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Food as Medicine: Bone Broth

Updated: Feb 13



“Let food be thy medicine” - Hippocrates


Food really is the best medicine out there, and it’s a lot easier to use food as medicine when you know what it is doing for your body. So I want to highlight a superfood that has been used by our ancestors for thousands of years for good health and healing: bone broth.


Bone broth is made by slowly cooking animal bones such as beef or chicken in a pot of water for anywhere between 12-48 hours. Additional ingredients can be added such as vegetables, herbs and spices, and typically apple cider vinegar (helps pull minerals and nutrients out of the bones).


Now I don’t know if our ancestors knew the scientific reasons why bone broth is so beneficial for the human body to consume, but their ancient tradition and intuition is still very much relevant today. Think about it, what do we offer someone who is sick? Chicken soup or broth. Where do you think that tradition came from? It comes from previous generations consuming the magical food which is bone broth.


Fast forward to today, we now know the elements of bone broth that make it so nourishing and healing to our bodies. Here are the top benefits of bone broth:


Improves Gut Health


Much of what we consume in our diets today are incredibly damaging to the our digestive tracts, especially the lining of our intestines. Bone broth contains many elements that promote healing and protection to the gut lining. Some of the most notable elements are:

  • Collagen

  • Glycine

  • Glutamine

  • Gelatin

Consuming these proteins that are naturally found in animals (when we eat nose-to-tail) support our body’s ability to repair our gut lining and offer more protection from things that lead to increased intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut) in the future.


Supports the Immune System


It is estimated that at least 70-80% of our immune cells are in the gut. So improving gut health is naturally one of the best ways to improve immune health and drinking bone broth on a regular basis is a great way to do so. The proteins listed above that promote good gut health are also some of the main elements for improved immune function. Glutamine in particular is known to fuel immune cells, while glycine contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.


Like I said before, it is not a coincidence we instinctively offer our friends and family chicken soup when illness strikes! Unfortunately in modern times, the quality of store bought soup and broth is severely lacking in nutrients and may even contain ingredients that are harmful to our bodies which can then lead to further impairment of our immune systems. This is why homemade bone broth is the best option when it comes to supporting our immunity.


Promotes Healthy Skin, Hair, and Nails


Collagen has gained a lot of attention in recent years for it’s well known positive effects on skin, hair, and nails. It contains 19 different types of amino acids, 8 of which are essential amino acids. Essential meaning our bodies cannot produce them, so it is necessary to get them from food or supplementation. Several of these amino acids play important roles in promoting good health of your skin, hair, and nails.


There are different types of collagen, and different animal bones contain different types and amounts. For example, collagen from beef is higher in types I and III which better support the gut lining, skin, hair, nails, bones, and discs. Whereas chicken is higher in type II which better supports ligaments, tendons, connective tissue, and fascia. Long story short, our bodies need collagen to function properly and drinking bone broth is one of the easiest ways to incorporate high quality collagen into our diet.


In addition to collagen, bone broth also contains hyaluronic acid and gelatin. Hyaluronic acid increases skin moisture and can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles. Gelatin can support the health of your skin and promote hair growth. Why spend hundreds of dollars on beauty products every year that claim to contain these ingredients when you can reap a lot of the same benefits by simply adding bone broth into your diet?


Supports Joints and Bones


We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat” which is usually used to poke fun at other people, but in the case of bone broth it’s partially true. When we slowly cook down the parts of animals that we cannot normally consume (the bones, joints, tendons, ligaments), the nutrients that make up those parts are then extracted and absorbed into the broth which we can then consume. A lot of the same nutrients contained in those parts of the animals are the same nutrients that make up the human body as well. This includes calcium, magnesium, gelatin, hyaluronic acid, glucosamine, chondroitin, and so much more. So by consuming these essential vitamins and nutrients in the bone broth, our bodies can then use all of that goodness to grow, heal, and support our joints and bones thus proving the point that you can in fact become what you eat.


Other Key Benefits of Bone Broth


  • It is anti-inflammatory. As mentioned before, bone broth naturally contains some anti-inflammatory properties such as glycine; but additional anti-inflammatory ingredients can also be added when making the broth, such as turmeric, garlic, and ginger.

  • It balances out methionine. Methionine is an amino acid that has a strong presence in the muscle meat of animals. While it does carry a lot of health benefits, it can get a bad rap due to potential negative health effects when consumed in high quantities. This is one reason why some advocate against eating meat (an argument I disagree with). It is true that we mostly consume the lean muscle meats and largely neglect the rest of the animal, which is a huge disservice to our health. There is another amino acid called glycine which is present in other parts of animals and one of its many benefits is that it balances out methionine and reduces the risk of potential health consequences of consuming meat. Our ancestors got it right once again by eating nose-to-tail.

  • It is easy to digest. In modern society our GI tracts have to work hard on a daily basis trying to digest all of the food we consume. Not only do we eat large portions, we also eat constantly from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep. So supplementing bone broth in for a meal or a snack can be a great way to consume a nutrient-dense drink that is easy for the body to digest.

  • It is hydrating. It is more uncommon to be well hydrated that to be dehydrated nowadays. Drinking bone broth promotes hydration because it contains the electrolytes we need for adequate hydration like sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Plus, you can salt to tastes when drinking it giving you even more sodium in your day which is important since most of us do not get enough salt in our diets, despite what you may have been taught to believe.

  • It can support weight loss. I’m not saying it is a magic weight loss pill: that doesn’t actually exist. However, it is high in protein and very satiating to consume, so it can be used as a meal replacement if you are attempting to lose weight. Additionally, if you are intermittent fasting you can consume bone broth without technically breaking your fast.


Ways to Consume Bone Broth


There are countless ways on how to incorporate bone broth into your diet. My personal favorite is just to sip on it straight, but here are some other options:

  • Use as a base for soups and stews

  • Add to rice or pasta dishes

  • Sauté veggies in it

  • Add it to the slow cooker when making roast or chicken

  • Turn it into gravy


How to make





I make my bone broth a few different ways, but here is one basic recipe of mine: Bone Broth Recipe. You can also find hundreds of other delicious recipes on Pinterest and the rest of the internet!






Cautions


The benefits of consuming bone broth far exceed the risks, but here are a couple of things to keep in mind before adding it into your diet:

  • Bone broth can be high in histamines. If you are someone who struggles with histamine intolerance, consuming bone broth may make you feel worse. I recommend finding a practitioner who can help you address and treat those underlying issues. One other suggestion to help lower (but not completely eliminate) your exposure to histamines it to freeze the bone broth in glass containers and thaw/warm up just prior to consumption. If freezing, leave at least an inch of space at the top of the container or the glass may crack in the freezer.

  • Check ingredients if using store bought bone broth. The best option is homemade bone broth, but that is not always feasible for everyone to make. If you are buying from the store, look for broths containing organic real food ingredients. If you are seeing ingredients that you cannot identify or look like chemicals produced in a lab, you most likely don’t want to be putting that into your body.


Conclusion


If we really treated our food as medicine, bone broth would be one of the most powerful drugs out there. In combination with a nutritious whole food diet and the right lifestyle changes, this superfood can lead you to the healthiest version of yourself when consumed on a regular basis.



References:


Wiertsema, S. P., Van Bergenhenegouwen, J., Garssen, J., & Knippels, L. (2021). The Interplay between the Gut Microbiome and the Immune System in the Context of Infectious Diseases throughout Life and the Role of Nutrition in Optimizing Treatment Strategies. Nutrients, 13(3), 886. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13030886


Gelatin benefits, uses, recipes, nutrition and more - Dr. Axe. (2023, November 13). Dr. Axe. https://draxe.com/nutrition/gelatin/


Paray BA, Albeshr MF, Jan AT, Rather IA. Leaky Gut and Autoimmunity: An Intricate Balance in Individuals Health and the Diseased State. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Dec 21;21(24):9770. doi: 10.3390/ijms21249770. PMID: 33371435; PMCID: PMC7767453.


Professional, C. C. M. (n.d.). Collagen. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/23089-collagen


Clinic, C. (2023, November 30). Bone broth: How to make it — and why you should. Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/bone-broth-tap-the-chef-see-why-its-for-you


Cd, C. B. M. R. (2019, November 7). What is bovine collagen, and does it have benefits? Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/bovine-collagen


Dr. Jin W. Sung. (2022, October 4). 5 Benefits of BONE BROTH-Gut, Brain, Immune, joint and skin [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KPa4VHQ9nU


Ancient Nutrition. (2020, May 15). Bone broth and turmeric: a nutritional powerhouse for your gut, skin and joints | Ancient Nutrition [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cF8xEDwqZ-A


Bone broth benefits, nutrition facts and how to make it - Dr. Axe. (2023, July 10). Dr. Axe. https://draxe.com/nutrition/bone-broth-benefits/


What are the top 7 benefits of collagen? (n.d.). Amy Myers MD. https://www.amymyersmd.com/article/benefits-of-collagen


Sharp, E. (2023, February 24). What Amino Acids are in Collagen? Is the profile unique? CB Supplements. https://cbsupplements.com/cc/collagen-amino-acids-profile/


Rd, A. R. (2017, June 4). What is gelatin good for? Benefits, uses and more. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/gelatin-benefits#TOC_TITLE_HDR_5

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