Bone broth has become popular. You may have seen the
countless blogs and media outlets touting its many presumed health benefits.
Marketing for bone broth claims it’s a high-protein comfort
food for on-the-go lifestyles. It’s also considered a magical elixir that
can cure leaky gut — and help with all manners of ailments
from arthritis to a weak immune system.
Restaurants now serve bone broth, food delivery services
offer it, and lifestyle celebrities and athletes endorse it. You can even find
a bone broth to-go chain in New York City and a line of bone broth made
especially for dogs and cats.
But what’s the truth about bone broth? Is
it the magical elixir it’s claiming to be?
What Is Bone Broth?
Bone broth is a broth made by boiling the roasted
bones and the connective tissue of animals for a long time.
The long cooking time — ranging from eight to over 24 hours
— draws gelatin and minerals, including calcium and phosphorus, out of the
bones and into the broth.
Some recipes may use apple cider vinegar or red wine, which
help extract nutrients. And sometimes it will include vegetables, such as
carrots, onions, and celery. Once cooked, the liquid is strained, the solid
parts discarded, and the remaining broth seasoned.
Why Is Bone Broth So Popular?
Bone broth advocates say it can relieve joint pain and
osteoarthritis, detoxify the liver, aid in wound healing, prevent aging skin,
support digestive health, balance hormones, increase energy, strengthen bones,
improve quality of sleep, alleviate symptoms from certain autoimmune
conditions, and boost immune function.
Praised for providing all these health benefits, bone
broth also provides enormous profits.
The retail sales of shelf-stable bone broth products increased
from $5.83 million in 2016 to $17.54 million in 2017. According to a report by
Global Market Insights, Inc., analysts predict the global bone broth market will surpass
$2.8 billion by 2024. Also, one of the foremost bone broth advocates, Dr.
Josh Axe, recently raised $103 million from investors to expand his own
bone broth business.
What Does the Research Say About Potential Bone Broth
There’s a growing interest in bone broth due to the long
list of purported benefits. But what does the science say? Does bone
broth measure up to these claims?
Claim #1: Bone Broth Is a Nutritional Goldmine
Bone broth gets a lot of attention for its “unique”
nutritional profile. People praise it for being a low calorie,
high-protein food, and providing minerals, such as calcium,
phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.
The earliest study to mention bone broth is from 1937, which
looked at the nutritional value of bone and vegetable broths. Both were common
ways of nourishing infants at the time. The researchers concluded that
while neither was a very good source of nutrition, the
broths that provided the highest mineral content contained the most vegetables.
Far more recently, in 2017, a study in the journal Food
and Nutrition Research analyzed bone broth and found that
it was not an especially good source of calcium or magnesium.
While marketers tout bone broth for its mineral
content, it seems the vegetables used in the cooking process — not the
bones — may provide many of the helpful nutrients.
An average cup of bone broth contains zero to 19 mg of
calcium and six to nine grams of protein. But when you compare it to
some other sources of these nutrients, the protein content isn’t terribly
- Collard greens: 1 cup = 150 mg calcium
- Navy beans (boiled): 1 cup = 126 mg calcium
- Baked beans: 1 cup = 14 grams protein
- Unsweetened soymilk (Edensoy): 1 cup = 12 grams
- Peanut butter: 2 tablespoons = 7 grams protein
So yes, bone broth does provide some calcium
and protein. But so do many, many other foods.
A cup of cooked kale contains ten times as much calcium as a
cup of bone broth. A cup of baked beans contains nearly twice as much protein
as a cup of bone broth. And most Americans may be getting too much protein
(at least from animal sources), anyway.
Claim #2: Bone Broth Will Strengthen Bones, Relieve Achy
Joints, and Keep Skin Youthful
Collagen is the main protein in your body. It
protects your organs, joints, and tendons; holds together bones and muscles,
and maintains the lining of your gut. Plastic surgeons like it because it
promotes skin elasticity.
Your body makes its own collagen, but as you age, you won’t
make quite as much of it. So, much of the marketing says that, because bone
broth contains collagen, it will help your body make morecollagen.
Unfortunately, there is no evidence that eating collagen is directly
helpful to your body. Many experts agree that because your body doesn’t absorb
collagen in its whole form, the idea that eating collagen helps bone
growth isn’t borne out in reality. Your body breaks collagen down into
amino acids. So in the end, it’s just another form of protein.
You’ve probably seen collagen supplements sold for skin
health. Some research suggests that collagen
supplements may help to reduce visible signs of aging — like wrinkles
and cellulite — but the collagen in supplements is hydrolyzed, or broken down to make it more usable for the
body. The collagen in bone broth is not hydrolyzed and
does not have the same effects in the body.
If you want to help your body build collagen,
the best way is to eat a diet rich in leafy green vegetables because
plants offer rich sources of the phytonutrients your body
needs to make collagen.
These phytonutrients in plants include:
- The vitamin C found in citrus fruits, dark leafy
greens, bell peppers, kiwi, berries, and broccoli. Vitamin C is a
powerful antioxidant that can help protect your skin, inside and out.
- The vitamin E is present in sunflower seeds, almonds,
wheat germ, spinach, and broccoli. Vitamin E works with vitamin C to promote
- The vitamin A that’s found in carrots, sweet
potatoes, winter squash, dark leafy greens, cantaloupe, and apricots.
- The amino acids glycine, proline, and lysine found in
dark leafy green vegetables, soy, nuts, seeds, and
- The sulfur-containing foods, such as garlic, onion, and
members of the cabbage family, may also promote collagen
The bottom line is that many vegetables and other
plant foods can be powerful allies in keeping your skin young, your bones
strong, and your joints healthy.
Claim #3: Bone Broth Can Cure Your Cold