Bone broth is a simple food: You simmer bones in water either by themselves or with some herbs and vegetables, strain out the solids, and drink the liquid. But while it seems so simple when you look at a recipe, the list of benefits associated with eating bone broth is quite long. People who recommend eating bone broth say it may help protect joints, heal leaky gut syndrome, reduce wrinkles, boost immunity, fight osteoporosis and arthritis, and more. It’s also recommended as part of the Paleo and ketogenic diets.
However, there is little scientific research on bone broth for a few reasons. For one there just isn’t much profit to be made from studying it. There is also no standard bone broth recipe, and what ingredients you use, the quality of the bones, and how you prepare the recipe will lead to different nutritional profiles. Lastly, some of the trace minerals believed to be in the broth have never really been determined. According to a 1934 study on bone broth, the liquid contains little nutritional value. However, in general bone broth is a source of protein, with four or more grams per 30- to 45-calorie cup.
The Science on Bone Broth
Plus, there is some research on chicken soup, which is similar to bone broth. One study, published in the journal Chest in 2000, reported that the common home remedy for colds may have a mild anti-inflammatory effect. Chicken soup appears to inhibit the activity of white blood cells, which in turn may halt or help minimize the progression of an upper respiratory infection before it becomes a full-blown cold.
Chicken soup may also make you feel better if you do come down with a virus. In an earlier study published in 1978, 15 healthy adults drank hot water, cold water, or hot chicken soup. Those who had the soup experienced a greater increase in mucus flow, which indicates that soup may help clear nasal passages so you can breathe more easily.
Other Possible Health Benefits of Bone Broth
Beyond that, there is only anecdotal evidence that bone broth may have health benefits. For starters, the claim that bone broth can restore collagen is not proven. And although collagen is important for building bones, there isn’t sufficient evidence that eating collagen leads to stronger bones. Our bodies use collagen wherever it’s needed; you cannot make your body use that collagen to rebuild bones or make your skin smoother, for example.
And while supplementing with collagen may support joint health, it’s unknown how much collagen is in a recipe of bone broth and if that would provide the same benefit as a pill does. For the same reasons, consuming bone broth isn’t proven to relieve arthritis.
Many of my patients have reported improved skin quality. They say that they have more ‘glow’ after adding bone broth to their diets. Keep in mind, this is only anecdotal and there is no research to support this benefit. Collagen supplements may have anti-aging properties, but it’s unknown if bone broth has the same properties. Likewise, the claim that bone broth fights osteoporosis is unproven. Again, it’s unclear how much calcium, magnesium, and other bone-supporting minerals are in a batch of bone broth.
Lastly, some say that bone broth can heal leaky gut syndrome. Some point to the gelatin, a form of collagen, while others credit glutamine, an amino acid that’s involved in many bodily processes and is important for intestinal health. However, there is little scientific evidence that bone broth improves digestive health.
The Bottom Line on Bone Broth
All of this said, I have seen patients start drinking bone broth daily for four to six weeks and report better-looking skin and less hair loss. It may be that the bone broth contains protein and minerals that someone’s diet is missing, making the liquid highly restorative. Still, despite all of the possible benefits of consuming bone broth as part of your diet, keep in mind that no one food is a miracle. If your diet is unhealthy, drinking bone broth won’t do much for you. It’s more important to establish overall healthy eating habits, such as eating more plants and less processed foods.
And if you prefer to eat a plant-based diet and therefore avoid bone broth, try the delicious vegetarian bone broth recipe from Sonima’s resident chef, Amie Valpone, below. Although it is not exactly the same nutritionally as bone broth, it provides plenty of vitamins and minerals from the nutrient-dense vegetables. You can also add vegan collagen-boosting powder. These products contain plant-based ingredients that may boost your body’s natural production of collagen.
Vegetarian Bone Broth
10 cups filtered water
1 cup sliced button or Portobello mushrooms
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
1 large white onion, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon plant-based collagen-boosting powder (optional)
- Combine all ingredients except collagen in a large pot on the stovetop. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer and cook for 2 hours. Remove from heat, remove lid, and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
- When ready to serve, stir in collagen and use a strainer to separate broth from vegetables (or serve the broth with vegetables, if desired). Serve warm.
- Store leftover broth in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in a sealed container or in the freezer for up to 1 month.