We love a good bone broth, like our Bacon Hock Soup! But did you know there are actually some incredible health benefits to drinking a good, homemade bone broth regularly? We cover the six top benefits here, as well as an easy bone broth recipe to get you started...
Bone broth is made by simmering the bones and connective tissue of animals. This highly nutritious stock is commonly used in soups, sauces and gravies. It has also recently gained popularity as a health drink.
Bone broth dates back to prehistoric times, when hunter-gatherers turned otherwise inedible animal parts like bones, hooves and knuckles into a broth they could drink. You can make bone broth using bones from just about any animal — pork, beef, veal, turkey, lamb, bison, buffalo, venison, chicken or fish.
Six Health Benefits to Bone Broth
Animal bones are rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus and other trace minerals — the same minerals needed to build and strengthen your own bones. Fish bones also contain iodine, which is essential for healthy thyroid function and metabolism. Connective tissue gives you glucosamine and chondroitin, natural compounds found in cartilage that are known to support joint health. Marrow provides vitamin A, vitamin K2, minerals like zinc, iron, boron, manganese and selenium, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
All of these animal parts also contain the protein collagen, which turns into gelatin when cooked and yields several important amino acids. As the ingredients simmer, their nutrients are released into the water in a form your body can easily absorb. Many people don't get enough of these nutrients in their diet, so drinking bone broth is a good way to get more.
Scientists have discovered that your overall health depends heavily on the health of your intestinal tract. Not only is bone broth easy to digest, it may also aid in the digestion of other foods. The gelatin found in bone broth naturally attracts and holds liquids. This is why properly prepared broth congeals in the fridge.
Gelatin can also bind to water in your digestive tract, which helps foods move through your gut more easily. It has also been shown to protect and heal the mucosal lining of the digestive tract in rats. It is thought to have the same effect in humans, but more research needs to be done to show its effectiveness (1Trusted Source).
An amino acid in gelatin called glutamine helps maintain the function of the intestinal wall, and has been known to prevent and heal a condition known as "leaky gut" (2Trusted Source).
Leaky gut, which is associated with several chronic diseases, is when the barrier between your gut and the bloodstream is impaired. Substances that your body doesn't normally allow through leak into your bloodstream, which leads to inflammation and other problems.
For all of these reasons, drinking bone broth may be beneficial for individuals with leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or irritable bowel disease (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn's disease.
The amino acids found in bone broth, including glycine and arginine, have strong anti-inflammatory effects (3Trusted Source). Arginine, in particular, may help fight the inflammation associated with obesity. One study shows higher levels of arginine in the blood are associated with decreased inflammation in obese women (4Trusted Source).
While some inflammation is necessary, chronic inflammation may lead to a number of serious diseases. Because of this, it's important to eat plenty of anti-inflammatory foods.
4. Its Nutrients Have Been Shown to Improve Joint Health
Collagen is the main protein found in bones, tendons and ligaments. During the cooking process, collagen from bones and connective tissue is broken down into another protein called gelatin. Gelatin contains important amino acids that support joint health. It contains proline and glycine, which your body uses to build its own connective tissue. This includes tendons, which connect muscles to bones, and ligaments, which connect bones to each other. Bone broth also contains glucosamine and chondroitin, which are natural compounds found in cartilage.
Multiple studies have found that glucosamine and chondroitin can decrease joint pain and lessen the symptoms of osteoarthritis (6Trusted Source, 7Trusted Source, 8Trusted Source, 9Trusted Source). The proteins in bone broth have also proven beneficial for those with rheumatoid arthritis, which is a chronic autoimmune disease that causes painful damage to the tendons and ligaments.
Bone broth is typically very low in calories, but can still satisfy hunger. Studies have found that eating broth-based soup on a regular basis can increase fullness, reduce calorie intake and lead to weight loss over time (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source). What's more, bone broth contains gelatin, which has specifically been shown to promote feelings of fullness (13Trusted Source). One study found that gelatin was more effective at reducing hunger than the protein casein, which is found in dairy products (14Trusted Source). Another study in 53 men found that, when combined with resistance training, collagen helped increase muscle mass and decrease body fat (15Trusted Source).
The amino acid glycine, found in bone broth, may help you relax. Multiple studies have found that glycine helps promote sleep (16, 17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source). One study found that taking 3 grams of glycine before bed significantly improved the quality of sleep in individuals who have difficulty sleeping (16).
Taking glycine before bed helped participants fall asleep faster, maintain a deeper sleep and wake up fewer times throughout the night. This study also found that glycine reduced daytime sleepiness and improved mental function and memory. Therefore, drinking bone broth could have similar benefits.
Making bone broth is very simple. There are many recipes online, but most people don't even use a recipe. All you really need is a large pot, water, vinegar and bones. To get you started here is an easy recipe you can follow:
- 1 gallon (4 liters) of water
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) apple cider vinegar
- 2–4 pounds (about 1–2 kg) of animal bones
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Place all ingredients in a large pot or slow cooker.
- Bring to a boil.
- Reduce to a simmer and cook for 12–24 hours. The longer it cooks, the better it will taste and more nutritious it will be.
- Allow the broth to cool. Strain it into a large container and discard the solids.
In order to make the most nutritious broth, it is best to use a variety of bones — marrow bones, oxtail, knuckles and feet. You can even mix and match bones in the same batch. Adding vinegar is important because it helps pull all of the valuable nutrients out of the bones and into the water, which is ultimately what you will be consuming. You can also add vegetables, herbs or spices to your broth to enhance the flavor. Common additions include garlic, onion, celery, carrot, parsley and thyme. These can be added right away in step one.
How Often to Drink It
Unfortunately, there is no straightforward answer to this. Many people recommend drinking 1 cup (237 ml) of bone broth daily for maximum health benefits. Some is better than none, so whether it be once a week or once a day, drink it as often as you can.
What is known for sure is that bone broth is highly nutritious and it's possible that adding it to your diet may provide a whole host of health benefits.