Bone broth has recently begun growing in popularity, even though it’s technically a prehistoric food. The broth is widely used in Chinese and Vietnamese cuisine (perhaps you’ve had pho before), and it is believed to be very nourishing for the body.
Sharon Brown, clinical nutritionist and founder of frozen bone broth company Bonafide Provisions, unpacks some of the key health benefits the protein-rich broth offers.
Bone broth can improve gut health.
“Bone broth is one of the best sources of bioavailable collagen because it delivers collagen in a whole-food form,” explains Brown. “The high levels of collagen in properly-made bone broth help repair the mucosal lining of the gut, which aids digestion, soothes the intestines, and reduces inflammation.”
Ensuring that the mucosal lining of the gut is healthy helps to prevent leaky gut syndrome or intestinal permeability, the condition in which the lining of your gut tears, which then causes small openings in the wall of the gut.
“These tears allow particles, such as toxins, microbes, and simply undigested food into your bloodstream. The body reacts by going into a state of defense and tries to attack these substances, causing inflammation in the body,” says Brown.
Leaky gut syndrome not only causes chronic gastrointestinal discomfort such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and gas, but it can also affect your mental health.
“These particles can cross the blood-brain barrier, causing toxins [to appear] in the brain,” says Brown.
Brown says leaky gut syndrome can occur as a result of consuming toxins found in our food supply, from the antibiotics given to animals, preservatives in various packaged foods, to even pesticides on fresh fruits and vegetables. Even stress can contribute to tears in the gut. The gut has a lot of control over your overall health—more than you may have initially thought. Brown says that up to 85 percent of the cells in the immune system reside in the gut.
“The immune system is simply the body’s natural defense system that fights off infections. The immune system consists of antibodies, white blood cells, chemicals, organs, and proteins,” she says. “Bone broth contains several amino acids that are key to a healthy immune system, including arginine, glycine, glutamine, and proline.”
Bone broth supports healthy hair, skin, and nails.
Bone broth is loaded in collagen, an amino acid that is known to provide several health benefits to the body.
“Collagen-rich bone broth promotes smooth, supple skin and strong, healthy hair and nails. In addition, the skin is the body’s largest organ, and there is a strong link between gut and skin health known as the gut-skin axis,” says Brown.
Not only does collagen directly work to promote healthy skin, but it also helps to repair the gut, which in part, also helps to support skin health.
Bone broth supports joint health.
According to a study published in Nutrition Journal, which examined the effect that type 2 collagen had on people who were experiencing osteoarthritis (destruction of joint cartilage) symptoms in their knees, bone broth may be able to provide relief from joint pain and stiffness. After 180 days, it was found that taking supplements of type 2 collagen—which was derived from the connective tissue in chickens—helped to improve knee joint symptoms and physical function.
“The collagen and other amino acids and minerals in bone broth can help strengthen the skeletal system, rebuild connective tissue, ease joint pain, and fight inflammation,” Brown adds.
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Bone broth aids performance and recovery.
“Glycine in bone broth helps the body produce antioxidants that rebuild muscle, fight disease, and detoxify the liver,” says Brown. “Bone broth also helps to replenish electrolytes like sodium and potassium that are lost during exercise.”
In fact, glycine is one of three amino acids that the body uses to make a vital, free radical-fighting antioxidant called glutathione. According to research that was published in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, glutathione protects cells from oxidative damage, which is believed to cause a myriad of chronic ailments, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, and even neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
Bone broth satiates and energizes.
When you think of broth, you likely think of a salty liquid that acts a base to a soup. In other words, it’s not filling on its own. Bone broth, on the other hand, has 10 grams of protein in just one cup, which helps to keep you fuller, longer. Imagine remaining full after having eaten lunch and not feeling the need to snack until dinnertime.
How to make sure you’re buying high-quality bone broth
While all of these health benefits can be uncovered when drinking bone broth, Brown notes that there is no regulated term for bone broth, which means that a product on the shelves that is labeled as bone broth could very well be stock.
“It is critical to check your ingredients and know the company you are buying from to make sure you are getting the real thing [and] so you can actually reap the benefits.”
The team at Bonafide Provisions provided us with a few tips on how you can distinguish real bone broth from the faux variety.
- Head to the frozen aisle. Freezing bone broth locks in flavor and preserves nutrients at their peak, and it is the way bone broth is traditionally stored. It’s also the only way that you can store bone broth without preservatives, shelf-stabilizers, or processing.
- Look for bone broth that is certified organic. This ensures that the ingredients in your bone broth are actually organic, grown without pesticides, and that the bones come from animals raised without antibiotics.
- Look for bone broth that is made from only grass-fed or free-range bones and no filler broth. This ensures that your bone broth is made with high-quality bones from animals raised on pasture and therefore free of environmental toxins. Also, some companies add regular broth to their bone broth, which is cheaper to produce but it creates a watered-down broth.
- Read the ingredients. It’s super important to read the ingredients before buying any bone broth and make sure they include only bones, water, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, and minimal herbs and spices.
- Bone broth should turn to gel once refrigerated. When collagen is cooked, it turns into gelatin. The sign that a bone broth has been made properly and is full of collagen is that it solidifies and turns to gelatin when refrigerated.
So, are you ready to pick up some bone broth and start enjoying its many health benefits?