There isn’t a whole load of research yet on the health benefits of eating/drinking bone broth.
There is some compelling research demonstrating the healing benefits of the constituent parts of bone broth – collagen (a vital nutrient) in particular.
Many thought leaders in natural health are recommending bone broth for everything from assisting with joint pain, alleviating gastro-intestinal issues such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, and generally as a way to boost levels of collagen.
Nutrition education organization, Weston A. Price Foundation, recommends it for resisting colds, improving skin and athletic performance and healing the digestive tract.
Mark Sisson (Primal Blueprint author) and Joseph Mercola have described bone broth as a ‘superfood‘. Bone broth is also recommended in The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution, and a core part of the widely respected GAPs protocol diet developed by Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride (she successfully used the diet to treat her son’s autism).
Pending the outcome of further studies, there is no downside to embracing this mineral rich liquid and its potentially potent healing benefits.
What exactly is it?
Simply put, it is the juice of bones.
Bone broth (or stock – same difference) was a way our ancestors made use of every part of an animal. So as is often the case with nutrition, necessity produced something awesome.
(Vegetarians: look away now). All of the bits and bobs that we don’t munch ‘directly’ – bones, marrow, skin and feet – are boiled then simmered. During the simmering, the bones and ligaments release healing compounds like collagen, proline, glycine, and glutamine. These compounds have been linked to improvements in various health conditions.
Key healing mechanisms – collagen and gelatin
Bone broth is a natural and rich source of collagen (or gelatin, which is just cooked collagen). Collagen has been described as the ‘missing piece’ in modern diet.
Collagen makes up 30% of the total protein in the body, and 70% of the protein in the skin. It strengthens the body’s connective tissues, which is why bone broth is recommended as an anti-cellulite solution. Our joints, tendons, ligaments, skin, mucus membranes and bones all need collagen.
Natural collagen production declines with age. In addition, modern lifestyle factors (think stress, poor diet and gut health imbalances) can also decrease the body’s ability to make it. Controllable factors that damage the production of collagen include smoking and high sugar consumption.
Because it is naturally high in collagen, bone broth has a powerful youthening effect on the skin. It can also fight the effects of sun damage and improve elasticity. Yes, that means less wrinkles!
Collagen is also understood to play a key role in reducing inflammation. That is a massive deal, as chronic, silent inflammation is the cause of many major illnesses.
Actions of glycine and proline
Gelatin, the cooked form of animal collagen, is predominantly made up of the amino acids glycine and proline. Both of these ‘non-essential’ amino acids have been linked to improved health.
Proline helps the body break down proteins and improve skin elasticity and smoothness. Glycine assists with the production of glutathione (an important anti-aging antioxidant), for blood sugar regulation and digestion.
Glycine also enhances muscle growth by increasing levels of creatine and regulating Human Growth Hormone, a key longevity agent. The glycine in bone broth can detoxify your cells from chemicals and improve brain function.
In addition, glycine aids digestion by enhancing hydrochloric acid production in the stomach. It acts to improve vitamin and mineral absorption and sooth the digestive tract.
Glycine has also been shown in several studies to help people sleep better and improve memory. It can help reduce the core body temperature (especially helpful to those who have trouble staying asleep).
Endurance athlete and health uber-expert Ben Greenfield has vouched for bone broth’s efficacy in combating muscular pain. That isn’t surprising as broth contains glucosamine (which people have been supplementing with to help with joint pain for years), plus a load of other joint health goodies, for example, chondroitin sulfate. Phosphorus, magnesium, and calcium in broth all support bone health.
Bone broth might help to relieve auto-immune disorders.
Dr Ray Peat, a hormonal researcher in the field of nutrition and metabolism, has indicated that broth is a good food for stress and longevity.
Gelatin, gut health and anxiety
Possibly the most exciting aspect of broth’s potential health benefits is its ability as a gut healer. That in turn makes it an excellent food for anxiety and related mood disorders (if you read this blog regularly, you’ll know that your gut and brain health are intertwined). Given how endemic anxiety and related conditions are, we should all be interested in seeking out natural remedies.Bone broth might reduce anxiety through its gut repair mechanism and the actions of glycine Click To Tweet
Further anxiety alleviation may come from the action of glycine (see above). Glycine slows down the production of norepinephrine which induces feelings of anxiety. This can either decrease specific instances of anxiety, or lessen the intensity of the feelings when they do come on.
How to eat gelatin without eating bone broth
If you are not down with eating bone juice, you could get yourself a quality gelatin powder (also called collagen protein). This is actually an awesome protein powder to replace your poor quality whey products or soy protein with.
Though it is not a complete protein (like whey for e.g.), gelatin contains a very reasonable 6 grams of protein per tablespoon.
Here are some guidelines for buying the products:
- You can get them in two forms – hydrolyzed and whole protein gelatin.
- Hydrolyzed means the protein is broken into individual amino acids, making them easier to absorb. Use this type to improve skin and joint health, or get better sleep. It can be added to smoothies or juices easily.
- Whole protein gelatin is more targeted towards improving gut health. It helps carry fluid through the intestines, and can coat the lining of the digestive tract as a soothing and protective layer. This is the type used to make gummies. You need to mix it into hot water.
- Fish gelatin is available if you prefer not to eat land animals.
- Individuals with histamine intolerance might get a histamine reaction to gelatin powder.
A good brand is Great Lakes, which comes from grass-fed animals. It’s available in both hydrolyzed and whole form.
Another great product has been made by I Quit Sugar writer Sarah Wilson.
How to whip up a broth storm
Broth is forgiving so no need for military style precision.
The essentials are simply bones, water and vinegar, which draws the minerals out from the bones. You can flavour broth with vegetables, garlic, onion, salt and herbs, which can be added towards the end. You already know to use organic and grass-fed meat.
- 2 to 4 lbs bones – from pastured, organic, and grass-fed poultry, fish, beef or lamb.
- Enough water to cover bones.
- 3 or 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar.
- Place bones into a large stock pot and cover with water.
- Add the apple cider vinegar to water prior to cooking.
- Fill stock pot with filtered water. Leave plenty of room for water to boil.
- Heat slowly. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to simmer for at least six hours. Remove scum as it arises.
- Chicken bones can cook for 24 hours. Beef bones can cook for 48 hours. A low and slow cooking time is what you are aiming for.
- After cooking, the broth will cool and a layer of fat will harden on top. This layer protects the broth beneath. Discard this layer only when you are about to eat the broth.
Alternatively, here is how you would prepare broth in your slow cooker.
Some additional tips:
- Experiment with a combination of animal products and vegetables. They might have synergistic effects.
- Consider using body parts that aren’t commonly found in the meat department of your grocery store – stuff like chicken feet and neck.
Quantities and uses
Begin your broth-ing with 8 ounces per day as a soup, on its own, or doing a bone broth fast.
Broth can be used as a hot wake up drink, a base for soups and stews, frozen and added to smoothies – this is a very versatile food.
Bare Bones broth
If you’re buying out, then there are a plethora of companies popping up to exploit the craze.
Bare Bones broth has the edge on a lot of the others for me, due to the focus on animals living the good life. Bare Bones broth is made with animals that are pasture-raised and free-range. The broth has a super yummy light flavour. It is flavored with onions, carrots, fresh parsley, apple cider vinegar, fresh thyme and fresh bay leaves.
They cost around $9.99 per 24 ounce pouch.
If you want to swot up on broth and gelatin, I recommend the following:
A miracle food?
Bone broth appears to be a great food to add to your nutritional arsenal – even if the health claims are hyperbolic. Aside from the potential to transform the health of your bones and gut, and anti-age you, it is inexpensive, easy and tasty.
This just might be a ‘miracle food’ for you.
What are your thoughts on this health craze? Get in touch in the comments below!