Bone broth is made primarily out of bones and surrounding connective tissues, like ligaments often used for bone and joint health in humans. It can be made from a wide variety of meat, from beef to chicken to pork and even fish or pre-manufactured bone broth powder.
It comes with numerous health benefits, some of which may differ based on the stock its made from.
In general, bone broth is also a healthy dietary choice; there are no serious, commonly-occurring side effects, and it’s safe even for pregnant women to consume.
1Bone broth can help bolster joint and bone health. One of the main reasons bone broth may help with joint health is its high collagen content. A 2000 study showed that collagen hydrolysate is a potential therapy for osteoporosis, osteoarthritis and other diseases of the skeletal system that affect joint movement (1).
There are also very few adverse effects associated with it — side effects are basically limited to feeling full and possibly disliking the taste of collagen. Other common ingredients in bone broth, like omega-3 fatty acids, are also necessary for the building of healthy, dense bones and joints (2).
2Bone broth might help those struggling with arthritis. Chronic rheumatoid arthritis can sometimes be alleviated not just with conventional medication, but also with lifestyle changes, especially those concerning your diet (3).
Consuming omega-3 fatty acids like the ones found in fish oil, lowering dietary cholesterol intake and supplementing with vitamin K may all help treat osteoarthritis. That’s where bone broth comes in.
Bone broth is particularly high in the micronutrients your body requires to build a healthy skeletal system, and repair damaged joints. Omega-3 fatty acids, for example, are a dietary addition commonly touted as a possible arthritis therapy (4).
Supplementing with omega-3’s can keep bones healthy even in the face of an inadequate diet and ensure that bones continue to grow new material, maintaining strength and density (5).
In addition, bone broth contains Vitamin K2. Studies show that this vitamin has the potential to fight the effects of osteoarthritis (6).
Vitamin K, in combination with conventional medicines, might be a new therapy to fight the debilitation caused by rheumatoid arthritis (7).
3Bone broth may have a slight anti-inflammatory effect, especially in the gut. Gelatin seems to support the intestines’ ability to function properly. A 2012 study demonstrated that the gelatin content in bone broth could be good for fighting inflammation, particularly in the gut (8).
4Bone broth can have a boosting effect on your immune system. It’s possible that bone broth can have a positive impact on your immune system, helping you fight off infections and stay healthy. In part, that might be due to its glutamine content.
Despite some disagreement on exactly how glutamine works or how beneficial it is, one 2017 meta-analysis found that it helped shorten the length of hospital stays and reduced the rate of infectious complications for hospital patients who took glutamine supplements (9).
This suggests it may have a positive effect on your immune system’s ability to fight off infectious diseases.
5Bone broth can be beneficial for psychological disorders like autism. Increasingly, doctors are prescribing bone broth as part of a GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet, targeted towards patients who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, dyspraxia (an inability to use motor skills), depression and schizophrenia (10).
A 2017 study provided evidence which suggests that a properly functioning digestive system is important to brain health (11).
Depression and anxiety have both been linked to gut inflammation and dysbiosis, or an imbalance of the helpful bacteria and microorganisms that usually live in the digestive system. Nutritional approaches, including a bone broth diet, are becoming more and more common in treating disorders of the brains such as ADHD (12).
6Bone broth contains collagen to help with anti-aging. One 2018 study, published in The International Journal Of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism suggested that bone broth doesn’t provide a consistent, adequate amount of the amino acids human bodies need to synthesize new collagen, pointing towards collagen supplements as a better solution (13).
On the other hand, a 2016 study found that bone broth made from Hanwoo, a type of cattle native to Korea, had marked effects on skin elasticity (14).
The researchers concluded that the positive, anti-wrinkling effects of the cattle bone infusion could be attributed to the collagen content, though noted that the effects were observed through the transfusion — not through collagen itself. It’s possible that traditional bone broths can match modern collagen supplements for promoting skin health into old age.
7Bone broth is full of essential minerals, especially when simmered for longer. Bone broth contains essential minerals your body needs to function, such as calcium and magnesium (both are good for bone and joint health, among other essential processes). A 2017 study found that bone broth contained both, and that the concentration of said minerals increased the longer the bones were simmered for (15).
An older study from 1994, published in Calcified Tissue International, further supports this claim (16).
Researchers found that cooking bones for longer, especially in an acidic solution, resulted in a higher concentration of calcium, suggesting that well-simmered bone broth could be a solution for calcium deficiency when milk and calcium supplements aren’t readily available.
8Bone broth contains glutamine, a conditionally-essential amino acid shown to help fight infections. As a standalone ingredient, glutamine has a number of available benefits. In athletes, soldiers, or those who exercise strenuously and regularly, consuming high amounts of glutamine can help maintain performance. Hard exercise is associated with decreased levels of glutamine in blood plasma, so replenishing it through the diet is important (17).
As mentioned above, glutamine may also be able to bolster your immune defenses, resulting in decreased rates of infection (18).
In addition, glutamine is critically important to gut function, especially in the small intestine. Glutamine deficiencies can lead to injuries in the small intestine and abnormal permeability (19).
9Bone broth may help with upper respiratory tract infections. As it turns out, chicken soup can actually provide relief from cold and flu symptoms in a number of different ways (20).
It helps with nasal airflow resistance, loosening mucus when vapors are inhaled. In other words, it can help you breathe a little more easily while congested from a cold.
Scientists aren’t quite sure how chicken soup does this. Either something related to the vapors or the taste improves mucus symptoms and makes it easier to breathe (21).
It’s also possible that the hot liquid is better than cold liquids while sick, though chicken soup has proved superior to hot water for increasing nasal mucus velocity through some unique mechanism (22).
Finally, chicken soup has even been found to inhibit neutrophil chemotaxis, one of the common cold’s associated chemical reactions (23).
In other words, drinking chicken soup seems to have an anti-inflammatory effect on the common cold, decreasing some of the pain that usually occurs as a result. Researchers theorized that this is because chicken soup either contains some kind of substance that acts like medicine or it has mild anti-inflammatory properties.
1Bones may occasionally store heavy metals, such as lead. As a result, consuming bone broth on a regular or excessive basis could lead to a buildup of heavy metals in the body. Consuming bone broth that’s been simmered for excessively long times, multiple times per day, could lead to a higher lead intake than is healthy (24).
That said, such a situation is unlikely, especially if one is conscientious about where bones are being sourced from and how they’re being prepared.
People who eat bone broth once every day or two and differ between the kinds of bones being used have very little to fear in the way of side effects or overdosing, especially in comparison to conventional medicines (25).
A 2017 study found that concentrations of essential and toxic metals in bone broth were generally less than 5% of the daily recommended levels, meaning even multiple servings per day wouldn’t bring somebody close to a toxic amount of Calcium or Magnesium.
As bone broth is more of an ingredient than a drug, there isn’t necessarily a recommended dosage. But that also means that there isn’t really a risk of overdosing on bone broth, especially if it’s being consumed as part of an otherwise well-rounded diet that includes fruits, vegetables, and other types of protein.
If you’re looking to reap the benefits of bone broth, simply having a meal of soup in a bone broth stock once every day or two could be enough, though we wouldn’t recommend eating bone broth for more than one meal a day; doing so risks depriving yourself of other necessary nutrients and minerals that aren’t present in bone broth.
What is the best type of bone broth? There isn’t necessarily a scientific consensus on what the “best” kind of bone broth is. All types will have lots of fatty acids, collagen, and amino acids, so whether it is made from fish or from pork won’t matter. That said, drinking a variety of different bone broths is one good way to vary your diet and make it more well-rounded.
Is store-bought bone broth powder as healthy as made from scratch? Unfortunately, no. Store-bought powder often tastes similar but doesn’t have any of the vital nutrients and minerals that make bone broth such an attractive option in the first place (26). Making legitimate bone broth takes a couple of hours, but it actually confers the health benefits you’re drinking it for in the first place, unlike the quick powder you can simply bring to a boil.
Can pregnant women drink bone broth? Yes, bone broth is totally safe for pregnant women to consume. There are no adverse effects related to pregnancy that are associated with bone broth. In fact, it’s a good source of protein and essential vitamins and minerals, so some pregnancy blogs and women’s health magazines actually recommend it for women who are pregnant.
What is the best way to prepare bone broth? Preparing bone broth is relatively simple; you mostly just need bones and water. First, you should roast the bones if necessary, as well as any other vegetables you want to infuse the broth with, like leeks or carrots. Then, fill a large pot with the bones and any other ingredients. Next, add water to the pot until it covers the bones by a small margin, around an inch. After bringing the mixture to a simmer over high heat, turn the stove down to low and simply let it cook for a few hours. The cooking time will depend on the type of broth you’re making; fish bone broth needs much less time than beef bone broth. The longer you simmer, the thicker your broth will be.
Can I consume bone broth every day? Yes, you can eat bone broth every day. There are no adverse effects associated with daily bone broth consumption, and even multiple servings a day isn’t enough to increase blood toxicity from the minerals included in bone broth like calcium and magnesium.
That said, having a healthy, well-rounded diet is more important than eating bone broth for every meal. Malnutrition in other respects could negate any benefits associated with bone broth consumption. For that reason, it’s probably more than adequate to eat just one or two servings of bone broth per day, if you’re interested in reaping the benefits.
Where should I source the necessary bones and materials to make my own bone broth? There are several different ways to get the necessary bones you need. If you have leftovers from cooking a large piece of meat, like a roast chicken, you can simply save the bones and then turn them into a broth later. You could also buy the bones directly from a butcher in your area. Many grocery or health foods stores like Whole Foods carry bones for broth-making as well, though not all do, so you may have to do a little searching. Local farmers and farmers’ markets also often have various types of bones up for sale. Finally, if all else fails, you could simply order them online in the absence of any local options.
What are some common types of bone broth? Bone broth can be made from pretty much any type of bone you can think of: beef, pork, chicken, fish. You can even make bone broth using feet bones from calves and pork, or even a whole chicken.
Are there any dangers associated with bone broth consumption? There are no real dangers associated with eating bone broth, not the same way there are with conventional medications and some herbal supplements. The only possible adverse side effect is that excess amounts of bone broth could lead to toxic amounts of metals like magnesium or lead in your body since bones tend to absorb heavy metals. But such an occurrence is very unlikely (27).
When is the best time to consume bone broth? The best time is in the morning on an empty stomach. Begin the day by drinking 8-12 ounces of warm bone broth.
Is it ok to drink bone broth before bed? The large amounts of calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus in bone broth helps bones grow, strengthen and repair. Research has shown that consuming gelatin before bed helps to induce sleep because of the amino acid glycine.
Which is better beef or chicken bone broth? Neither is better or worse. Chicken bones may be less dense than heavy beef bones, and they do contain less collagen, but the magic of chicken bone broth is all in the feet. Yes, chicken feet contain collagen (more so than beef bones), which yields a bone broth higher in protein.
Does bone broth make you poop? It may seem surprising, but bone broth, such as chicken or beef bone broth, can help your poop whether you’re pooping too much or too little. The nutrients in it help your gut by supporting your digestion of fat, cutting down on inflammation and undoing intestinal wall damage.
How long do you cook bones for bone broth? It takes 12-24 hours to simmer the bones properly and extract the collagen.
Does bone broth good for fasting? Bone broth is a great liquid you can drink when you fast. This is because bone broth is a source of bioavailable nutrition to support your body’s natural healing processes without taking you out of a fasted state.
In short, bone broth is a food that might take effort to make, but comes with benefits for your joints, skeletal system, and even food allergies, while being nutritious and savory to boot.
Types differ widely, with some being made from fish and other types of broth made from beef, chicken or pork; any kind can be consumed for the health benefits, and varying the type is probably a good idea as well. Just remember to avoid instant bone broth powder from the grocery store, as it doesn’t have the same benefits.
There’s very little chance of overdosing on bone broth, but you should probably keep it to one to two servings a day at a maximum just to ensure your diet is otherwise well-rounded and full of fruits and vegetables. It’s not a magical cure-all for myriad diseases, but bone broth as part of a well-balanced diet has many available benefits.