Bone Broth and Gut health: Everything you Need to Know
Bone broth has become a very popular food recently. While bone broth is a traditional meal that has been around for ages, it is becoming a more widely known health food now. Bone broth is believed to have many nutritional benefits and is often used as a food to improve gut health.
Bone broth has been a medicinal food used in many ancient cultures. While there are many health claims about bone broth, there is a lack of scientific research today verifying its many health claims. This has lead people to wonder: is bone broth good for you? If so, why is bone broth good for you? What is bone broth good for? Are the many health claims about bone broth true? In this article, we answer all of these questions and cover everything else you need to know about bone broth.
What Is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is a type of broth that is made by cooking the bones and connective tissue of animals. The nutrients and minerals in the bones and connective tissue become infused with the broth and make a stock that is both highly nutritious and easily absorbable by the body. This nutrient-rich stock is commonly used in soups, sauces, and gravies, and has also recently gained popularity as a health drink.
Bone broth can be made using the bones from just about any animal — cow, pig, turkey, lamb, buffalo, bison, chicken, or fish. The marrow and connective tissues like feet, hooves, beaks, gizzards, or fins can also be used to make bone broth.
Bone broth is an ancient food that dates back to the times of hunters and gatherers. With this dish, people could turn otherwise inedible animal parts into a nutrient-rich broth.
Bone Broth Benefits
There are many health claims regarding the benefits of bone broth—and not all of them have been verified by scientific research. Still, the research that has been done on bone broth does reveal some pretty impressive health benefits.
Bone Broth is Rich in Important Vitamins and Minerals
Overall, bone broth is a very nutritious food. However, the exact nutrient content of bone broth will depend on the ingredients that are used, as bone broth can be made from various animals, as well as various parts of animals, so each ingredient used will offer something different.
In general, animal bones are rich in calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, and other trace minerals. Not surprisingly, the minerals found in animal bones are the same minerals that we need to build strong and healthy bones.
Bone broth also contain the protein collagen, which is important for muscle and soft tissue health. When cooked, collagen gets converted into gelatin, which contains several beneficial amino acids.
Bone marrow contains minerals like iron, zinc, boron, selenium, and manganese; vitamins like vitamin K2 and vitamin A; as well as both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. The connective tissue of animals also contains glucosamine and chondroitin, nutrients that are known to support joint health.
As the ingredients in bone broth cook together, their nutrients are released into the water in a form that is easily absorbed by the body. This makes bone broth a good nutritional supplement, as many people do not get enough of these essential nutrients in their diet.
An issue with bone broth, however, is that it isn’t possible to know how much of each nutrient is contained in the broth because every batch is so different and varies widely depending on the animal and animal parts that are used, and in what amounts they are used.
Bone Broth May Benefit Gut Health
There are many health claims regarding bone broth and gut health. Many people use bone broth for gut health because it is easy to digest and is believed to aid in the digestion of other foods. Gelatin, which is naturally found in bone broth, attracts and holds liquids and can bind to the water in your digestive tract, which helps foods move through your gut more easily.
One of the biggest bone broth gut health claims, however, is that bone broth is believed to heal the mucosal lining of the digestive tract. There has not been enough research to support this, but a few studies have shown that bone broth was able to protect and heal the mucosal lining of the digestive tract in rats. While this is promising, it has yet to be determined whether it can do the same in humans.
The gut healing properties of bone broth are attributed to an amino acid in gelatin called glutamine. This amino acid helps to maintain the function of the intestinal wall and has been known to prevent and heal a condition known as “leaky gut”.
Leaky gut has been associated with many chronic diseases and occurs when your intestinal barrier is impaired. The intestinal barrier is a thin, semi-permeable barrier between your gut and the bloodstream. Its role is to allow nutrients in the gut to pass through into your bloodstream, while keeping out toxins and preventing them from passing through.
When the intestinal barrier is damaged, substances that your body doesn’t normally allow through are able to leak into your bloodstream, which leads to inflammation, auto-immune conditions and numerous other problems.
For those looking to remedy their leaky gut, drinking bone broth may be a beneficial food. Because of its numerous gut healing properties, it may also benefit individuals suffering from other gut health conditions.
Bone Broth May Improve Joint Health
The nutrients in bone broth may also help to improve joint health. Collagen, in particular is thought to be helpful for benefiting the joints, as it is one of the main proteins found in our muscles, tendons, bones, and soft tissue.
As the bones in bone broth cook, collagen is broken down into another protein called gelatin. Proline and glycine, two amino acids found in collagen, are used by your body to build its own connective tissue, which may support your joint health.
Bone broth also contains glucosamine and chondroitin. Several studies have found that both glucosamine and chondroitin can help decrease and alleviate the symptoms of joint pain.
While the main bone broth protein is collagen, bone broth is not a great source of collagen for those looking to increase their collagen levels to improve skin and soft tissue health. This is because collagen from animal sources is a very large molecule that is difficult for the body to break down. The best way to build collagen is to give the body the nutrients that it needs to make its own collagen, also know as collagen precursors.
Bone Broth May Fight Inflammation
Another benefit of bone broth is that it may help to reduce inflammation. Inflammation is a process by which your body's white blood cells and the things they make protect you from infection from outside invaders, such as bacteria and viruses. This is a necessary function of our immune system. However, when inflammation occurs over long periods of time it can become chronic, and chronic inflammation has been attributed to many major health conditions.
The amino acids found in bone broth have strong anti-inflammatory effects. The amino acid Arginine may be especially beneficial for fighting chronic inflammation. One study found that supplementing with arginine could help fight inflammation in people with obesity. Another animal study found that administering oral arginine to mice with asthma reduced airway inflammation and improved their symptoms.
Bone Broth May Improve Sleep and Brain Function
Bone broth may also be able to help improve sleep and brain function. Glycine, an amino acid found in bone broth, promotes relaxation and may help you fall asleep easier. Studies on glycine have also found that it helps reduce daytime sleepiness and improves mental function and memory. Because of these benefits of glycine, drinking bone broth may provide similar benefits.
Are There Any Risks to Consuming Bone Broth?
Bone broth is a source of many great nutrients and can be a great health food—as long as the bones that are used are of good quality. Health is a complex topic, and it isn’t always as easy to say simply that “yes, this is a healthy food,” or “no, this food is bad for you.”
Berries are considered one of the healthiest foods on the planet, but conventionally grown berries are typically sprayed with toxic pesticides that can be very harmful to human health—which is why it is important to always buy organic or ethically wild-forged produce.
In the same way, bone broth has many nutrients and health benefits, but if the bones came from animals that were fed GMO grains or foods sprayed with pesticides, were pumped full of artificial hormones, or were exposed to toxic heavy metals, then you could be consuming these chemicals in your bone broth—which is why it is so important to get your bones or bone broth from a good source.
Bones, in particular, are known to sequester the heavy metal lead, contamination with which is widespread throughout the modern environment. This lead can then be leeched from the bones into the bone broth. Some researchers have warned that bone broth, therefore, might carry a risk of being contaminated with lead.
A small, blinded, controlled study published in the National Library of Medicine found that "three different types of organic chicken broth showed that such broths do indeed contain several times the lead concentration of the water with which the broth is made. In particular, broth made from skin and cartilage taken off the bone once the chicken had been cooked with the bones, and chicken-bone broth, were both found to have markedly high lead concentrations."
If you are considering including bone broth in your diet, take extra care to look into the source of the bones, or bone broth, that you are purchasing.
How to Make Bone Broth
Making bone broth is easy. All you need is a large pot, water, vinegar, and bones. Here is a simple and easy recipe that you can follow:
- 1 gallon of water
- 2–4 pounds of animal bones
- 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Place all of the ingredients in a large pot.
- Bring the water to a boil.
- Reduce the temperature to a simmer and let cook for 12–24 hours. The more time it has for the nutrients to leak from the bones into the broth, the better it will taste and the more nutritious it will be.
- Allow the broth to cool.
- Strain the broth into a large container
- Throw away the remaining bones and animal parts.
The most nutritious broth is made by using a variety of bones and animal parts. You can even mix bones from different animals in the same batch. Adding vinegar helps to better extract the nutrients out of the bones and into the water.
If you’d like, you can also add vegetables, herbs, or spices to your broth, such as garlic, onion, celery, carrot, parsley, and thyme. These can be added with all of the other ingredients in step one.
While bone broth can be made with many different animals, many people claim that beef is the best bone broth for gut health—though there is not enough research to back up this claim.
Where to Get Bones for Making Bone Broth
To get bones for bone broth may be easier than you think. Instead of throwing leftover bones from meals like chicken, steak, or ribs in the garbage, you can save them to make broth. You can collect the bones in a bag and store them in your freezer until you are ready to make them into a broth.
However, if you’re not someone who typically buys a lot of meat with bones in it, you can ask for bones at your local butcher or farmers market. The meat department at many grocery stores will often have them for sale, and they are usually inexpensive to purchase.
Do your best to find pastured chicken or grass-fed beef bones, since these animals will be the healthiest, will contain the least amount of toxins, and will provide the maximum health benefits.
How to Store Bone Broth
Bone broth can only be stored safely in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. If you want your bone broth to last longer, you can freeze it in small containers and heat them up when you're ready to use them. Because of the gelatin in bone broth, it will congeal when it is cold. So don’t be surprised to find the texture has changed after freezing or refrigerating—it will melt into a liquid broth once it is heated again.
Can I Drink Bone Broth Every Day?
Up to you! Many people recommend drinking a cup of bone broth daily for its health benefits. Others only have it when they are using it for a particular reason, such as for improving gut or joint health. In any case, bone broth is safe to consume daily so how often to consume it is your choice.
On its own, bone broth doesn’t have much flavor, and many people dislike the taste that it does have. You can improve the taste by adding in other herbs, spices, and vegetables.
Bone broth is an ancient food that is made by simmering the bones and connective tissue of animals. The marrow and connective tissues like feet, hooves, beaks, gizzards, or fins can also be used to make bone broth. The nutrients and minerals in the bones and connective tissue become infused with the broth and make a stock that is both highly nutritious and easily absorbed by the body.
Bone broth is rich in important nutrients like vitamins, minerals, and amino acids. Because of its high nutrient content, and the bioavailability of these nutrients, bone broth has many health benefits.
As healthy as bone broth is, some researchers warn that it may be a source of contamination of lead and other toxic heavy metals. Bones are especially known to sequester heavy metals. These may be mobilized from the bones into the bone broth when cooked. Because of this, make sure you get your bones or bone broth from a high-quality source. You may even want to consider visiting a local farm or butcher to ask them personally about the source of their meat and their agricultural practices. The closer you are to the source of your food, the better.
Bone broth is very easy to make. All you need is water, bones, vinegar and salt—and some herbs, spices, and vegetables if desired. Simply add the ingredients together in a large pot and let cook for 12-24 hours—the longer the better. You can also purchase pre-made bone broth in some health stores.
Overall, bone broth is a simple and nutritious health food that offers many benefits. As with any food or supplement, however, you want to make sure that you are getting it from a good quality source.