a diet rich in leafy green vegetables because plants offer rich sources of the phytonutrients your body needs to make collagen.
These phytonutrients in plants include:
- The vitamin C found in citrus fruits, dark leafy greens, bell peppers, kiwi, berries, and broccoli. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect your skin, inside and out.
- The vitamin E is present in sunflower seeds, almonds, wheat germ, spinach, and broccoli. Vitamin E works with vitamin C to promote collagen synthesis.
- The vitamin A that’s found in carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, and apricots.
- The amino acids glycine, proline, and lysine found in dark leafy green vegetables, soy, nuts, seeds, and legumes.
- The sulfur-containing foods, such as garlic, onion, and members of the cabbage family, may also promote collagen production.
The bottom line is that many vegetables and other plant foods can be powerful allies in keeping your skin young, your bones strong, and your joints healthy.
Claim #3: It Can Cure Your Cold
At some point in your life, you probably had a bowl of chicken noodle soup while sick. It might have even helped you feel better.
Some older research studied the ability of chicken stock to ease common cold symptoms. And many people say bone broth has (or should have) a similar effect.
While there are no published studies about bone broth and illness in peer-reviewed medical journals, a few have looked at the effects of chicken soup.
A 2000 study in the journal Chest found that chicken soup could prevent white blood cells from migrating — thus preventing the worsening of upper respiratory infection symptoms.
But it also found that the vegetables in the soup — not the chicken alone — offered inhibitory effects when it came to battling infections. The researchers concluded that chicken soup likely contained multiple substances with medicinal properties.
Would vegetable soup have been just as effective? Or more effective? We don’t know. But it seems clear that the vegetables, at a minimum, played an important part.
The other chicken soup study, published in 1978, concluded that hot chicken soup was superior to cold liquids in the management of upper respiratory infections, namely in loosening nasal mucous. This sounds impressive — but then again, it’s entirely possible we could say the same thing about any hot liquid, including vegetable broth (perhaps even hot water).
Bone broth may warm your belly, but there’s no evidence that it will cure your cold. If there are immune-boosting effects, they could come from the vegetables used in its preparation.
Check out these articles for proven ways to boost immunity with food and beverages.
Claim #4: It’s Good for Your Gut
Advocates claim bone broth is good for digestion and therapeutic for leaky gut syndrome — a condition in which substances can leak from your intestines into your blood.
They say the gelatin will bind water in the digestive tract, protecting the lining of your intestines. Some studies show that potential in rats, but this doesn’t mean bone broth can do the same for humans. We have very different intestinal lining than do rats. It’s possible it could help. But at this point, all we have is a theory.
What’s not a theory, because it’s been well documented, is that you can support your gut health with a variety of fiber-rich plants foods, including fermented foods, which help to maintain a healthy gut microbiome. For more ways to support digestive health with foods, see this article.
Claim #5: It Can Detoxify Your Liver
Bone broth contains the amino acid glycine. There are a few animal studies that suggest glycine supplements can benefit the liver of alcoholic rats, but none have looked at the impact of bone broth on human livers.
It’s doubtful that any single nutrient has the power to detoxify the liver by itself. The best way to protect your liver, and to protect your body from toxins, is by eating a diet that’s high in the entire array of phytonutrients found in whole plant foods.
Check out our article on using phytonutrients to detox your body, here.
It’s also helpful to steer clear of absorbing toxic heavy metals in the first place. And that brings us to what may be the most significant problematic fact about bone broth.
Lead — A Serious Concern with Bone Broth
It’s well known that lead exposure can be seriously harmful to humans. It’s been shown to have adverse effects on nearly every organ system in the body. Symptoms of chronic exposure range from memory loss and constipation to impotence and depression. The data suggests that there is no such thing as a “safe” level of exposure to lead.
Lead can build up in body fat and attach itself irreversibly to neurons. This is especially dangerous for children as it increases the risk of behavioral problems, hyperactivity, impaired growth and hearing, anemia, and lower IQ, even at low levels.
Now, here’s the thing: Lead and other heavy metals build up in the bones. And that’s not just true of human bones.
Boiling animal bones for a long period of time turns out to be a great way to leach lead out of them — even if the animal bones come from organically fed animals.
In a study published in the peer-reviewed journal Medical Hypotheses, researchers looked at broth made from organic chicken bones and found that the broth had lead concentrations that were up to a 10-fold increase compared to the water before the bones were added to it. The samples came from organic, free-range chickens.
Today, many health enthusiasts are drinking bone broth by the case, hoping to detoxify their liver of heavy metals. Sadly, in the process, they could be inadvertently exposing themselves to dangerous levels of lead and possibly other heavy metals.
Many of the most popular bone broth brands come from the bones of animals raised in factory farms. These animals may have never seen the sun or a blade of grass in their lives. They were fed an utterly unnatural diet and pumped full of hormones and antibiotics.
Those aren’t practices that I want to support. And they don’t create products that I want to take into my body, either.
What Are Some Healthy Alternatives to Bone Broth?
If you’re interested in trying the broth trend for yourself, and you want some warm nourishment for your tummy, but your favorite flavor isn’t “bone,” there are many other options.
Some people are creating vegetarian and vegan broths, using mixtures of seaweed, mushrooms, miso, and various vegetables instead of bones.
Plant-based broths offer a lot of flavor and nutrients. Mushrooms contain selenium, B vitamins, iron, and zinc. Seaweed contains iodine, which is an essential nutrient for healthy thyroid function. Fermented foods, like miso paste, or anti-inflammatory agents, like ginger or turmeric, are often added as well.
The next time you hear bone broth touted as a magical cure-all, remember this: The science behind the claims about bone broth is murky at best. But the science behind the health benefits of vegetables is massive, coherent, and compelling.
In short, veggies rock.
Tell us in the comments:
What are your experiences with bone broth?
Why or why don’t you drink it?
Featured Image: iStock.com/NERYX
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- GBOMBS: The healthiest, immune-boosting foods you should be eating to prevent disease and thrive
What’s In a Bone?
Looking at a bone, you might think it has nothing to offer in terms of nutrition. Lick it, and it has an unpleasantly sandpapery texture. Bite into it, and all you get is a sore tooth. It looks so dead; what kind of useful nutrients could possibly be in there?
The answer: just about everything. Bones are a perfect example of why you should never judge a book by its cover. Locked away inside that hard shell is a wealth of essential nutrients – anti-inflammatory and gut-healing proteins, healthy fats, and a wealth of minerals just waiting to be used. Wild animals the world over know this: they’ll go straight for the bones every time they make a kill. Unlike dogs or vultures, though, human beings aren’t built to crack open the bones with our bare teeth. Instead, we have to make our oversized primate brains earn their keep by cooking the bones to get at the goodness inside.
One of the easiest ways to do this is by making bone broth. The recipe is so simple a child could do it. First, get yourself some bones. Any kind of odds and ends of the animal will do: feet, heads, necks and backs, knuckles, or tails are all perfectly good. Sometimes you can even get these parts from a butcher or farmer for free, or deeply discounted as “pet food.” Leftovers from your last meal are also fine. Throw them all in a pot or slow-cooker, cover with water, turn the heat on low, and come back 6-48 hours later for your broth. Seasonings and garnishes are optional if you like them; throw in whatever tastes good to you.
The resulting stock will have a clear, rich color ranging from translucent (fish bones) to golden-yellow (chicken bones) to deep brown (ruminant bones). If you added vegetables, this may affect the color as well; for example, beets will turn it red. After a few hours in the fridge, the broth will congeal into the consistency of Jell-O: that’s a sign you’ve done it right. A layer of fat will rise to the top of the broth; if you’re using bones from healthy animals, there’s no reason not to enjoy this, but if you’re stuck with grocery-store bones, just wait until the stock has congealed and the hardened fat will be easy to scrape off.
Bone broth tastes amazing as a base for soups or stews (you’ll never be tempted by grocery-store broth again), but what’s really remarkable about it is its incredible health benefits.
Benefits of Bone Broth: Joint Health
The advice to “eat what ails you” sounds like a silly piece of folklore in an era of modern medicine, but in this case all our sophisticated modern analysis actually proves the old wives’ tale true. Broth made from bones and joints contains several nutrients that help strengthen your own skeletal system.
First up to bat are the proteins. Yes, bones have protein. In fact, they’re close to 50% protein by volume, and that number goes up once you factor in all the connective tissue that’s usually attached to them. Collagen, the protein matrix in bones, tendons, ligaments, and other flexible tissues, is broken down during the cooking process into another protein called gelatin. Gelatin is the reason properly prepared broth congeals in the fridge (it’s also the active ingredient in Jell-O dessert, gummy candies, and marshmallows). Unlike many other animal proteins, gelatin is not a complete protein (it doesn’t contain all the essential amino acids), but it does contain several very important “non-essential” ones, especially proline and glycine.
These proteins perform a variety of crucial functions. First of all, they give your body the raw materials to rebuild your own connective tissue, especially tendons (which connect muscles to bones) and ligaments (which connect bones to each other). It’s hard to overestimate how important this connective tissue is for overall health and strength. Professional powerlifters know that their bodies are only as strong as their weakest link: bulging muscles are useless if their tendons and ligaments are underdeveloped. And injury to these crucial tissues doesn’t just stall your deadlift progression. Think of tendonitis, or the overall “aching joints” that seem to accumulate with age. Definitely symptoms we all want to reduce or avoid if at all possible.
As well as providing the raw materials for healthy bones and joints, the proteins in bone broth deliver an especially interesting benefit for rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disease marked by painful damage to the tendons and ligaments. Specifically, these proteins may actually help stop the autoimmune response in its tracks. One study found that chicken collagen dramatically improved symptoms in 60 patients; four of them showed complete remission.
Another benefit of bone broth for joint health comes from glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), a family of carbohydrates found in bones and connective tissue that show interesting effects in reducing joint pain. One of these GAGs, hyaluronic acid, is an effective treatment for osteoarthritis: it’s been mostly studied as an injection, but there’s also evidence that it’s useful when taken by mouth. Chondroitin sulfate is another GAG that has performed well in reducing the pain and damage of arthritis in several studies.
The best-known GAG is glucosamine, which thousands of people take as a joint health supplement. Interestingly enough, the studies evaluating glucosamine + chondroitin supplements have produced conflicting and inconclusive results, and there seems to be a significant bias introduced by industry funding. However, one study compared glucosamine + chondroitin to plain collagen and found that the collagen was actually more effective, indicating that there might be something in the whole food that the supplements miss.
Whether it’s from the GAGs or the proteins, or the combination of all of them, the evidence is in: bone broth is a valuable supplemental food for all of us, and a delicious potential therapy for joint diseases. Especially if you play sports that put stress on your joints (anything where you have to run or jump on concrete, like basketball or jogging), your knees will thank you for adding a big mug of broth to your recovery routine.
Benefits of Bone Broth: Digestion
Nature rarely seems to make foods that are healthy for only one reason, and bone broth is no exception. As well as keeping your knees free from disturbing crunchy noises every time you move, it also helps improve digestion in a variety of ways.
Glycine, for example, is useful because it stimulates the production of stomach acid. To judge from the billions of dollars Americans spend on antacids every year, you might think that this is the last thing we need, but in fact acid reflux may actually be a problem of too little stomach acid, not too much. For the full story, see this series; the short version is that a stomach acid deficiency leaves your food sitting there in your stomach, half-digested, and the pressure from your stomach being so full can force acid up into the esophagus.
By prompting your body to secrete more stomach acid, glycine can help prevent or treat this painful and potentially dangerous problem. This makes bone broth a delicious supplemental food for anyone suffering from acid reflux, IBS, or FODMAPS intolerance.
Adding to its metabolic virtues, glycine is also an important component of bile acid, which is necessary for fat digestion in the small intestine, and also helps maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels. Especially for people who are new to Paleo and switching from a carb-based to a fat-based diet, this has the potential to keep the digestive process running a lot more smoothly.
Glycine isn’t the only useful protein for gut health, either. Glutamine, another amino acid found in bone broth, is a natural remedy for “leaky gut,” that unpleasant and dangerous condition where the barrier between your gut and the rest of your body isn’t working properly, allowing molecules that should stay inside the gut to cross over into the bloodstream and potentially set of a cascade of autoimmune reactions. Glutamine helps maintain the function of the intestinal wall, preventing this damage from occurring.
Benefits of Bone Broth: Detox
Glycine also helps in detoxification – the actually meaningful kind, not the ridiculous nonsense about unspecified “toxins” and the necessity of removing them by embarking on long fasts or juice cleanses. None of those special cleanses are necessary, because your body has its own detox system: your liver. Glycine gives the liver a hand up in removing anything dangerous from the body – for example, in one rat study, rats fed glycine showed significant improvements in recovery from alcohol-induced fatty liver disease compared to rats that weren’t.
Glycine is also necessary for the synthesis of glutathione and uric acid, the body’s most important endogenous antioxidants. As described in the article on antioxidants, boosting production of the endogenous (internally produced) antioxidants is much more useful for reducing oxidative stress than taking Vitamin C or other antioxidant supplements.
Yet another detox-related benefit is that glycine helps clear out excess methionine, another amino acid found in large quantities in eggs and muscle meat. Methionine is an essential amino acid, but too much of it can raise blood levels of another amino acid called homocysteine, and the process of breaking down homocysteine increases the body’s need for B vitamins (thus increasing the risk of B vitamin deficiency even if your intake is adequate). Glycine from broths and cartilage can help break down homocysteine without the need for B vitamins. This is a perfect example of the wisdom of traditional cultures in eating every part of the animal: the proteins in the muscle meat and the proteins in the connective tissue balance each other out for optimal nutrition.
Benefits of Bone Broth: Marrow
Any kind of broth is nutritious, but broth made with marrow bones is especially beneficial because you get all the good stuff in the marrow as well as the good stuff in the bones themselves. Marrow is what the animals really go after when they’re tearing through the bones of a dead animal: vultures will even fly up holding the bones and drop them to smash on the rocks, and then swoop down to slurp up the delicious interior.
The vultures are onto something good: bone marrow is criminally delicious. It’s commonly touted as extremely nutritious as well – and it probably is, given that it’s an organ meat and organ meats in general tend to have an excellent nutritional profile. Bone marrow is an essential part of the immune system, and contains all kinds of cells necessary for immune function and bone growth. Unfortunately, there hasn’t been a conclusive nutritional analysis of it yet because so few people are interested in eating it. We do know that it’s loaded with monounsaturated fat, and Dr. Weston A. Price reported many traditional cultures who viewed it as a sacred food for fertility nutrition; more information than that will unfortunately have to wait until a more complete nutritional analysis is available.
Benefits of Bone Broth: Minerals
Aside from the benefits of all the proteins and sugars, and whatever nutrients might be hiding in the marrow, bone broth is extremely high in minerals. Bones from land animals are rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorus, and fish bones also contain iodine. We know that at least some of this mineral content leaches out into the water, because the bones are crumbly and demineralized when the broth is done cooking – often they’re so weak that they’ll fall apart if you put any pressure on them. If you use smaller bones, like chicken or fish, they’ll sometimes even entirely dissolve into the stock.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to get a precise estimate of exactly how much of these minerals is contained in the broth because every batch of bones is so different. The nutritional content of the broth will depend heavily on how the animal was treated, what its diet was like, how many bones were used, whether there was any meat left on them, what part of the animal the bones were from, how long they were cooked, and at what temperature. In short, it’s impossible to give you an easy list of “bone broth nutrition information.”
That said, there are a few ways to maximize the mineral content. The easiest is to just add a few tablespoons of something acidic (apple cider vinegar is a favorite) to the broth before you turn on the heat. If you’ve ever put an egg into a glass of vinegar, you’ve seen this in action: the shell is made of calcium carbonate, so it fizzles away and dissolves, leaving the egg held together by nothing but the membrane.
Another simple way to get the most nutrition from your broth is to just eat the bones. After cooking for so long, small bones aren’t hard at all; they have a texture that’s just a little harder than crunchy nut butter. If you can’t handle them straight, another option is to grind them up in a blender and take them like a supplement (you can buy empty gelatin capsules online to fill with this bone meal if you really hate the taste or texture).
Benefits of Bone Broth: Other Benefits
As well as the major benefits above, there’s also a grab-bag of miscellaneous other reasons to get your broth in. In general, all the proteins in bone broth are strongly anti-inflammatory. This may actually be why some of them are so helpful in treating osteoarthritis (an inflammatory autoimmune disease), leaky gut (an inflammatory precursor to autoimmune diseases), and other chronic inflammatory conditions like joint pain or fatty liver disease.
Another interesting anti-inflammatory benefit of the proteins in bone broth is more rapid recovery from injury. Under the stress of an injury or disease, the body’s needs for these amino acids increases – that’s why many of them are considered “conditionally essential” even though technically they aren’t required in the diet because it’s possible to synthesize them from other sources. During periods of increased physical demands or stress, the body needs more of these amino acids than it can produce, so they do become “essential,” and getting more of them can speed recovery.
The most notable examples of this are arginine and glutamine, both found in bone broth. Supplemental dietary arginine helps speed wound healing by supporting the formation of collagen. This may be through conversion to proline (although supplemental proline does not have the same effect) or through some other pathway. Glutamine also helps reduce healing time in hospital patients, and recovery time in athletes on an intense training regimen.
Another fringe benefit of broth is that glycine is an inhibitory neurotransmitter, meaning that it helps you relax. One trial found that glycine supplements also improved sleep quality and reduced daytime sleepiness. So a hot mug of bone broth might be just the ticket to wind down after a long day.
On a more superficial level, the amino acids in gelatin also improve the appearance of your skin and hair. Skin, just like gelatin, is made of collagen. Gelatin-rich broths help build connective tissue, which makes skin smoother (less cellulite, fewer wrinkles) and healthier. There’s also some evidence that it helps reduce the signs of aging, but be wary when you’re digging through the evidence: a lot of the research into this is funded by industry sponsors, so it isn’t terribly trustworthy.
Dangers of Bone Broth: Microwaves and Lead Poisoning
With any new food, it’s important to not only ask “what are the pros?” but also “What are the cons?”. After all, getting all your information from one side of a debate isn’t the path to a balanced opinion. When it comes to bone broth, the two major arguments on the “con” side are that microwaving denatures the proteins, and that broth contains concentrated levels of lead (a toxic heavy metal) as well as beneficial minerals.
Regarding the microwave, there just doesn’t seem to be much in the way of conclusive evidence either way. The argument is that proline, one of the amino acids in the broth, is denatured from one form to another form (specifically, from L-proline to D-proline), and that the D-proline form is toxic.
First of all, there are no studies in which the researchers actually microwaved bone broth, much less fed the microwaved broth to humans. There are plenty of studies showing that if you inject either form of proline into a chicken with a syringe, the chicken will suffer various health problems up to and including convulsions and death. One study also found that the L-proline in milk is converted to D-proline by microwaving, but the only evidence the authors presented for the proof of toxicity was a study about injecting chickens, and they only concluded that further research was needed. But humans are not chickens and we aren’t injecting ourselves with any kind of bone broth anyway, so this is not terribly convincing evidence of danger.
In any event, this isn’t really a point against bone broth per se. If you’re truly concerned about microwaves despite the relative lack of evidence, the solution is simple: just re-heat your bone broth in a pot on the stove.
Moving on to the lead toxicity issue, this one is from a very recent study that found much higher levels of lead in chicken bone broth compared to plain tap water cooked using the same process. In response, Chris Kresser points out that the levels even in the most lead-heavy broth were still below the EPA’s threshold of concern, and that the other minerals in bone broth can mitigate the effect of lead toxicity.
For an even more exhaustive examination, the Weston A. Price foundation conducted an extensive review of the study, the chickens, the cooking methods (down to the type of water and materials in the pots and pans), the researchers and institution involved, and any other factors that might be even tangentially relevant, and concluded that the lead levels in the broth were likely to result from an unusually polluted environment. They then presented data from a known local farm, which found no lead in chicken or beef broth.
It’s important that neither of these studies is terribly conclusive: both tested only one farm’s birds, a sample size that’s far too small to generalize from. Of course, if there really is lead in bone broth, it’s a serious concern, but at the moment, there’s just not enough evidence to conclude anything either way. It really ends up being a risk everyone has to decide to run or not to run, in view of the potential benefits of the broth and their confidence in their local bone supply.
Ways to Eat Bone Broth
Drinking bone broth by itself is a treat for people who love it, but not everyone is thrilled by the texture and mouthfeel of such a fatty liquid. And sometimes, it just isn’t convenient to have a big bowl of bone broth at the table (when it’s 100 degrees out, for example, the last thing anyone wants is a hot bowl of broth). So a few ways to add bone broth to other foods are a useful addition to any Paleo chef’s repertoire.
The very easiest method is to simply use the broth as the basis for soup. In fact, you can get the soup started at the same time, by using bones with meat still on them. Chicken necks and backs, for example, yield a rich, fatty, and delicious chicken soup. Cook them like any other broth bones, and gently break them up with a fork when the broth is done: they’ll fall right apart. You can take out the bones if you like, or just leave them in; they’re soft enough to eat comfortably. Add some vegetables if you like a thicker soup, and serve hot.
Another traditional way to get your broth in is by making sauces or gravies. You’ve probably already made a simple reduction sauce with chicken broth; it’s simple enough to substitute bone broth and use the same technique.
If you’re getting adventurous or want to impress, you could also try aspic. Familiar to every fan of Julia Child, aspic is a clear, almost flavorless jelly used to dress up anything that goes well with a savory flavor. The basic technique is to pour the stock, sometimes along with an additional packet of unflavored gelatin, into a mold of your choice (this can be as simple as a mug or loaf pan). Then add whatever other ingredients you’d like to set in the aspic (eggs, meat, or vegetables), and then let the whole affair chill in the fridge until it’s set. Done wrong, this is reminiscent of the worst culinary experiments from the 50s, but done right, it can be a beautiful and interesting centerpiece or side dish – and it’s eaten cold, so it’s perfect for a hot summer day.
Substitutes for Bone Broth
There really aren’t any substitutes that come close to the real thing, but if you want some of the nutritive value of bone broth while you’re travelling or stuck without a kitchen, you can buy unflavored gelatin powder from grocery stores or online. This is just the protein, with no nutrients or fat, but since the benefits of the amino acids alone are quite substantial, it’s worth looking into as a temporary fix to tide you over.
Gelatin powder can simply be stirred into any liquid you like; take it straight in water, or hide it in soups and smoothies. For children (or adults) who refuse to drink their broth, you can also use unflavored gelatin to make homemade jelly candies or desserts.
The old song – “Dem bones, dem bones, dry bones” – really got it all wrong. Bones aren’t dry at all; prepared properly, they’re one of the most nutrient-dense foods you can eat. And the price is right, too: think of how many bones we all throw out every week. Using those bones saves you a considerable amount of money, because it stretches a leg of lamb or a roasting chicken into not one, but two high-quality sources of protein and fat. All the gristly, unattractive odd bits get a new way to be useful, and you save significantly on the grocery bill: drink up!
Top 5 Nutritional Benefits of Chicken Broth
Chicken soup isn’t just good for the soul — it has a number of other powerful benefits. When made with quality bone broth, it gets even better.
High-quality, long-simmered chicken broth boasts an impressive laundry list of nutrients that are hard to find in many other foods.
For starters, bone broth is an ancient food that was originally made by our ancestors to use up every part of the animal — including bones, marrow, skin, feet, tendons and ligaments — that were otherwise hard to digest. These animal parts are simmered along with other vegetables and herbs for several hours, even days, to extract a number of beneficial compounds, vitamins and minerals that your body can easily absorb.
Chicken broth has more than 19 easy-to-absorb, essential and nonessential amino acids like arginine, glycine and proline, which are the building blocks of proteins and essential for digestive health and immune system support. It’s also one of the only natural food sources for collagen and gelatin, which help form connective tissue in the body. Lastly, it has nutrients that support digestive functions, immunity and brain health.
The top nutrients found in chicken bone broth include:
- Chondroitin sulfate
5 Benefits of Chicken Broth Nutrition
1) Improve Digestion
Chicken broth supports gut health because it contains glutamine. Glutamine helps repair holes in the gut lining so that it can once again become impermeable. This not only enhances digestion, but supports your immune system.
2) Protect Your Joints
Because of the naturally-occurring collagen and gelatin in chicken broth, eating or drinking it regularly can support joint pain that comes from getting older.
Gelatin can take pressure off the joints. It’s also what acts as the cushion between bones, making it a great addition to your diet.
3) Clear Skin
Chicken broth contains collagen and collagen is one of the most important nutrient for skin elasticity. It’s is the primary structural protein of your skin, and is responsible for its plump, firm, youthful appearance. When collagen begins to break down because of aging or environmental toxin exposure, signs of premature aging like fine lines and wrinkles begin to appear.
Zinc is a mineral found concentrated in bones. It’s an important component for fighting acne and supporting healthy skin. One study showed that zinc has the ability to reduce the activity of P. acnes, which is the bacteria on the skin that can cause breakouts.
In addition to collagen and zinc, chicken broth contains glycosaminoglycans, which are molecules found in the skin’s dermis along with elastin. Their role is to fill the space between collagen and elastin to keep skin plump and supple.
4) Improved Sleep
Chicken broth contains Magnesium, which is known as the relaxation mineral. It’s required for over 300 enzymatic processes in the body, including synthesizing proteins, transmitting nerve signals and relaxing the muscles. All of these functions may promote better sleep.
Getting magnesium through food as opposed to a supplement helps your body absorb more of it.
5) Healthy Immune System
Researchers found that the amino acids released when making chicken broth reduced inflammation in the respiratory system and improved digestion. These compounds may positively affect disorders like allergies and asthma.
The Benefits of Homemade vs. Store-Bought
When making chicken broth, the bones must be simmered for long periods of time (between 18-24 hours) to allow all of the vitamins and minerals to be fully released. The long simmer time also makes these minerals bioavailable, which means they’re easier for your body to digest and absorb. This is especially important if you have a weakened digestive system. Homemade chicken broth is one of the best options because you can control what goes in it and how long it’s cooked.
However, store-bought chicken broth can be just as nutritious as the homemade stuff. It all depends on the brand.
A good bone broth congeals when cooled because it’s high in gelatin. When shopping for broth at the grocery store, make sure it’s chicken bone broth or beef bone broth and not chicken stock. Then figure out how high the collagen content is. Chicken broth or beef broth made from grass-fed animals and organic vegetables will also have a higher nutrient content.
Low-sodium is always a good option as it allows you to add the right amount of salt. Large brand, like Swanson Chicken Broth, have various options.
Kettle & Fire’s bone broth is slow simmered for over 12 hours, helping extract the nutrients your body needs. It’s made with organic ingredients and sustainably-raised, grass-fed animals.
How to Consume More Chicken Broth
While the conventional way to use chicken broth is in a soup or stew recipe, you could actually add it to any recipe that calls for liquid. Swap water for chicken broth in egg dishes, meat marinades, stuffings, casseroles, smoothies and noodle dishes. Some people are even trading in their morning cup of coffee for a warm mug of bone broth. The daily serving size doesn’t matter as much as consuming it daily.
Having chicken broth first thing in the morning will support skin and gut health. The abundance of amino acids, vitamins and minerals may also give you some extra energy without the jitters.
We recommend making chicken broth a part of your lifestyle. To get started, check out this guide on how to drink it.
SFF may receive commissions from purchases made through links in this article. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
These days, making homemade broth seems to be an anachronistic, if not redundant, thing to do, given the abundance of boxed, packaged and canned proxies available on grocery shelves.
But if you look at the nutrition label on a box or can of store-bought broth (Yes, even the organic ones!), you’ll quickly realize that the industrially-produced version is an empty, processed food—barely deserving of the term that our grandparents and great-grandparents understood as a healing and nourishing culinary treasure: Broth.
Health Benefits of Chicken Broth
Homemade broth has a reputation for curing what ails you, and that reputation is well-deserved. According to “Broth is Beautiful”:
Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium, but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons–stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain.
Additionally, when properly-made homemade broth is cooled, it congeals due to the gelatin that was cooked out of the bones in the pot. The use of gelatin as a therapeutic agent goes back to the ancient Chinese, although it enjoys worldwide renown:
The French were the leaders in gelatin research, which continued up to the 1950s. Gelatin was found to be useful in the treatment of a long list of diseases including peptic ulcers, tuberculosis, diabetes, muscle diseases, infectious diseases, jaundice and cancer. Babies had fewer digestive problems when gelatin was added to their cow’s milk formula. The American researcher Francis Pottenger pointed out that as gelatin is a hydrophilic colloid, which means that it attracts and holds liquids, it facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut.
Research on gelatin came to an end in the 1950s because U.S. food companies discovered how to produce meat-like flavors in the laboratory. Following the Second World War, food companies were introduced to monosodium glutamate (MSG), a food chemical invented in Japan in 1908 to enhance flavors by stimulating the meat-taste receptors on our tongues.
Once Big Food learned how to synthesize the flavor of meat in the laboratory using inexpensive proteins from grains and legumes, the door was opened to a flood of cheap, new products like bouillon cubes, dehydrated soup and sauce mixes and frozen dinners.
These products became so ubiquitous that today, the “homemade” soup found in most homes and restaurants is actually a reconstituted, powdered soup base containing MSG—often hidden in ingredients called “hydrolyzed proteins” or “autolyzed yeast extracts.”
In contrast, homemade broth starts with whole food: meat, fat, bones. Add a few veggies and herbs, and you have a tasty bowl of MSG-free, bioavailable nutrition.
Consuming homemade bone broth daily is the basis of the GAPS Diet, because the minerals, gelatin and amino acids glycine, proline and glutamine present in homemade broth help to heal and seal the lining of your gut, which in turn can relieve food sensitivities, digestive disorders, autoimmune conditions, and even psychological issues like autism and schizophrenia.
If you experience eczema, autoimmune disorders, digestive issues, or irritability when you eat certain foods, you’ll want to consume some broth every day, because these conditions are often caused or made worse by leaky gut. Fortunately, broth is an outstanding base for making soups and sauces, simmering meats and veggies, and even cooking beans and grains.
After a year of working on this recipe, I finally found a way to make chicken broth that satisfies my rigorous requirements:
- The broth must gel, every time. For me, a good broth must be so thick after a day in the fridge that I have to spoon and scrape it out of the jar to reheat it. This was the hardest part to master consistently until I got the ingredients and cooking method right, but a good gel on your broth is a measure of its nutrition.
- It must be low allergen. My daughter has a lot of trouble with celery, and I am very sensitive to garlic and bay leaf, so this broth has no mirepoix, but is very yummy nevertheless.
- It must be simple. I put all my ingredients into cotton mesh bags or “Soup Socks” in the stockpot, which makes straining my broth very easy. And with this recipe, after the initial boil, you can ignore your stockpot for 4 or 5 hours. Or, if it’s too hot this summer to make broth in your house, you can make this in an Instapot or slow-cooker camped in your garage! (Though note broth made by slow cooker will NOT gel as well.)
- It must be yummy. I use pasture-raised hens with feet for this recipe, not only because they are small, and provide a greater ratio of bones to meat in my broth, but also because they simply taste better. And I feel good knowing the hens were raised humanely with optimal nutrition and no hormones or antibiotics. Once you’ve mastered homemade chicken broth made with hens that foraged outdoors most of their lives, you’ll never go back to store-bought again.
I get pasture-raised hens either from my farmer’s market, when they are available, or from Whole Foods. The hens at the grocery store don’t have feet, so I buy a package of chicken feet from my favorite online meat vendor, U.S. Wellness Meats, just to make this recipe correctly.
Related: The Easiest Crockpot Chicken Stock Ever
The Perfect Chicken Broth
The health benefits of homemade chicken broth are long renowned and well-deserved. Here’s why and how to make perfect chicken broth easily. Pin CourseSoup CuisineGAPS, Gluten Free, Keto, Paleo Cook Time5 hours Total Time5 hours Servings16 servings Calories223kcal
- 2 pasture-raised hens (These are often quite small, and you should find 2 that will fit inside your stockpot or slow-cooker.)
- 4 pasture-raised chicken feet This is a crucial ingredient. If they didn’t come already attached to your hens, you can buy them bulk here.
- 1 medium onion quartered OR 3-5 large leeks, roughly chopped
- 1 small handful black peppercorns (about 10-20)
- 1 small handful allspice berries (about 10-20)
- 1-2 Tbsp. sea salt to taste
- 1 tsp. white vinegar or other mild vinegar (optional)
- Wash your hens, making sure there are no residual feathers, organs or packing materials remaining.
- Place all ingredients except sea salt inside 1 or 2 cotton mesh bags, pull or tie them closed, and place them so they sit low in your stockpot. (You can buy Soup Socks for this purpose as well.) Alternately, you can strain your broth with a china cap when it is done.
- Fill the stockpot or slow-cooker with fresh spring or filtered water, making sure the hens are fully submerged. Add salt and then vinegar, if using. Cover.
- Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer for 3-5 hours. I simmer longer for better gel. If you are using a slow-cooker, put it on high for 2-3 hours, then on low for 6-8 hours, though test it the first time, because slow-cookers can really vary.
- After the broth has cooled a bit, remove the ingredient bags/Soup Socks and empty them into a large bowl. The chickens will completely fall apart. Separate the meat from the skin, sinews and bones and set aside to use in soup, salads, or other dishes, as you wish.
- Once the pot has cooled enough to lift, start transferring the broth to Mason jars for storage in the freezer and fridge. If you like your broth particularly clear, you can strain it again through cheesecloth as you fill your jars.
- If you plan to freeze your broth, leave at least an inch of room in the jar for expansion, so your jars don’t break.
- Check your broth after a day in the fridge to see how well it gelled! The thicker the better. You may also have a nice, yellow layer of chicken fat (schmaltz) on top, which you can skim to cook with, or stir into soups and sauces, as you like.
- To add a nutritional boost and a deeper flavor to your dishes, use your broth wherever you might use water to cook veggies, meats, beans or grains.
Calories: 223kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 77mg | Sodium: 430mg | Potassium: 190mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 140IU | Vitamin C: 2.1mg | Calcium: 18mg | Iron: 0.9mg
Recommended for This Recipe
To me, bone broth is simple, it’s timeless, and it’s where we can go when we want to get back to the basics. Bone broth is easier to make than you might think, and it has healing properties that go deeper than we can imagine. Bones represent the structure of the Universe. When we feel we know the truth, we feel it deep in our bones. Bone broth is grounding and nourishing. And while all of this sounds wonderful, we also have science to show us the benefits that our bodies can feel with each sip.
Bone broth has been one of the secrets to my health and vitality for years. As I write this, I am getting close to my 90th birthday, and I am sure that it’s going to be another of my best decades ever! Age means nothing when you have good health.
Let’s all affirm: I take in and give out nourishment in perfect balance.
Nourishing myself is a joyful experience, and I am worth the time spent on my healing.
It is safe to experience new ideas and new ways.
I give myself permission to be all that I can be, and I deserve the very best in life. I love and appreciate myself and others. And so it is.
I am so passionate about bone broth that I have written a whole book about it with my good friend, Heather Dane, it is available here.
Studies conducted on bone broth have found that it can improve your health in a myriad of ways.
1. Bone Broth Boosts Immunity
Amino acids in bone broth, like arginine, glutamine, and cysteine, have been shown to boost immunity in humans and animals.
2. Bone Broth Alleviates The Common Cold And Bronchitis
There’s a solid scientific reason that we reach for chicken soup during cold and flu season. In 2000, a study was published in Chest, the official journal of the American College of Chest Physicians, which studied chicken soup (bone broth) and found that it does indeed aid in alleviating symptoms of the common cold, by clearing mucus, opening respiratory pathways, and providing easily digested nutrition.
In addition, according to medical doctor and UCLA professor Irwin Ziment, chicken soup naturally contains the amino acid cysteine, which chemically resembles the bronchitis drug acetylcysteine.
3. Bone Broth Fights Inflammation
Studies show that many of the amino acids in bone broth (such as cystine, histidine, and glycine) reduce inflammation, and L-glutamine specifically reduces gut inflammation. Additionally, the same Chest article from October 2000 mentioned above concluded that chicken soup’s anti-inflammatory benefits may be one reason it is so helpful with relieving symptoms of the common cold.
4. Bone Broth Strengthens Bones And Teeth
A study on the necessary nutrients for bone health found that the process of bone-formation requires “an adequate and constant supply of nutrients” as follows: calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper, boron, iron, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, and the B vitamins.
Bone broth with vegetables and meat or fish provides a good source of all of these vitamins and minerals.
5. Bone Broth Promotes Weight Loss
While more studies of gut bacteria and weight loss need to be conducted, research has shown that obese people have more of a certain type of bacteria called Firmicutes and less of another type called Bacteroidetes in their digestive tracts. The higher proportion of Firmicutes is believed to lead to a higher amount of calories extracted from food. Therefore, a higher ratio of Firmicutes to Bacteriodetes has become one of the markers of obesity.
Bone broth is a good source of L-glutamine, an essential amino acid (building block of protein) necessary for the body and gut health. L-glutamine was found in studies to reduce the Firmicutes in the gut and, therefore, aid in weight loss.
Many studies have also looked at whether consuming soup before a meal promoted weight loss due to a lower amount of calories eaten during the meal itself. In a study published in the November 2007 issue of Appetite (an international research journal specializing in behavioral nutrition and the cultural, sensory, and physiological influences on choices and intakes of foods and drinks), researchers conducted the study again and went a step further to see if eating a meal with liquid would have the same effect as soup.
The finding was that ingesting soup did indeed reduce caloric intake at the next meal and that only soup—not food consumed with water—had this beneficial effect.
6. Bone Broth Improves Hydration
Bone broth, especially when it’s made from vegetables, adds electrolytes (minerals) and carbohydrates (from vegetables) to the diet. Studies have shown that drinking broth can rehydrate better than water alone due to the electrolytes.
7. Restore Exercise Capacity with Bone Broth
Additional studies have shown that liquids with carbohydrates and electrolytes, like a bone broth simmered with vegetables, outperform water alone when it comes to restoring exercise capacity that may be lost from dehydration and electrolyte depletion.
8. Build Muscle with Bone Broth
The amino acids in bone broth can help stimulate muscle protein synthesis. Muscle protein synthesis is essential for the ongoing growth, repair, and maintenance of skeletal muscle groups. In a study looking at healthy patients and ovarian-cancer patients, researchers found that ingesting amino acids helped stimulate muscle protein synthesis and reduced inflammation, both in healthy participants and participants undergoing cancer therapy.
9. Improve Mood with Bone Broth
Your diet influences your gut bacteria, and your gut bacteria influence your brain. According to neuroscientists, your gut bacteria are constantly speaking to your brain. The makeup of gut bacteria, called your microbiome, influences how the brain is wired from infancy to adulthood, along with moods, memory, the ability to learn, and how to deal with stress. When the gut microbiome is healthy, it sends happy signals to the brain; when it’s unhealthy, it can send signals of anxiety.
Because of this signaling, neuroscientists are starting to investigate how to manage gut bacteria to treat mood and stress-related disorders such as depression.
Biologists says that the degenerative and inflammatory diseases on the rise in industrialized societies could be corrected by the use of gelatin-rich foods due to the presence of restorative amino acids such as glycine, alanine, proline, and hydroxyproline.
In addition to these benefits of bone broth, the gelatin it contains has an additional 9 bonus side-effects.
- Stronger, healthier nails
- Arthritis and joint-pain relief
- Can alleviate diabetes and lower blood sugar; supports insulin regulation
- Can improve sleep
- Helps regulate bleeding from nosebleeds, heavy menstruation, ulcers, hemorrhoids, and bladder hemorrhage
- Helps normalize stomach acid, which is useful for colitis, celiac disease, ulcers, and other inflammatory gut conditions
For decades, food manufacturers have been trying to sell you on Gatorade, energy drinks, over-the-counter drugs, antibiotics, weight-loss potions, and energy pills. Well, there is something you can take for better health and better athletic performance, but it’s not one of these—it’s bone broth!
But What about A Broth For Vegetarians?
If you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, you can make a vegetable broth. Especially if you have a compromised digestive system, they can be key to recovery as they are so easy for the body to break down.
You can make a vegetable broth by taking veggie scraps or whole vegetables and covering them in water, then simmering for 8-24 hours. You will then discard the vegetables because all of their nutrients are now in the soup broth.
As I said for years at my I Can Do It Conferences, “If you get your food right and your thoughts right, everything just works.” Affirmations are gentle words to change the way we think and shift us into a place of self-love, and bone or vegetable broth is a gentle way to get important nutrients into the body. The whole process of making broth is a path back to loving and nourishing yourself.
Some Additional Reading
Bone Broth Benefits – Is It Important to Skim?