Waste not, want not. That was the motto of our hunter-gatherer forefathers and mothers. After the meat and hide was stripped from the day’s kill, they would stick any remains—including the animal’s bones—into a pot and simmer it over a low fire for hours on end.
The result: a steamy, flavorful stew we now call bone broth, the biggest trend to hit health food store shelves since açaí. Here’s what you need to know about this so-called miracle elixir, including bone broth benefits and how to incorporate it into your diet for maximum results.
What Is Bone Broth?
Like stock, bone broth is made by simmering the bones of an animal over a long period of time. But whereas stock might be used to make soup, bone broth can be a meal in itself, says Dr. Kellyann Petrucci, a naturopathic doctor and author of Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet, Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Cookbook and The 10-Day Belly Slimdown.
Many people add vegetables and spices to their bone broth to give it more flavor. “It’s like a fancier version of stock,” says Petrucci, who also serves on the medical advisory board for Genexa.
You can use cow, chicken, poultry and even fish bones. There is a slight difference in the amount of nutrients provided by each animal, but Petrucci says don’t overthink it.
“I always tell people, do not make this hard,” she says. At the end of the day, consuming any bone broth—whether it’s made from turkey or tilapia—is better than none. “This is one of the easiest health changes you’re going to make,” she says.
If you’re feeling ambitious, here’s her easy bone broth recipe: Throw your bones in a pot. Add some chopped celery, onions and carrots. (Again, don’t overthink it by worrying about finely dicing your ingredients, as Petrucci says, “There’s no finessing it. This is as rustic and easy as it gets.”)
Add “whatever spices move you” and cover your concoction with water until the liquid reaches about an inch above the bones.
Simmer on low heat for at least six to 12 hours. “That’s when all the goodness comes out,” says Petrucci.
Bone Broth Benefits
It’s that “goodness” that gives bone broth its healing power. Here are four bone broth benefits you should know about:
1). Reduce Inflammation
You may have been fed chicken soup as a kid when you weren’t feeling well. Heck, you may still break out the ladle when you’re under the weather.
Scientists have long sought to explain why soup is so soothing when we’re sick. So far, the farthest they’ve got is proving in laboratory tests that bone broth can reduce inflammation, according to an article in Harvard Medical School’s Harvard Health Publishing (1). This is the only benefit that’s been proven so far.
Amino acids like proline, glycine and arginine give bone broth its inflammation-fighting powers, says Petrucci. Reducing inflammation in the body can help with everything from weight loss to easing symptoms of chronic conditions like arthritis.
2). Assist with Weight Loss
If weight loss is a goal, it’s not just the broth’s anti-inflammatory agents that will help you reach it. Bone broth also contains fatty acids that can help you feel fuller longer. It’s low in carbs, and a mug only packs about 40 calories, says Petrucci.
“It’s like a meal in a mug, but it’s a powerful meal,” she says. “There’s so much nutritional density and so little calories.”
She uses it to stave off hunger pangs when fasting (“We all splurge,” she says). And remember those amino acids we were raving about earlier? They can help support a healthy liver, which in turn will help your body flush out toxins more efficiently, she says.
3). Support a Healthy Gut
If your bone broth is prepared properly, it will turn into a jelly-like substance when it cools. This is a good thing, says Petrucci.
That gelatin is a byproduct of cooking down collagen. Think of it as aloe vera for your insides, she says.
Just like aloe can soothe your skin after a sunburn, gelatin may help soothe and heal the gut, which can help in treating conditions like constipation and diarrhea. Bone broth is also hydrophilic—science-speak for helping your body absorb water and digestive juices—which means more efficient digestion of foods and nutrients, she says.
A healthier gut can have all kinds of beneficial side effects.
“Your gut expresses itself in the physiology of your skin. If someone wants to have beautiful skin, shiny hair and strong nails, they better make sure their gut is strong,” says Petrucci. “I can look at someone and get a really good 10,000-foot view of what’s going on internally.”
4). Provide Much-Needed Minerals
Bone broth is rich in minerals like calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, says Petrucci. Added bonus: The minerals in bone broth are in a form our bodies can easily absorb.
Many of us don’t get enough minerals in our diet, which is bad news for all the processes in our body that are powered by them, including our endocrine, adrenal and cardiac systems.
The minerals in bone broth can also help us chill out during stressful times.
“Bone broth contains magnesium, which can provide a calming sensation,” says Petrucci. “It takes us down a few notches.”
How to Choose a Bone Broth
While it’s incredibly easy to make your own bone broth, there’s no shame in buying a can (or three) from your favorite store.
Petrucci suggests looking for a broth made with organic ingredients and from the bones of pasture-raised animals. Other than that, it’s just finding a broth that suits your taste buds. “Sometimes you just have to buy it and try it,” she says.
You can also find dehydrated bone broth in flavors like vanilla and chocolate. These are fine too, she says. It’s like anything else: The natural form is better, but not everyone has time to boil down bones themselves.
Once you perfect your bone broth recipe or find a ready-made brand you love, Petrucci recommends drinking two mugs per day.
She says you should start seeing results in about three weeks, because that’s how long it takes the cells in your intestines to regenerate and make the most of the broth’s healing powers.
Golden Bone Broth Recipe
Yield: 1 serving
Add all ingredients to a small pot and heat on medium until the bone broth reaches a slight rolling boil. Then enjoy!
Bone Broth Nutrition Facts
Here is the nutritional content for beef bone broth made with filtered water and broth from organic grass-fed beef bones, according to Petrucci:
Serving size: 8 fl. oz. (1 cup)
Total Fat: 0g – 0%
Saturated Fat: 0g – 0%
Trans Fat: 0g – 0%
Cholesterol: 0mg – 0%
Sodium: 290mg – 13%
Total Carbohydrate: 0g – 0%
Dietary fiber: 0g – 0%
Total sugars: 0g – 0%
Vitamin D: 0mcg – 0%
Calcium: 2mg – 0%
Iron: 0mg – 0%
Potassium: 191mg – 4%