Bone Broth: Benefits, Recipes, and More
Bone broth has many health benefits and has long been used as a powerful remedy for gut problems and other health issues. As a functional medicine expert, this nourishing superfood is a staple recommendation for almost every patient in my telehealth functional medicine clinic in some capacity.
If you’ve been interested in trying bone broth or wondering what the hype is all about, read on to learn more about bone broth benefits, bone broth recipes, where to buy bone broth, and more.
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What is bone broth?
Before pre-packaged broth became the norm, bone broth was the OG soup base. Bone broth is made from chicken or beef bones simmered with water, vegetables, and other seasonings anywhere between 8-48 hours.
Cooking the bones for an extensive period of time releases beneficial nutrients including collagen, amino acids, gelatin and other important trace minerals that your body can easily absorb and utilize.
What makes bone broth different from conventional stock that you buy at the store is this long cooking time with real bones. Most broth is made the fast and cheap way with meat-like flavoring to cut down on time and overall production cost. This unfortunately cuts out the nutritional value of traditional bone broth.
Bone broth benefits
Bone broth has many benefits and can affect your health positively in many ways since the body is so interconnected. However, it’s worth noting that bone broth really shines in these particular areas:
1. Bone broth protects your joints
Collagen is made up of three amino acids - glycine, proline, and hydroxyproline - and is the building block of your connective tissue that includes your cartilage, bones, blood vessels, joints, and tendons. Joint pain can be attributed to a loss in collagen from aging and overuse and is something that needs to constantly be replenished since your body doesn't naturally produce it on its own.
One study found that athletes who included more collagen in their diets significantly reduced joint pain and were able to enhance overall performance and mobility. (1) Instead of adding yet another supplement to your routine, bone broth is a great way to get more collagen into your diet.
2. Bone broth supports gut health
Studies have shown that gelatin acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory in your gut and can help restore the integrity of the gut lining in cases of leaky gut syndrome. (2) Since it is also rich in nutrients but easy to digest, bone broth helps to support the restoration of a damaged gut by giving your digestion a break from the intensive work of having to break down other food.
3. Bone broth improves immune health
Because bone broth helps heal and seal a leaky gut, it also helps support immune function. Almost 80% of your immune system is located in your gut, and when your gut lining is compromised, undigested food particles and bacteria enter your bloodstream where they don’t belong causing chronic inflammation and poor immune function.
4. Bone broth enhances healthy skin
Collagen isn’t just found in your joints, it’s also an important component to healthy, youthful looking skin. As you age, you lose collagen that controls the elasticity of your skin and contributes to the appearance of wrinkles and sagging skin. Studies have shown that collagen has been linked to a decrease in wrinkles and cellulite as well as an improvement in hydration - aka that youthful “glow.” (4)
How to use bone broth
Bone broth is most commonly used as a base for soups and stews but you can use it as a healing tool in a few different ways to elevate your healing journey and overall health.
1. Bone broth cleanse
If you struggle with chronic gut problems, a bone broth cleanse does wonders for healing. Since it is so rich in nutrients, a targeted bone broth cleanse of plain bone broth or bone broth based soups for a few days can help calm gut inflammation, soothe a leaky gut, and speed up healing.
2. Sipping broth
Bone broth is great to sip on by itself in the middle of the day to calm an upset stomach or alongside meals to help aid in digestion.
3. Ingredient substitute
Bone broth can be used as a substitute for water or any other liquid in a variety of recipes for an added boost of flavor and nutrients.
For more ways to incorporate bone broth into your life, check out my article with more delicious recipes.
Bone broth side effects
The amazing thing about bone broth is that there are very minimal, if any, side effects to worry about. However, there are a few things worth considering depending on your individual health case.
1. Histamine intolerance
Histamines are chemicals in your body produced in response to allergens. This is part of a healthy, balanced immune system. Histamine intolerance happens when there is a deficiency of the enzymes that break down histamine leading to excess histamine and a variety of health problems.
Many foods naturally contain histamine, or trigger the release of histamine in the body, including bone broth. If you do have histamine intolerance, bone broth can still be beneficial but you do have to pay more attention to how it is cooked and how much you are having. One way to combat this is to cook your broth for less time to avoid the release of more histamines.
This acronym stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols - aka, fermentable sugars. Found in certain foods commonly used in bone broth like garlic and onions, they contribute to excessive gas and bloating. If you struggle with these symptoms, have IBS, SIBO, or other gut problems, avoid brands that contain high-FODMAP ingredients and leave them out of your homemade bone broth.
While bone broth is great for your health, it is typically made with certain nightshades like pepper and tomatoes that a lot of people with autoimmune disease can’t tolerate and can contribute to more inflammation. If you have an autoimmune condition, look for brands that leave these ingredients out of their recipes.
How to make bone broth
Bone broth is surprisingly easy to make - it just takes a little time. While the actual prep time is minimal, it does require a little patience to reach the final product since the cook time is what takes the longest.
This recipe can be used with whatever bones you have on hand - as long as they are organic and grass-fed - as the formula is the same. You can also switch up what seasonings and vegetables you use depending on your preferences.
Simple Homemade Bone Broth
- 2 pounds chicken, beef, or turkey bones
- 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (helps to break down and release more nutrients from the bones)
- Sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste
- ½ cup chopped celery
- ½ cup chopped carrots
- 1 small onion, diced
- Place your bones, apple cider vinegar, vegetables, and seasonings in a large soup pot or slow cooker.
- Fill the slow cooker or pot with water until it covers the bones about an inch from the top and cover with a lid.
- If cooking over the stove, bring the pot to a boil over medium high-heat, reduce the heat, and let simmer between 24-48 hours. If cooking in a slow cooker, set it to LOW and let cook for 24-48 hours.
- Once cooked, strain the broth, let it cool, and store in glass containers in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Where to buy bone broth
If you have limited time, you can purchase pre-made bone broth instead of making it at home. There are a handful of brands that comply with different dietary restrictions and preferences. These are the ones that I recommend to my patients most often.
- FOND Bone Broth
100% organic, FOND Bone Broth is shelf-stables and produced and packaged in glass containers. Their state-of-the-art canning process means healthy bone broth without preservatives. FOND even offer low-fodmap options that are both nutrient-dense and delicious.
- Bare Bones Broth
What makes Bare Bones unique is that in addition to their classic beef, chicken, and turkey bone broths, they also have a line of instant bone broth. These individual sachets make taking bone broth with you on-the-go easier than ever and are perfect for flying where the amount of liquid you can pack is limited.
- Osso Good Broth
Osso Good leaves nightshades out of their line of AIP-compliant chicken and bone broths. If you struggle with autoimmunity this allows you to truly reap the health benefits of bone broth without having to make it yourself.
Whether you decide to make bone broth yourself or purchase it, there is no denying just how beneficial it is for your health. So instead of turning to another supplement, try incorporating more bone broth into your life and see what it can do for you.
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- Clark, Kristine L et al. “24-Week study on the use of collagen hydrolysate as a dietary supplement in athletes with activity-related joint pain.” Current medical research and opinion vol. 24,5 (2008): 1485-96. doi:10.1185/030079908x291967
- Frasca, Giuseppina et al. “Gelatin tannate reduces the proinflammatory effects of lipopolysaccharide in human intestinal epithelial cells.” Clinical and experimental gastroenterology vol. 5 (2012): 61-7. doi:10.2147/CEG.S28792
- Choi, Franchesca D. et al. “Oral Collagen Supplementation: A Systematic Review of Dermatological Applications.” Journal of drugs in dermatology : JDD vol. 18,1 (2019): 9-16.
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BY DR. WILL COLE
Dr. Will Cole, IFMCP, DNM, DC, leading functional medicine expert, consults people around the world via webcam and locally in Pittsburgh. He received his doctorate from Southern California University of Health Sciences and post doctorate education and training in functional medicine and clinical nutrition. He specializes in clinically researching underlying factors of chronic disease and customizing a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. Dr. Cole was named one of the top 50 functional medicine and integrative doctors in the nation and is the best selling author of Ketotarian and The Inflammation Spectrum.