You’ve probably heard about this trendy new addition to many people’s diets. Bone broth is something that’s been here for centuries, being used since ancient times by hunters as a way to benefit from every last part of the animals that they hunted after eating their meat and using their skin for numerous things… So why is it becoming popular now? Well, it has been proven that animal bone broth contains essential nutrients that our body needs in our daily life, and it’s so easy to make that it becomes hard to ignore it as a potential new element of a healthy diet. But is it really that beneficial? And how could you incorporate it into your diet? We’re here to tell you everything you need to know about bone broth, from how to make it to the dishes that you can cook with it. But more importantly, we’re going to talk about its health benefits, so keep reading!
What is bone broth?
Some call it a type of stock, other people call it broth, and others believe that both words mean the same thing... Regardless, bone broth is simply the liquid that results from simmering animal bones and connective tissue for several hours. You can then drink the liquid alone or add it to other foods for a healthy dose of essential nutrients, such as sauces and soups. The longer you keep the bones simmering, the more nutritious the bone broth will be, with the added benefit that it’s very low in calories. And you can make it with the bones of any animal! Think poultry, turkey, pork, lamb, fish, veal… The most common ones are chicken bone broth and beef bone broth, but it’s up to what you prefer or what you can find.
Homemade vs. store-bought bone broth
Whether you make your own bone broth or buy it at the grocery store is up to you! Both offer the same health benefits, so if you have a busy lifestyle and don’t have the time to find the bones and cook them for several hours, you can just go to your local supermarket or health store and grab a pre-made one. Ideally, you should opt for bone broth that’s low in sodium or with no salt added, and then pair it with herbs and spices when you get home to make sure that you can enjoy its flavor while also getting all the health benefits.
Now, if you do have the time to make bone broth, we have a few tips so that you can make the healthiest broth possible. Start by saving your bones whenever you’re finished cooking or eating instead of trashing them or giving them to the dogs. If you don’t eat meat or just don’t buy meat with bones, animal bones are inexpensive, and you may even get them for free! You can go to a local farmer’s market or butcher and ask for bones that they’re not going to use. If possible, ask for the bones of grass-fed animals so you can maximize the nutrients in your bone broth. And the more, the merrier! It’s best to have a variety of bones, such as oxtail, knuckles, bone marrow, and even feet. When you have enough bones for your broth, follow these simple instructions:
- Gather around 2-4 pounds of bones. Aside from that, you’ll need 1 gallon of water and 2 tbsp of regular vinegar or apple cider vinegar, which will help pull all of the nutrients from the bones and into the water.
- In a large pot or a slow cooker that’s big enough, toss your bones along with the water and vinegar.
- Bring the mix to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer and keep cooking for about 12 to 24 hours.
- When the broth has finished cooking, let it cool, then strain it and pour the liquid into one big or several small containers that can fit in your fridge.
There are many different approaches, but this is a basic bone broth recipe that you can modify according to your preferences. For example, you can add salt and pepper to taste, as well as vegetables and spices such as parsley, garlic, onion, carrot, and celery to enhance the flavor of your bone broth and make it more enjoyable and nourishing!
Health benefits of bone broth
No one’s really drinking bone broth just because they enjoy the taste… It comes with many potential health benefits that will make you think twice when you’re about to put your leftover bones in the trash can. Here are a few important benefits of drinking bone broth:
Heals and improves gut health
One of the most important benefits of drinking bone broth is that it can help improve your gut health. It’s really easy to digest by itself, and the gelatin found in bone broth naturally attracts and binds to liquids, helping your food go through your digestive system more easily. But better digestion isn’t the only gut benefit of bone broth! An amino acid called L-glutamine that is present in gelatin can improve gut barrier function, meaning it can protect and even heal your gastrointestinal walls.  This can be beneficial to those who suffer from leaky gut syndrome, a condition associated with several chronic diseases in which the tight junctions in your gut don’t work properly, resulting in it leaking substances to your bloodstream and causing inflammation and other health issues. The glutamine present in gelatin is said to help seal these tight junctions, as well as offer protection to the mucosal lining of the digestive tract, which can be greatly beneficial for people with gastrointestinal conditions as well as those with a healthy gut to keep it protected.
Provides essential nutrients
Bone broth has been praised by nutritionists and dietitians, so much as to be called a superfood by some, and this is because of all the nutrients that come with it! It’s not possible to know the actual nutritional content of bone broth, since that depends on the animal bones that you use, which is why it’s better to have as much variety as possible. But generally speaking, animal bones (as well as meat) contain many important minerals, such as potassium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, and others, which are essential for your bones and overall health. Bone marrow, in particular, contains omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as vitamin A and K2, zinc, selenium, manganese, and iron. If you add fish bones to the mix, you’ll also get iodine in your bone broth, which is essential for metabolism and good thyroid function.
And we can’t forget about all the amino acids contained in bone broth! These amino acids come from the gelatin that forms when cooking the bones and connective tissue for your bone broth, and they usually include arginine, proline, glutamate, alanine, hydroxyproline, and glycine. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and they’re incredibly important for muscle recovery and energy, which is crucial if you’re an active person, especially if you’re strength training, because you need all the muscle support that you can get!
Helps fight inflammation
The amino acids arginine and glycine have powerful anti-inflammatory properties that could be beneficial for fighting chronic inflammation, particularly L-arginine, according to a study conducted in rats that suggested that arginine combined with regular exercise might be effective to fight obesity.  Even though more research is needed in humans, the amino acids present in bone broth have been proven to be beneficial to our health. Those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) tend to have lower levels of some amino acids present in their bodies, so having a diet with enough amino acid supplementation may be beneficial to fight some of their symptoms.
Protects your joints
Another great benefit of drinking bone broth is what it does for your joints. The gelatin found in bone broth contains amino acids proline and glycine, which is what your tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues in your body are made of, thus helping support and protect joint health. Additionally, bone broth also provides you with glucosamine and chondroitin, found in animal cartilage, which has been proven through several studies to help ease knee pain in patients with severe osteoarthritis, a challenging disease with very few effective treatment options.   These natural compounds help lessen the symptoms of osteoarthritis greatly, making it a meaningful alternative for those suffering from it as well as people experiencing joint pain to help alleviate it and prevent joint and bone disease.
May increase collagen levels
The longer you simmer the bone broth, the greater its health benefits will be. This is particularly true for collagen, which is present in both the bones and the connective tissue of animals and is slowly released into the broth while you cook it. Different types of collagen constitute about 75-80% of your skin and give structure to your bones, tendons, and ligaments, and since it’s found in high amounts in animals, it’s better to have a variety of bones for your bone broth so that you can obtain more types of collagen through the simmering process. Further research on the ingestion of collagen and its benefits is needed, but studies have shown that collagen supplementation is beneficial for skin health, helping heal wounds and slow down the aging of the skin by improving elasticity and hydration. 
May improve sleep
Several studies, including two particular ones published by the Frontiers in Neurology and the Neuropsychopharmacology journals, have shown that the amino acid glycine that’s found in bone broth promotes better sleep and helps modulate fatigue that comes with sleep restriction.   Therefore, drinking bone broth may help you relax and improve your sleep, especially for those who have difficulty sleeping and struggle with sleepiness throughout the day. Being able to maintain a deeper sleep at night subsequently promotes better memory and improved mental function, so drinking bone broth before bed may be beneficial if you struggle with your sleep cycles.
Supports weight loss
Bone broth is a great addition to a weight loss diet because of how healthy it is. It’s high in protein, so it helps you feel satiated since it takes longer to break down and digest in your stomach. This helps you stay full for longer, reducing your cravings and helping you eat smaller food portions throughout the day. Additionally, bone broth is very low in calories, which makes it perfect to drink by itself or add to your favorite foods if you’re on a weight loss journey and are counting the calories that you’re consuming.
How to include bone broth in your diet
As you already know, you can just drink the bone broth alone and you’ll still get all the health benefits, but for the majority, that’s not the most desirable option. The best way to include bone broth in your diet is to actually cook with it so that it’s just another healthy ingredient instead of the main course. These are a few ideas to put your bone broth to good use:
- Make soup with it: Particularly if it’s beef or chicken soup, bone broth as a base can give your soups and stews additional flavor, on top of all the nutrients that it provides.
- Cook your grains in it: Your grains of choice can be greatly improved by cooking them with bone broth instead of water, especially if you previously added some herbs and veggies to your broth.
- Use it to make pasta: You can boil your pasta in bone broth for extra flavor, and even use it as a base to make tomato sauce or any sauce of your choice to go with your pasta.
- Add it to casseroles: Bone broth usually goes well with any dish that contains meat, and casseroles are a perfect example. Use it to keep your casserole moist and tasty.
- Blend it with your smoothie or oatmeal: This might not be the most popular alternative, but it’s still better than drinking it alone since you have more flavors to entertain yourself with!
You can also freeze your bone broth in small containers for later use so that you don’t have to think of all the recipes at once, and just unfreeze portion by portion as you go!
As you can see, bone broth is pretty versatile and can go well with a lot of foods, but its health benefits are definitely the best part about it! If you decide to incorporate bone broth in your diet, don’t forget to include a variety of different bones, ideally from grass-fed animals so that you can get the most out of your bone broth batch. And have fun with it! Cooking with bone broth isn’t limited to the options that we gave you. Think about your favorite dishes and how you can incorporate bone broth into them without having to drastically alter the recipe so you can improve your overall health and wellness.