Bone broth has received huge media attention and has been prevalent in many a fad or revolutionary diet in the last few years. Between promotors, believers, sceptics and the science it is always so difficult to discern the truth from the hype.
So, what Is bone broth?
It is a broth made by boiling the roasted bones and the connective tissue of animals over a long period of time (recipes oftentimes including vinegars and vegetables within the recipe to aid the process) the concoction is then strained discarding any solids and the remaining broth is then seasoned and ready for consumption. The process draws the gelatine, minerals and vitamins from the marrow of the bones. Boiling varies between eight to twenty-four hours.
Researching this has been tricky from start to finish, the question as to whether bone broth is good for you is a pretty simple yes, but the beneficial claims such as relieving joint pains and osteoarthritis, detoxifying the liver, aiding in wound healing, preventing ageing skin, supporting digestive health, balancing hormones, increasing energy, strengthening bones, improving quality of sleep, alleviating symptoms from certain autoimmune conditions, and boosting immune function, seem to be somewhat enveloped in hope and personal experience. It sounds like a miraculously simple way to boost, cure or relieve a wide range of physical needs and ailments yet this has been widely contested.
Yes it contains minerals, yes it contains nutrients (although many are sourced via the vegetables facilitating the recipes), it is low in calories, and yes it is very high in amino acids (proteins) which are not so easily sourced in such high concentration elsewhere. However, looking into the collagen aspect, i.e. the relevance of its ingestion in this form, which is a huge draw when it comes to the potential benefits, it becomes a question as to how this can really help us.
Collagen is a protein which we naturally have, it protects our organs, joints, tendons and holds together our bones and muscles and is clearly an essential part of our make up. Our body has the capacity to make its own which depletes as we age. The idea that a food stuff containing collagen will be directly and positively utilised is debated as when ingested it basically gets broken down into amino acids which do their typical job of providing protein. It will not necessarily be directed at the ideals, promoted by many, claiming that bone broth is a miracle product for reducing wrinkles, easing joints, etc., it will be utilised naturally by our body where it is needed the most. If you have a deficiency in any area then yes this is where said proteins will be delivered, but by merely ingesting collagen for the purpose of looking younger or easing arthritis, the science is not ultimately backing the notion. However, many people swear by it having experienced amazing results since drinking bone broth as a staple. There is also the argument that there are better sources to promote collagen production such as a varied plant-based diet (which offer the phytonutrients needs by your body to make collagen by itself) and avoiding sugars and starch based foods.
The amino acids produced by ingesting bone broth have been shown to boost our immunity and can also relieve the symptoms induced by common colds, bronchitis and flu, with similar properties to its pharmaceutical equivalents. Much of the research shows that this is due to its anti-inflammatory properties. When it comes to the health of our bones we need certain vitamins and minerals such as calcium, protein, magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin D, potassium, zinc, manganese, copper, iron, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin C, and the B vitamins which are all present in bone broth.
In addition to this it is an excellent source of all the necessaries to promote a healthy gut which is conducive to our overall physical and mental wellbeing. When our gut is happy, our mental state is naturally wired more positively as is our physical capability (see our previous blog on diet and depression).
It is also noted that the properties in bone broth, aka the amino acids produced by its ingestion, can help to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, essential for the growth, repair and maintenance of muscle.
There is one way to look at the arguments for and against such things…to ask whether it is healthy, and receive an all-round positive response. Does it do all of the things it is promoted to? Well, does it really matter if it is giving you a large portion of all the vitamins and minerals and proteins necessary for a healthy balance? It all depends on your personal situation, as does everything, but the bottom line for me is that there is nothing negative or detrimental about drinking bone broth.
It is good for you but as with anything, don’t believe all of the hype and don’t expect miracles. It is always up to us to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle in order to be at our optimal situation in life and no one thing is going to cure or determine this. As we always say, a good, nutrient-rich diet, plenty of rest and hydration and regular exercise (both mental and physical), keeping all thing labelled ‘treats’ or ‘naughty’ to a minimum, will give you the best positive outcome for your all-round health.
You will obviously have to look into the health and life of the animal in question prior to extracting potential goodness – there are reported concerns that as lead builds up within bones naturally in all animals there may be a high content within a broth and this could incur some substantial side effects. There are also more obvious ethical questions regarding the health and diet of said animal.
Here is a recipe by Marco Canora, an elderly man who swears by the benefits of incorporating bone broth into your diet:
- Get some bones: Visit a local butcher or farmers’ market or order them online with specific requirements towards ethical farming, and always save the leftover bones and whole carcasses from anything you cook.
- Fill a large pot four fifths of the way with bones and cover with cold water. The water should cover the bones by two to three inches.
- Bring to a boil over high heat. Once it boils, reduce to a simmer for an hour or two, periodically skimming off impurities and fat.
- Add organic chopped vegetables, like onions, celery, carrots, and tomatoes, along with aromatics, like parsley and peppercorns.
- Continue to simmer for twelve to eighteen hours, checking periodically to make sure that the bones are fully submerged.
- Strain the broth through a fine-mesh strainer.
- Season with salt to taste and let cool.
- Transfer cooled broth to storage containers and refrigerate overnight.
- Skim off any solidified fat from the top and store the broth for up to five days in the fridge or six months in the freezer.
- Not skimming your broth frequently enough. Skimming removes impurities and fat for a clear, clean broth.
- Skimping on cook time (we simmer our bones for eighteen to twenty-four hours).
- Using beef-marrow bones for making broth. For some reason, lots of people believe this is the right bone to use, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. The marrow bone, aka femur bone, is a smooth bone with very little meat. The meat is where the umami-rich flavour comes from, so you WANT meaty bones for your broth! The marrow bone also lacks connective tissue, which is where all the collagen goodness comes from. And though marrow is nutrient-dense, it is also pure fat, so it liquefies during cooking and either emulsifies into the broth (giving it an unappealing cloudy/milky look) or, worse, floats to the top, where it’s skimmed off with other impurities. (If you want to consume marrow, I recommend you add it to the finished broth with a battery-operated frother.)
Interested in Nutrition? Become a Nutritional Therapist
Here at the School of Natural Health Sciences we offer 7 Holistic Therapy distance learning courses centred on Nutrition, all of which are accredited in 26 countries worldwide:
- Clinical Nutrition
- Advanced Nutrition
- Child & Adolescent Nutrition
- Ethical & Sustainable Eating
- Nutrition for Age 50 Plus
- Sport & Exercise Nutrition
- Vegetarian & Vegan Nutrition
If you’re looking for other holistic therapy courses – we have more than 60 to choose from! Take a look at our A-Z Course listing page. If you have any questions regarding these courses, please do contact us, we’d love to hear from you!