Sarah Heckler, MS, RDN/LDN, CISSN
It seems like every few months there is a new health food claiming to be the secret to a healthy lifestyle, most recently it was coconut and now everyone seems to be turning to bone broth!
I have to admit, I put off diving into this trend because most of the time that is exactly what it is: a trend. Before I can do any research on it, the fad is gone.
But this time, I finally gave in and decided to dig a little more to see why this trend is growing so fast. I wanted to break down the facts so that you as a consumer can make an informed decision about your health. A lot of us fall victim to the clever marketing tactics of the food industry. I mean how can we not, when bone broth is claiming to heal your gut, protect your joints, help you sleep better and make you look younger? Who wouldn’t want to run out and buy bone broth after reading that?
Hopefully, this post helps you weed out myth from truth regarding bone broth.
What Is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is essentially stock, you know the thing that we have been using for centuries to make soups and stews. Bone broth, or stock, can be made from any animal bones including chicken, beef, turkey, etc. Typically, the bones are roasted with water and vegetables over a period of time. The mixture is then filtered so that the liquid is separated out to create what is called stock or bone broth. Stocks are typically used in making soups, stews and that famous gravy that many will be enjoying in a few weeks. Cooking/making your own bone broth at home will not only be beneficial for your bank account but also your health. Pre packaged products tend to be higher in sodium and when you cook at home you can control the sodium content.
The Real Research on Health Benefits of Bone Broth
There are a variety of health claims that come along with bone broth, from increasing bone strength to making you look younger, some of which are backed by research and some of which aren’t. Keep reading to find out!
- Look younger: Bone broth contains collagen. Collagen naturally occurs in the body and is the main structural protein in connective tissue, such as our skin, cartilage, bone, etc. Some research has shown improvements in skin with an 8-week supplementation protocol of 2.5 g & 5.0 g of collagen hydrolysate. However, no research has been done on bone broth and researchers are skeptical as to whether bone broth has beneficial effects on skin.
- Increased bone strength: Many think that consuming collagen will increase bone strength since it is a building block of bone. However, the human body does not absorb collagen whole. The digestive system breaks down collagen into amino acids, which are then used as building blocks where they are needed.
- Improved sleep: Research suggests that glycine, present in bone broth, has improved sleep quality in those who have trouble sleeping. However, this study supplemented with 3 grams of flavored glycine and not bone broth. Additionally, the glycine content of bone broth is unpredictable and hard to measure especially when made at home.
- Joint protection: Bone broth contains glucosamine which is thought to promote the formation and repair of cartilage. Cartilage provides protective cushioning to joints. Research is mixed on wether or not glucosamine aids in protecting joints. Additionally, there have not been any studies conducted using bone broth and therefore, protective benefits are unknown.
- Improved performance: There are many professional athletes who swear by bone broth as a recovery drink. They may be on to something…broth is a great way to get in fluid and electrolytes. Beef stock that is prepared at home typically has about 485 mg of sodium and 444 mg of potassium, both are essential for optimal performance. There are many sports drinks on the market that contain various amounts of sodium and potassium and bone broth is just another option for athletes. Some may find it hard to drink a hot beverage after a workout, but it works especially well during or after cold weather ironmans, ultra marathons, hikes, or climbs. FUN FACT, if you put it in the refrigerator it will turn into a “gummy” overnight.
- Boost immunity: What do you reach for when you get sick? Chicken soup (aka chicken bone broth). There could be some truth to bone broth supporting immunity however, there are no studies to date examining this.
Is Bone Broth The Next Magical Food?
So there you have it, bone broth is NOT the next magical food but CAN be incorporated into a healthy diet.
If bone broth gets people in the kitchen and cooking more at home, I am all for it! However, bone broth is not going to make you look 20 years younger or make your bones 2x stronger.
It may potentially have beneficial affects on those who have trouble sleeping and is a good option for a recovery beverage during or after exercise in a hot, humid environments or for exercise lasting longer than 1 hour.
Take home message
- Cook more at home, bone broth (stock) can be used to make soups and stews
- There is no magical food, variety and moderation is key to a healthy diet
- A healthy lifestyle is about the diet as a whole and not just one particular food
- Bone broth is an option for an electrolyte replacement drink
Have you had bone broth for the proposed health benefits or during a race? Do you have a favorite recipe? Please share it below!