What is bone broth?

Bone broth is made by simmering the bones and connective tissue of animals.

This highly nutritious stock is commonly used in soups, sauces, and gravies. It has also recently gained popularity as a health drink.

You can make bone broth using bones from just about any animal — pork, beef, veal, turkey, lamb, bison, buffalo, venison, chicken, or fish, we especially recommend oxtail. Marrow and connective tissues like feet, hooves, beaks, gizzards, or fins can also be used. 

How to make bone broth:

All you really need is a large pot, water, vinegar, and bones. To get you started, here’s an easy recipe you can follow:

  • 1 gallon (4 liters) of water
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) apple cider vinegar
  • 2–4 pounds (about 1–2 kg) of animal bones
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a large pot or slow cooker.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 12–24 hours. The longer it cooks, the better it will taste and more nutritious it will be.
  4. Allow the broth to cool. Strain it into a large container and discard the solids.

In order to make the most nutritious broth, it’s best to use a variety of bones — marrow bones, oxtail, knuckles, and feet. You can even mix and match bones in the same batch. Adding vinegar is important because it helps pull all of the valuable nutrients out of the bones and into the water, which is ultimately what you will be consuming. You can also add vegetables, herbs, or spices to your broth to enhance the flavor. Common additions include garlic, onion, celery, carrot, parsley, and thyme. These can be added right away in step one.

 

1. It contains many important vitamins and minerals

In general, bone broth is very nutritious. However, the nutrient content does depend on the ingredients you use, as each brings something different to the table. Animal bones are rich in calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, and other trace minerals — the same minerals needed to build and strengthen your own bones. Fish bones also contain iodine, which is essential for healthy thyroid function and metabolism. Connective tissue gives you glucosamine and chondroitin, natural compounds found in cartilage that are known to support joint health. Marrow provides vitamin A, vitamin K2, minerals like zinc, iron, boron, manganese, and selenium, as well as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

All of these animal parts also contain the protein collagen, which turns into gelatin when cooked and yields several important amino acids. It is important to see the gelatin rise to the surface while cooking this, as well as when the broth cools. As the ingredients simmer, their nutrients are released into the water in a form your body can easily absorb. Many people don’t get enough of these nutrients in their diet, so drinking bone broth is a good way to get more. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to know the exact amount of each nutrient contained in the broth because every batch of bones is so different.

  1. It may benefit the digestive system

Scientists have discovered that your overall health depends heavily on the health of your intestinal tract. Not only is bone broth easy to digest, but it may also aid in the digestion of other foods. The gelatin found in bone broth naturally attracts and holds liquids. This is why properly prepared broth congeals in the fridge. Gelatin can also bind to water in your digestive tract, which helps foods move through your gut more easily. It’s also been shown to protect and heal the mucosal lining of the digestive tract in rats. It’s thought to have the same effect in humans, but more research needs to be done to show its effectiveness. An amino acid in gelatin called glutamine helps maintain the function of the intestinal wall and has been known to prevent and heal a condition known as “leaky gut”. For all of these reasons, drinking bone broth may be beneficial for individuals with leaky gut, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease.

3. It may help fight inflammation

The amino acids found in bone broth, including glycine and arginine, have strong anti-inflammatory effects. Arginine, in particular, may be especially beneficial for fighting chronic inflammation.

  1. It’s nutrients have been shown to improve joint health

Collagen is the main protein found in bones, tendons, and ligaments. During the cooking process, collagen from bones and connective tissue is broken down into another protein called gelatin. Gelatin contains important amino acids that support joint health. It contains proline and glycine, which your body uses to build its own connective tissue. This includes tendons, which connect muscles to bones, and ligaments, which connect bones to each other. Bone broth also contains glucosamine and chondroitin, which are natural compounds found in cartilage. Multiple studies have found that glucosamine and chondroitin can help decrease joint pain and lessen the symptoms of osteoarthritis. 

  1. It is weight-loss friendly

Bone broth is typically very low in calories, but it can still satisfy hunger.

Studies have found that eating soup on a regular basis can increase feelings of fullness and may be associated with decreased body weight and belly fat. What’s more, bone broth is high in protein, which may help improve appetite control, increase weight loss, and maintain lean muscle mass. 

6. It may improve sleep and brain function

The amino acid glycine, found in bone broth, may help you relax. Multiple studies have found that glycine helps promote sleep. One study found that taking 3 grams of glycine before bed significantly improved the quality of sleep in individuals who have difficulty sleeping. 

Tips for using bone broth:

Instead of throwing leftover bones and carcasses from meals in the garbage, save them to make broth. You can collect the bones in a bag and store them in your freezer until you are ready to cook them. However, if you’re not someone who typically buys and eats whole chickens and bone-in meat, you may wonder where you can find animal bones to make broth.

You can ask for them at your local butcher or farmer’s market. The meat department at most grocery stores will often have them too. The best part is they’re very inexpensive to purchase. Your butcher may even give them to you for free. Do your best to find pastured chicken or grass-fed beef bones, since these animals will be the healthiest and provide maximum health benefits to you.

How to store it: 

While it’s easiest to make broth in large batches, it can only be stored safely in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. To help your broth last longer, you can freeze it in small containers and heat up individual servings as needed.

How often to drink it: 

Unfortunately, there’s no straightforward answer to this. Many people recommend drinking 1 cup (237 mL) of bone broth daily for maximum health benefits.

Some broth is better than none, so whether it be once a week or once a day, drink it as often as you can. You can drink bone broth by itself, but not everyone likes the texture and mouthfeel. Luckily, there are other ways to enjoy it. It can be used as the base for soups, or to make sauces and gravies.

Here’s a simple tomato sauce recipe using bone broth. 

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (473 mL) bone broth
  • 2 cans organic tomato paste
  • 2 tbsp (30 mL) of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp (2.5 mL) basil, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions:

  1. Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan.
  2. Heat over medium-high heat for 4–6 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Reduce to low heat and cover, allowing the sauce to simmer for 5 more minutes.
  4. Serve over pasta or meatloaf or include it in a variety of recipes.
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