Dr. Cole’s Guide To Bone Broth: Benefits, Recipes & Vegan Alternative

Dr-Coles-Guide-To-Bone-Broth--Benefits-Recipes-Vegan-Alternative

Bone broth is an ancient superfood rich in nutrients like collagen, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. While it’s not a cure-all, that nutritional profile comes with a number of health benefits for your gut, your joints, and your bones.

If you’re ready to make bone broth, check out my basic recipe for instructions on how to get it just right.

Typically, bone broth is used in hot soups and stews, but you can get more adventurous than that. I’ll share my favorite benefits of bone broth, recipes, and vegan alternatives to get you informed about its potential for your overall wellness.

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Here’s How Bone Broth Supports A Healthy Body

Bone broth is a known anti-inflammatory packed with essential nutrients that support the body in several ways. It’s great for your body in general, but there are a few areas that are impacted more directly.

Bone Broth Is Good For Gut Health.

Bone broth may reduce inflammation in the gut. In recent animal studies, researchers found that bone broth may have promising therapeutic effects for those with ulcerative colitis, thanks to its effects on inflammatory markers in the body. (1)

Amino acids like glutamine found in bone broth may also have a healing effect on your intestinal barrier. That’s why I like to recommend bone broth to patients suffering from leaky gut syndrome, malabsorption conditions, candida overgrowth, and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).

Note: For a more easily digestible SIBO bone broth, avoid adding high-FODMAP vegetables like garlic, onion, and fennel to your base.

Bone Broth Supports Immune Health.

Bone broth’s nutrient profile includes amino acids like arginine and glutamate that boost the efficiency of your immune system responses. (2) Essential minerals in bone broth, like calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium, enhance your ability to fight off infection and illness. (3)

Deficiencies in any of these nutrients have the opposite effect on immune system health and can lead to chronic inflammation. Bone broth’s effects on your gut also play an important role in immune function. When it comes to your gut microbiome, everything is connected.

Bone Broth May Improve Bone And Joint Health.

Bone broth is rich in gelatin and collagen, which is why it’s so good for your bones and joints. (4) Your body naturally produces collagen, a structural protein essential to strong bones, joints, and connective tissues, but that decreases as we age.

Less collagen puts you at risk for joint pain and conditions like osteoarthritis. Supplementing collagen through diet with foods like bone broth may help replenish those diminishing reserves and enhance mobility and flexibility as you age.

Bone broth is also a good source of glucosamine and chondroitin, two compounds important for cartilage health. Both have been linked to reduced pain and stiffness in osteoarthritis patients. (5)

Bone Broth Is Good For Healthy Skin, Hair, And Nails.

Bone broth’s high collagen content also benefits your skin, hair, and nails. (6) On top of its effects on your bones and joints, collagen promotes skin elasticity. As we age and collagen production decreases, our skin becomes less elastic, which means more fine lines and wrinkles.

Collagen peptides also help your body make keratin, a protein important to strong hair hair follicles and nail health. Sufficient collagen makes both less prone to breakage.

LISTEN: Superfood Hacks, Collagen Peptides & Bone Broth Benefits + Exactly How to Prioritize Your Mental Health In The Age Of Social Media | Dr. Josh Axe

Bone Broth May Help You Sleep.

You probably grew up hearing about the healing power of chicken soup or chicken broth when you’re not feeling like yourself. Amino acids like glycine in bone broth may have an even more powerful impact on neurotransmitters in the brain linked to stress, anxiety, and sleep. (7)

Studies show healthy amounts of glycine in the body promote thermoregulation (steady body temperatures) and healthy circadian rhythms. (8) Both support more efficient sleep and improved sleep quality.

Bone Broth Is Hydrating.

Bone broth is a great source of electrolytes and hydration. Staying hydrated is important to every aspect of overall wellness, from cognitive function to cell growth to a healthy metabolism. (9) Plus, unlike some “hydrating” beverages, bone broth doesn’t add unnecessary chemicals or calories to your diet.

Don’t Just Drink It: 9 More Ways To Consume Bone Broth

A simple homemade bone broth with animal bones, bay leaves, apple cider vinegar, and your vegetables of choice can be satisfying all on its own. I also like adding it to things like smoothies and stir-fry dishes to enjoy the health benefits of bone broth protein with a little more versatility.

But if you're looking for more creative ideas, look no further!

1. Add It To Your Smoothies.

Instead of adding juice or almond milk to your morning smoothie, stir in some bone broth. The natural sweetness of the fruits and veggies in your smoothie will mask some of the savory flavor of the broth.

You also can freeze bone broth into ice cubes and add them to your favorite superfood smoothie recipe.

2. Dilute Fruit Juices.

This is a great way to cut down on the fruit sugar content of juices. Add one part bone broth and 3 parts fresh-pressed juice to get a refreshing, gut-healing beverage. You can also freeze this to make bone broth and juice ice pops.

3. Try It With Gazpacho.

Gazpachos or cold soups with bone broth as part of the base are a great idea for a refreshing and nourishing meal. I like them on warmer days or after a hard workout — when the last thing I’m in the mood for is warm bone broth stews.

4. Bulk Up Your Condiments.

Mix a little bone broth into salad dressings or condiments like ketchup and mayonnaise to make those sauces just a little bit healthier. You’ll get that extra savory flavor with your condiments this way, too.

5. Reheat Leftovers.

Use bone broth with your leftovers to punch up the nutrition profile of last night’s dinner. Warm everything up on the stovetop instead of your microwave so you don’t have to worry about uneven heating or a loss of flavor.

6. Elevate Your Stir Fry.

Add bone broth to the pan when sauteing vegetables to infuse your stir fry with some gut-healing goodness. It can also work with your rice and noodle dishes as a substitute for some of the water and chicken stock you may use.

7. Make A Savory Gravy.

Gravies typically call for beef or chicken stock, but a bone broth can be a healthier addition to your favorite savory sauces. Add a little arrowroot starch to some hot bone broth in a pan for some grain- and gluten-free gravy.

8. Power-Up Scrambled Eggs.

Want some fluffy, scrambled eggs in the morning? Add no more than a teaspoon of bone broth per egg instead of milk or butter for an even more nutrient-dense breakfast.

9. Double The Power Of Healing Tonics.

Add an inflammation-busting ritual to your day by whisking turmeric powder into hot bone broth and sipping it from your favorite mug on a cold day.

My 5 Favorite Bone Broth Recipes

Bone broth as a simple soup is one of the easiest leaky gut recipes out there. It’s low-carb and both Paleo- and keto-friendly, low-calorie, and satiating. That doesn’t mean you have to stick to sipping broth or soup in your day-to-day — bone broth is a versatile base. Here are my favorite 5 recipes using bone broth!

1. Mashed Bone Broth Cauliflower

This one is a nutrient-dense, healthier spin on mashed potatoes that keeps carbohydrates low.

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup bone broth
  • 5 cups cauliflower florets
  • 6 tablespoons grass-fed ghee
  • Himalayan sea salt, black pepper, and garlic powder to taste
  • 5 cups cauliflower florets

Directions

  1. Steam cauliflower for about 10 minutes.
  2. Put cauliflower in a food processor.
  3. Add warm bone broth and ghee.
  4. Process until smooth.

What it’s doing for you: In addition to the gut-healing power of bone broth, cauliflower is a known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory high in vitamins C and K. (10)

2. Mango Bone Broth Smoothie

Bone broth may not sound as satisfying on a hot day. This one is refreshing and just as good for you as warmed-up versions.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup bone broth
  • 1 cup frozen mangoes
  • 1 can full-fat coconut milk
  • ¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 juiced lemon
  • Splash of organic, no-added sugar orange juice

Directions

  1. Combine ingredients in a blender
  2. Blend until smooth

What it’s doing for you: This antioxidant-rich drink is filled with phytonutrients to boost immunity. Turmeric is linked to lower oxidative stress and a reduced risk of inflammatory conditions. (11)

3. Sauteed Bone Broth Kale

If two superfoods had a baby, it’d be this recipe that combines bone broth and powerhouse kale.

Ingredients

  • ½ cup bone broth
  • 3 tablespoons grass-fed ghee
  • 2 small bunches of kale cut into 1-inch chunks
  • Himalayan sea salt to taste

Directions

  1. Put bone broth and ghee in a pain.
  2. Add kale.
  3. Stir over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes.
  4. Remove pan from heat, and cover for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Uncover and add salt to taste.
  6. Serve warm.

What it’s doing for you: Kale is one of the healthiest leafy greens out there. It’s rich in vitamins K and C, manganese, and calcium. It’s also high in detoxifying antioxidants like beta-carotene, which your body can convert to vitamin A to support eye health and your immune system. (12)

4. Bone Broth Salsa

Spice up your day with a salsa that pairs well with anything needing a little more heat.

Ingredients

  • ⅓ cup bone broth
  • 1 dried chile de arbol pepper
  • ⅔ cup tomato sauce
  • ¼ peeled, minced onion
  • ½ jalapeno pepper
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 4 springs chopped fresh cilantro
  • Himalayan sea salt to taste

Directions

  1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil and add the arbol chile.
  2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and let the chile soak for 10 minutes.
  3. Remove the chile from the water and discard the water.
  4. Combine chile with all other ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
  5. Place mixture in a saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Serve fresh.

What it’s doing for you: This recipe is a detox in salsa form. Cilantro and onions are both good for improved heart health and reduced oxidative stress. (13) Spicy peppers are antioxidants with potential anti-obesity properties. (14)

5. Turmeric Bone Broth Coconut Milk

Fight inflammation and heal your gut without sacrificing flavor.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup bone broth
  • 1 cup full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 teaspoons turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ginger powder
  • Pinch of black pepper

Directions

  1. Blend ingredients well in a blender.
  2. Pour into saucepan, and heat for 3-5 minutes over medium heat until warm.

What it’s doing for you: You already know about turmeric, but this creamy broth has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial cinnamon working for it, too. (15)

Galangal: The Best Vegan Bone Broth Alternative

If bone broth isn’t an option for you, galangal broth is a vegan alternative to bone broth with its own list of health-boosting compounds. The spice root is related to ginger and turmeric, two more superfoods for gut health, with a sharp, citrusy, piney flavor.

Since it’s a plant-based source, you won’t get collagen from this vegetarian bone broth for fasting and nutrition, but galangal more than makes up for it with these benefits:

  • Galangal is an anti-inflammatory. Animal studies show galangal may have the ability to calm inflammation in the body thanks to phytochemicals like HMP found in the root. (16) This may be beneficial for those with chronic joint pain and inflammatory gut conditions.
  • Galangal is antibacterial and antifungal. The antimicrobial properties of galangal may offer some protection against harmful bacteria like E. coli, Staphylococcus, and salmonella. (17) This isn’t just good for the shelf life of your food; it’s good for your gut.
  • Galangal enhances autophagy. Autophagy is your body’s way of eliminating damaged cells to make way for healthier cells. Research shows galangal may help induce that process, which benefits immune system health. (18)

How To Make Galangal Broth

Another advantage to galangal is its quick prep time. Bone broth normally takes 24 to 48 hours in your stock pot or slow cooker at low heat, but you can whip up a pot of galangal broth in less than an hour.

Note: You can make bone broth in an Instant Pot or pressure cooker, but cooking it in a large pot on the stovetop is the classic preparation.

You can find fresh galangal online or at a health food grocery store like Whole Foods. Generally, for every tablespoon of fresh galangal, use a quarter teaspoon of dried, ground galangal. The recipe below makes 3 quarts.

Ingredients

  • 12 cups vegetable stock or broth
  • 3 stalks celery (add celery greens for extra nutrients)
  • 4 pieces kaffir lime leaves
  • 3 stalks lemongrass
  • 3 green onions, sliced
  • 1-inch piece galangal, sliced into rounds
  • 1 teaspoon ground pepper
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • 3-4 sprigs cilantro, for garnish

Directions

  1. Heat vegetable stock or broth in a large soup pot over medium to high heat and bring to a boil.
  2. Add celery, lime leaves, lemongrass, green onions, galangal, pepper, and salt.
  3. Boil for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and let stand for 20 minutes to allow the broth to absorb nutrients and flavors.
  5. Strain the vegetables and season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Garnish with fresh cilantro, and serve hot.

Similar to classic bone broth, once cooled, galangal broth can be stored in jars and frozen for later use.

FAQs

The main difference between bone broth and stock is the cook time. Bone broth is typically simmered for 24-48 hours to extract more nutrients from the bones. You may only need to simmer stock for a few hours for the flavors to come through.

The best types of bones for making bone broth are organic and grass-fed. Beef bone broth using marrow bones or oxtails with more tissue and cartilage may offer a richer broth, but you can use any mix of beef, pork, or chicken bones.

Chicken bone broth may just break down faster than meatier bones. Ultimately, it may depend on the intended flavor profile of your broth.

You should drink anywhere from a single cup to 3-4 cups of bone broth per day to enjoy the health benefits. If you’re on a bone broth cleanse, aim for 4-8 cups of bone broth for 24 hours instead of eating your usual solids.

There is a minimal risk of exposing yourself to toxic heavy metals with excessive amounts of bone broth. (19, 20) If you’re worried about your exposure risk, talk to your primary care physician or dietitian. Those with a histamine intolerance may also not respond well to bone broth.

You should drink bone broth as often as it makes sense for you and your wellness goals. A daily bone broth habit can be beneficial if you’re seeking a quick nutrition boost.

The quality of your bone broth matters. Homemade broths are typically better for you and more high-quality vs. store-bought or pre-packaged brands, which may be loaded with sodium.

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  1. Mar-Solís, L.M., Soto-Domínguez, A., Rodríguez-Tovar, L.E., et al. (2021). Analysis of the anti-inflammatory capacity of bone broth in a murine model of ulcerative colitis. Medicina (Kaunas), 57(11), 1138. 
  2. Li, P. & Wu, G. (2021). Important roles of amino acids in immune responses. British Journal of Nutrition, 127(3), 398-402. 
  3. Weyh, C., Krüger, K., Peeling, P., et al. (2022). The role of minerals in the optimal functioning of the immune system. Nutrients, 14(3), 644.
  4. García-Coronado, J.M., Martínez-Olvera, L., Elizondo-Omaña, R.E., et al. (2019). Effect of collagen supplementation on osteoarthritis symptoms: a meta-analysis of randomized placebo-controlled trials. International Orthopaedics, 43(3), 531-538. 
  5. Zhu, X., Sang, L., Wu, D., et al. (2018). Effectiveness and safety of glucosamine and chondroitin for the treatment of osteoarthritis: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research, 13(1), 170..
  6. Choi, F.D., Sung, C.T., Juhasz, M.L., et al. (2019). Oral collagen supplementation: a systematic review of dermatological applications. Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, 18(1), 9-16. 
  7. Dolu, N. (2007). Dose-related anxiogenic effect of glycine in the elevated plus maze and in electrodermal activity. Journal of Basic and Clinical Physiology and Pharmacology, 18(2), 141-147. 
  8. Kawai, N., Sakai, N., Okuro, M., et al. (2015). The sleep-promoting and hypothermic effects of glycine are mediated by NMDA receptors in the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Neuropsychopharmacology, 40(6), 1405-1416. 
  9. Nishi, S.K., Babio, N., Paz-Graniel, I., et al. (2023). Water intake, hydration status and 2-year changes in cognitive performance: a prospective cohort study. BMC Medicine, 21(1), 82. 
  10. Drabińska, N., Jeż, M., & Nogueira, M. (2021). Variation in the accumulation of phytochemicals and their bioactive properties among the aerial parts of cauliflower. Antioxidants (Basel), 10(10), 1597. 
  11. Hewlings, S.J. & Kalman, D.S. (2017). Curcumin: a review of Its effects on human health. Foods, 6(10), 92. 
  12. Sikora, E. & Bodziarczyk, I. (2012). Composition and antioxidant activity of kale (Brassica oleracea L. var. acephala) raw and cooked. ACTA Scientiarum Polonorum Technologia Alimentaria, 11(3), 239-248. 
  13. Nakayama, H., Tsuge, N., Sawada, H., et al. (2013). Chronic intake of onion extract containing quercetin improved postprandial endothelial dysfunction in healthy men. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 32(3), 160-164. 
  14. Azlan, A., Sultana, S., Huei, C.S., et al. (2022). Antioxidant, anti-obesity, nutritional and other beneficial effects of different chili pepper: a review. Molecules, 27(3), 898. 
  15. Gruenwald, J., Freder, J., & Armbruester, N. (2010). Cinnamon and health. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 50(9), 822-834. 
  16. Jung, Y.C., Kim, M.E., Yoon, J.H., et al. (2014). Anti-inflammatory effects of galangin on lipopolysaccharide-activated macrophages via ERK and NF-κB pathway regulation. Immunopharmacology and Immunotoxicology, 36(6), 426-432. 
  17. Weerakkody, N.S., Caffin, N., Lambert, L.K., et al. (2011). Synergistic antimicrobial activity of galangal (Alpinia galanga), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and lemon iron bark (Eucalyptus staigerana) extracts. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 91(3), 461-468. 
  18. Li, X., Wang, Y., Xiong, Y., et al. (2016). Galangin induces autophagy via deacetylation of LC3 by SIRT1 in HepG2 cells. Scientific Reports, 6, 30496. 
  19. Hsu, D.J., Lee, C.W., Tsai, W.C., et al. (2017). Essential and toxic metals in animal bone broths. Food & Nutrition Research, 61(1), 1347478.
  20. Monro, J.A., Leon, R., & Puri, B.K. (2013). The risk of lead contamination in bone broth diets. Medical Hypotheses, 80(4), 389-390. 

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BY DR. WILL COLE

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Dr. Will Cole, DNM, IFMCP, DC is a leading functional medicine expert who consults people around the globe, starting one of the first functional medicine telehealth centers in the world. Named one of the top 50 functional and integrative doctors in the nation, Dr. Will Cole provides a functional medicine approach for thyroid issues, autoimmune conditions, hormonal imbalances, digestive disorders, and brain problems. He is the host of the popular The Art Of Being Well podcast and the New York Times bestselling author of Intuitive Fasting, Ketotarian, The Inflammation Spectrum, and Gut Feelings: Healing the Shame-Fueled Relationship Between What You Eat and How You Feel.

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Gut Feelings

Healing The Shame-Fueled Relationship
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