By Lindsay Kent
Bone broth has become a buzz phrase in nutritional circles, and many people wonder what all the hype is about. The grocery store aisles are filled with chicken, vegetable, and beef soups, broths and stocks. What’s the difference between them and “bone broth,” and are the benefits of bone broth really better than the others?
Breaking Down the Broth
The key difference between bone broth, stock and regular broth is the cooking time. They all start with water. Broth is water that is simmered, usually with meat, vegetables, aromatics, and on occasion bones, but the cooking time is short, usually two hours or less. Stock is water simmered with bones, aromatics, and vegetables for a slightly longer cooking time, usually six hours or less. Bone broth is made from bones, with or without meat, and requires a much longer simmering process, during which more nutrients, collagen and gut-healing gelatinare extracted from the bones. Chicken bone broth usually takes around 24 hours, and beef should simmer for 48 hours or more for maximum benefit.
What You Get From That Long Simmer
Let’s dive into some of the positive effects of consuming bone broth.
1) Gut health. Leaky gut is a condition caused by a breakdown of the intestinal lining. When the lining becomes permeable, food particles, bacteria and debris “leak” through the gut directly into the bloodstream. The body’s immune system becomes hyperactive, which leads to an inflammatory response and dysfunction. High levels of antibodies are released, which can trigger an autoimmune response—the body begins attacking healthy tissues.
Athletes in particular can be susceptible. Studies show up to 50 percent of athletes reporting gastrointestinal symptoms, with the symptoms increasing as exercise intensity increases. During intensive exercise, the body redirects blood flow away from the GI tract to the heart and other working muscles. The body’s core temperature goes up, and the combination of decreased blood flow and increased thermal temperatures damages the intestinal mucosa, causing an inflammatory response and damage to the intestinal barrier.
Bone broth helps to restore the gut lining and increase the growth of probiotics in the digestive environment. That was reinforced in a study that appeared in the Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology, which found that gelatin specifically supports intestinal health and integrity, along with collagen and the amino acids proline, glutamine, and arginine, found deep in the marrow of the bones simmered for broth. They all help to seal the lining openings in the gut, maintaining the integrity of the digestive system.
2) Detoxification. The many benefits of cleansing and detoxing the body are common knowledge, but it is difficult for the body to keep up with the process due to the barrage of environmental pollutants we are exposed to—chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, and the like. Bone broth contains potassium and glycine, which help the digestive system expel waste, aide the liver’s ability to remove toxins and also promote cellular regeneration, key functions in keeping the body clean.
3) Metabolism and anabolism. The rich supply of amino acids and collagen in bone broth helps to build and repair muscle tissue, increase nutrient absorption and synthesis, and maintain muscle and connective tissue health. Glycine, mentioned above, also helps form muscle tissue by converting glucose into usable energy. In addition, glucosamine, along with chondroitin, aids the growth of new collagen, helps repair damaged joints, eases arthritis, and reduces pain and inflammation.
4) Skin health. Collagen-rich bone broth helps increase the skin’s elasticity, tone, and firmness by maintaining the strength of connective tissue. A lack of connective tissue leads to cellulite formation, so you want to make sure your body has enough collagen.
5) Rich mineral source. The minerals contained in bone broth include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, and sulfur. They are easily absorbed and help to replenish the body’s electrolyte stores and maintain joint health.
Should You Buy Bone Broth or Make It?
Many stores now carry bone broth in clear glass jars with fancy labels, promising you an abundance of nutritional benefits that will enhance your fountain of youth. Often, what you get is broth made from lab-produced meat-flavored bouillon cubes, usually containing monosodium glutamate, a.k.a. MSG, which provides meat flavor but is a neurotoxin—a poison that acts on the nervous system.
Making your own bone broth is the best way to ensure you reap all of the amazing benefits.
How to Make Bone Broth
Here are the basics for simmering your own bone broth. Make sure you use grass-fed or organic meat and bones that have no antibiotics or hormones.
- For best results, use bones, fat, meat, vegetables, and water.
- Add apple cider vinegar to the water to help draw out the minerals.
- Simmer, 24 hours for chicken and 48 hours for beef. Low, slow cooking is important for drawing out the deeply embedded nutrients in the bones.
- Add your choice of flavorful vegetables and herbs, such as onions, carrots, celery, garlic, and parsley.
- Cool the broth and chill. Remove the final layer of fat that solidifies on top of the broth right before you are ready to use it, as this layer helps to seal in flavor and nutrients.
Once you have your base, you can play around with vegetables and proteins, but bone broth is also great drunk warm from a Thermos or mug. Here’s my go-to recipe for chicken bone broth, along with one of my favorite soup recipes.
Chicken Bone Broth Base
1 chicken carcass*
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
½ white onion, sliced
½ medium fennel bulb, cored and sliced
1 garlic clove, cut in half
* I like to get raw bones from a local butcher.
Preheat the oven to 425 F.
Line a deep baking dish with greased aluminum foil, and roast the thawed or frozen chicken bones in the pan until they are a deep, dark brown, approximately 20 minutes. Let the cooked bones sit for 10 minutes.
Transfer the bones to a large pot or slow cooker, and fill with filtered water, enough to cover the bones. Add the apple cider vinegar, and let the bones, water, and vinegar sit for 10 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients and follow one of these methods:
Slow Cooker. Set to low, and cook for 24 hours.
Stovetop. Bring the broth to a low simmer over medium heat, never letting it get to the boiling point. As it begins to simmer, skim the layer of foam that forms on top. Continue cooking for 24 hours, maintaining the slow simmer.
When the broth is done, it will be a deep golden color. Remove the bones with tongs, and use a strainer to remove all the vegetables. Let the broth cool for one hour.
Cover the broth and refrigerate for 24 hours.
When you’re ready to use the broth, remove the layer of fat that has formed, and discard it.
Drink this bone broth as is, with all the health benefits and delicious, savory flavor, or use it in a recipe, such as the one below:
Lindsay’s Favorite Super Soup
1 teaspoon tallow
Marrow from 2 roasted marrowbones
1 large fennel bulb, cored and sliced
1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
5 cups of bone broth, your choice
2 cups sprouted brown rice
1 cup cooked lentils
1 cup spinach
2 cups thinly sliced bok choy
In a large pot, heat the tallow and the marrow from the 2 roasted marrowbones until they are liquefied.
Add the fennel, and cook until it softens; add the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes.
Add the garlic and ginger, and sauté, stirring continuously for 2 minutes.
Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for one hour.
To serve, spoon 1/2 cup of brown rice into each bowl, and top with 1/4 cup of lentils, 1/4 cup of spinach, and 1/2 cup of bok choy.
Pour 1 1/4 cups of broth into each bowl. Cover, and let the soup sit for 5 minutes.
Optional. Add a protein of your choice.
Makes 4 servings.
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Clark, A., and Mach, N. (2016). Exercise-induced stress behavior, gut-microbiota-brain axis and diet: A systematic review for athletes. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 13.43. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-016-0155-6
Frasca, G.; Cardile, V.; Puglia, C.; Bonina, C.; and Bonina, F. (2012). Gelatin tannate reduces the proinflammatory effects of lipopolysaccharide in human intestinal epithelial cells. Clinical and Experimental Gastroenterology, 5, 61–67. https://doi.org/10.2147/CEG.S28792
Rennard, B. O.; Ertl, R. F.; Gossman, G. L.; Robbins, R. A.; and Rennard, S. I. (2000). Chicken soup inhibits neutrophil chemotaxis in vitro. Chest, 118(4), 1150–1157.
Wilson, Q. F. (2016). Bone Broth. Berkeley, CA: Sonoma Press.
A former captain of a Junior Olympic volleyball team, Lindsay Kent loved testing her limits and digging deep to push herself to the next level. A professor at the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) College of Exercise Science, Lindsay also owns her own training business, Lindsay Kent Fitness. She holds the prestigious designation of Master Personal Trainer, specializing in Fitness Nutrition, Strength and Conditioning, Exercise Therapy, Youth and Senior Fitness, and Athlete/Functional training. A spokesmodel for ISSA, Lindsay writes for various fitness publications and we proud to have her on our team here at DigitalMuscle.com.