Does bone broth live up to all that it’s touted to be?
Bone broth is a stock created through the slow simmering of beef, chicken, lamb, or fish bones, which offers some vitamins, minerals, and amino acids while being low in calories. In recent years, bone broth has surged in popularity, but is it really as healthy and nutrient-dense as it has been claimed to be? Is bone broth the secret ingredient that you need to add to your eating pattern?
- Collagen-synthesizing amino acids
Collagen helps to maintain healthy skin, has anti-aging effects, and helps to prevent soft tissue injuries. Collagen production slows down with age and the decrease of collagen production reduces the elasticity of the skin, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles.1 Bone broth does contain small amounts of collagen, but these quantities will not be sufficient to improve skin integrity.2
- Promotes healthy digestion & supports immunity
Bone broth contains glutamine supports the wall of the intestines, which can enhance absorption. This action also supports the immune system, as a healthy and strong gut wall is considered part of the first line of defence in the immune system.3 Gelatine also attracts water to the intestines, which can relieve constipation and improve gut mobility.4 The amount of gelatine and glutamine found in bone broth depends on the type of bone broth (chicken, beef or turkey) and also the quality of the bones, as well as how concentrated the bone broth is. These variables will differ considerably between different batches of bone broth. The quantities required to have a significant health benefit will be very difficult to determine because of these factors.
3. Anti-inflammatory properties
The amino acids found in bone broth, including glycine and arginine, have anti-inflammatory properties.5,6 The amino acid quantities in bone broth are detectable, but considered to be too little to be specifically beneficial as an anti-inflammatory source.2
4. Joint-improving nutrients
Proline glycine is found in bone broth, which is needed to build connective tissue. Gelatine consumption has been proven to enhance collagen synthesis, which can repair and protect ligaments and tendons.7 The ingredients might be in bone broth, but the quantities will not be enough to ensure the benefits, if consumed in moderation.
5. Sleep and brain function
Glycine, an amino acid found in bone broth, can promote sleep. Studies done on glycine found that taking 3 grams before bed helped individuals to fall asleep faster, maintain deeper sleep, and experience fewer sleep disturbances throughout the night.8 The quantities found in both broth do not reach the amount required to achieve this benefit, and additional sources of glycine will need to be consumed.
How to make bone broth
While bone broth may not contain enough nutrients to achieve all its touted benefits, it still plays a critical role in serving as a nutritional base for many culinary dishes. Bone broth is very easy to make. All you need is a few ingredients and time, or you can cheat a bit and use a pressure cooker.
Ingredients for bone broth:
- Bones (chicken, beef or fish)
- Brown Onion
- Apple cider vinegar
- Salt and pepper
Bone broth takes 8 – 10 hours on a stovetop or 90 minutes in a pressure cooker to prepare. Get a recipe here.
How to use bone broth
Bone broth can be used as a master stock for many dishes or on its own as a light soup. Bone broth is very easy to manipulate to produce many flavour profiles to suit any cuisine.
- Soups: use as a stock for soups or add some extra ingredients, like mushrooms, to make a soup from.
- Stews: cook meat or chicken pieces in it.
- Sauces: use instead of milk or water in curries, Bolognese, béchamel or gravy.
- Cooking liquid: cook your rice, quinoa, couscous, or bulgur wheat in it.
- Freeze bone broth in 1 cup portions to make sure it is readily available.
So, what is the take away message?
While bone broth may contain some beneficial nutrients, such as collagen-synthesizing amino acids, glutamine for healthy digestion, and anti-inflammatory properties, the quantities found in bone broth might not be sufficient to deliver significant health benefits. Claims of improving skin integrity, supporting immunity, joint health, and enhancing sleep and brain function through bone broth consumption may not be fully substantiated by the available evidence. Although bone broth is a versatile culinary ingredient that adds flavor to various dishes, relying on it as a primary source of essential nutrients may not be as effective as maintaining a balanced and varied diet. It’s essential to view bone broth as a tasty addition to meals rather than a miracle solution for health concerns.
Bone broth is easy to make with affordable ingredients, but also a culinary gem that unlocks flavour. Consider keeping a batch of bone broth in your freezer, ensuring a convenient ingredient to enhance your weekly meals. While bone broths may have the ability to contribute vital amino acids on a dietary basis, they do not appear to be a significantly better source when compared to other animal protein sources.
- Lawler, M. 2019. Can Sipping Bone Broth Make You Look Younger? Available here: https://www.everydayhealth.com/skin-beauty/can-sipping-bone-broth-make-you-look-younger/ Date accessed: 10 January 2021
- M.H. Shaw and N.E. Flynn. 2019. AMINO ACID CONTENT OF BEEF, CHICKEN AND TURKEY BONE BROTH. Journal of Undergraduate Chemistry Research, 2019,18(4), 15
- Najate A, Pierre D, Moïse C. 2017. Glutamine and the regulation of intestinal permeability: from bench to bedside. National Library of Nutrition, 20(1):86-91. Available here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27749689/
- Bischoff SC, Barbara G, Buurman W, et al. 2014. Intestinal permeability–a new target for disease prevention and therapy. BMC Gastroenterology, 14, 189. Available here: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12876-014-0189-7
- Meerza A. B, Pathan S. B, Buddola V et al. 2017. Multifarious Beneficial Effect of Nonessential Amino Acid, Glycine: A Review. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 23;2022:9857645. Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5350494/
- Laura M. Mar-Solís, Adolfo Soto-Domínguez, Luis E. Rodríguez-Tovar. 2021. Analysis of the Anti-Inflammatory Capacity of Bone Broth in a Murine Model of Ulcerative Colitis. Medicina (Kaunas), 57(11):1138. Available here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8618064/
- Shaw G, Lee-Barthel A, Ross ML, et al. 2017. Vitamin C-enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 105(1), 136–143. Available here: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27852613/
- Yamadera W, Inagawa K, Chiba S, et al. 2007. Glycine ingestion improves subjective sleep quality in human volunteers, correlating with polysomnographic changes. Sleep and Biological Rhythms, 5(2), 126-131. Available here: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1479-8425.2007.00262.x
- Clegg ME, Ranawana V, Shafat A, et al. 2013. Soups increase satiety through delayed gastric emptying yet increased glycaemic response. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 67(1), 8–11. Available here: https://doi.org/10.1038/ejcn.2012.152