Bone broth, a very controversial topic and growing in popularity. As a daily sipper of bone broth, I felt it was time I share insights on my experience and what I’ve learned. It’s been five months of frequent grocery shopping, making and consuming of bone broth for me. I’ve been struggling with digestive issues and tummy pain my hole life, and in September of 2016 I finally met a naturopathic doctor who was able to help. Her name is Maddie and someone I now consider a friend. I’m eternally grateful that she recommended I make the huge lifestyle switch to a bone broth diet, not to mention the peace I feel in finally having a doctor I can trust to help me find answers and achieve results.
What is Bone Broth?
Some of you might be wondering what bone broth is and if there is a difference between bone broth, regular broth and stock. It comes down to two things. 1. How long the simmering process is, and 2. what the broth is made up of.
Beef, chicken, turkey, pork and fish broth are made with both the meat and the bones of the animal or fish. Animal and fish stocks are made with less meat and more bones. And, bone broth is made only with the bones of the animal or fish. No matter what type of broth you are trying to make, it is recommended you add veggies such as carrots, celery, onion, garlic, as well as, herbs and spices to make the broth more nutritious and flavorful.
I believe the two most commonly made bone broths are chicken and beef. I have found chicken and beef bones to be the most accessible. I pick them up at my local co-op and whole foods. It’s recommended to simmer a batch of chicken bone broth for 24 hours and beef bone broth for 48 hours. This amount time allows for bones and marrow to breakdown and release all the nutrients, minerals and amino acids into the water. When you go to strain your batch it will smell rich and be caramel in color. If it’s your first time making bone broth, and need insight on how to strain and store your batch, read straining and storing. Also, if you pull your first jar or bag of broth out of the fridge and it looks like the gelatin from a Thanksgiving gravy (or jello) then you know you made your batch correctly. Using accurate proportions of bones to water. Your end product should be gelatin like.
After doing a lot of research and being on the bone broth journey personally, I think it is safe to say that benefits of bone broth are very controversial. There are some well known supporters who claim Bone Broth is a miracle cure for numerous health issues, which I will get into later in this article, there are a few renowned professors and scientists that can show no or limited supporting scientific data proving the bone broth health benefit claims.
The Bone Broth Diet and The Bone Broth Fast
What’s your reason for looking into Bone Broth? Perhaps you have multiple reasons based on numerous sources claiming the wide range of health benefits one receives from drinking bone broth consistently. Personally, I started drinking bone broth everyday because I was diagnosed with leaky gut syndrome among other things. Some people are using it to lose weight. Maybe you have heard of Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Diet, a 21-day plan that helps you lose up to 20 pounds and see fewer wrinkles.
Whatever your reason might be, here is what you need to know about the bone broth diet. It usually starts out with the bone broth fast. The bone broth fast consists of drinking only bone broth for three to five days. Some publications might recommend a shorter time frame or longer. I think you should consider your goals and the reasons you are doing the fast in order to determine a time frame for yourself. The fast jumps starts your path to healing your gut and digestive system, weight loss and most importantly, a full body detox. I felt horrible those first few days because of how much my body was detoxing. Even after I started incorporating organic pureed soups, my body continued to detox.
When doing the bone broth fast, it is recommended that you drink 60+ ounces of bone broth per day spread out over 5 to 7 (12ounce) servings. I averaged around 90 during my fast. Honestly, those first few days I felt full. I would struggle at night when my family was enjoying a delicious meal for dinner. TIP: If I had to break, I’d drink an organic pureed soup that was organic stock based.
For me, the bone broth diet is more about a long term lifestyle change of committing to drinking bone broth daily. Using bone broth protein, and setting yourself up with what I like to call the bone broth tool kit, ensures higher success to fully transition to this lifestyle. (More on how I learned the hard way at a later date). “Experts” in bone broth recommend a regimen of one cup of bone broth in the morning and before bed daily as a good maintenance. Keep in mind maintenance means you have achieved your health goals and want to keep them at optimal level. If you have not achieved your optimal health goals and feel bone broth is the solution, you may want to consume more bone broth for meals throughout the day instead of solids. If you can’t access or make bone broth from scratch, I recommend looking into bone broth protein powders, as well as, pre-made frozen options. Shelf stable bone broths don’t wow me, but if I am in a bind I usually swing into the grocery store and grab Pacific, Organic chicken or beef bone broth. The powders are nice because you can make a cup of bone broth as needed or shakes and smoothies if you decide to buy flavored bone broth protein powders such as vanilla and chocolate. The chocolate bone broth protein that I’ve been using is amazing and it’s been just as beneficial for me as drinking a warm cup of broth.
Bone Broth Benefits
The ingredients that make up bone broth are what create the argument for its miraculous healing benefits. However, after endless amounts of searching and researching, I am sad to share my huge disappointment in the amount information available on this subject. Even when broken down to researching by element. It was hard to find scientific data on nutrients, minerals, and amino acids in the bones, the marrow and the connective tissues of animals. However, I was able to find some information that deemed credible and helpful. Here is a list of health benefits claimed by numerous “Experts” in bone broth and by Naturopathic Doctors. I have made notes next to these claims based on data that I was able to find.
Leaky gut syndrome and digestive issues
If your stomach is having digestive issues then the rest of your body is having issues. We consume food to grow, get healthy and stay healthy and function at optimal level. If you aren’t digesting food properly then it is certain that you are not functioning physically and mentally at optimal level. I have been diagnosed with leaky gut syndrome and if you’re anything like me than you know how painful it can be to eat, how low your energy is and you probably have a plethora of other symptoms that indicate that your physical and mental performance is subpar.
Bone broth is nutrient dense and said to be one of the most effective foods to consume to restore your digestive system to optimal functionality. According to Weston A. Price’s article titled “Broth is Beautiful”, when broth is cooled, it congeals (or blobs) due to the presence of gelatin. Gelatin comes from the connective tissue and is not a complete protein, but it does contain large amounts of amino acids arginine and glycine. American researcher Francis Pottenger provided evidence that gelatin is a hydrophilic colloid (meaning gelatin attracts and holds liquids), it facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut.
Let’s break this down by each element that makes up Bone Broth.
Bone: The bone provides essential minerals. Definition: Minerals are substances found in food that your body needs for growth and health. There are two kinds of minerals: macrominerals and trace minerals. Macrominerals are minerals your body needs in larger amounts. They include calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, sodium, potassium, and chloride. Your body needs just small amounts of trace minerals. These include iron, copper, iodine, zinc, fluoride, and selenium.
Bone Marrow: A delicacy for centuries in many cultures, bone marrow is used in a wide variety of ways to create savory dishes. There is limited information available on the nutritive qualities of bone marrow. However, I was able to find a few bits of research that I have pieced together for you.
A University of Michigan-led study shows that fat tissue in bone marrow is a significant source of the hormone adiponectin, which helps maintain insulin sensitivity, break down fat, and has been linked to decreased risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity-associated cancers. Here’s more information on the study.
Research provided by Dr. Brohult and her husband, a research biochemist, has proven that bone marrow in fact carries an active ingredient called alkylglycerols, or AKGs, that normalize white blood cell production, increase general well-being, stave off common viruses and infections, and battle more serious diseases like cancer. It is also noted that scientific literature supports the use of 100-150mg of alkylglycerols daily for general immune system enhancement. Read more details on their research and findings specifically accompanied with cancer.
Connective Tissue: The bone, marrow and connective tissue are made up collagen, the main structural protein found in skin and other connective tissues. Even though there is no scientific data on this topic specifically, it is safe to say this theory is accurate based on that if you simmer a batch of bone broth correctly you are left with gelatin when the broth cools.
Overcome food intolerances and allergies
Once your stomach lining starts to heal and restore back to optimal functionality, your ability to process and digest foods that you were once sensitive to becomes easier. However, eating certain foods, even when you have digesting optimally, might not be a good idea for you individually. Some intolerances and allergies may never go away and eating foods that hinder your digestive system might end up putting you back at square one. If you want to know what you should and shouldn’t be eating, I recommended taking a food allergy test. It’s cheap! I think mine was $180 dollars and covered by my HSA.
Improve joint health
This claim comes from the connective tissue in the bones. It is said that tissue provides glucosamine and chondroitin, which are popular dietary supplements for arthritis and joint pain.
Remember a few paragraphs back when we talked about collagen? Collagen is the main structural protein found in skin and other connective tissues. It is widely used in purified form for cosmetic surgical treatments. People who aren’t interested in getting botox may want to try drinking bone broth regularly.
Boost immune system
Based on the study performed in 2000, by from the Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine Section, Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE, focused on the health benefits of chicken bone broth, results showed improve in patient health on two accounts. It’s ability to clear nasal passages and reduce inflammation. So the next time you have a cold, you really should be eating chicken soup!
However, it is notable that there are quite a few critics and limited studies supporting the claims that these bone broth health benefits.
How to make Bone Broth
First, you need to decide what type of bones you’d like to use. Depending on your palette, this may be a super easy choice. Options include: Chicken, beef, turkey, and fish. I have stuck with chicken and beef, but it has been said that broth made from fishheads and carcasses provide iodine and thyroid-strengthening substances so don’t rule it out!
You will need the following items to help you make batches with ease and simplicity. I like to call it my bone broth tool kit!
- 18 quart Nesco cooker (or larger). There isn’t anything more frustrating than making a batch of bone broth in a normal size crock pot and only having a few cups of broth remaining once you remove the bones and vegetables.
- A straining scoop/spatula. I use a stainless steel hybrid of the two and I love it. This way when my husband is helping dump the broth through the bowl cover strainer and cheesecloth, we catch more of the tiny broken down debis.
- A bowl cover strainer and cheesecloth. No one likes chucky broth so be sure you have the right tools needed to strain all the debris out of the broth. Sometimes I choose to strain my broth twice.
- Storage containers. I like to use gallon size zip lock bags so I can easily stack the soup inside my fridge or freezer. I do not strain and put the broth into a ziplock bag until it has fully cooled in the nesco.
- Fridge/Freezer. You are going to want to buy a seperate fridge or freezer to help you keep up with making the amount of batches you need to make each week. Unless you want to be going to the grocery stores every other day. That’s what I did when I started this process and it took up about 15 hours of my week and exhausted me. Freezers are affordable compared to all the time and money that goes into all the driving around.
- Stainless steel stovetop pan for reheating. NEVER microwave your bone broth and alters and eliminates the beneficial amino acids in the bone broth.
Prepping your batch will take you about 20min. This including dicing the vegetables, getting all the ingredients in the Nesco and adding the water. I only have a two cup measuring scoop so adding the water takes me a bit. I’ve been looking at purchasing this new measuring scoop to cut down on time.
Traditional Chicken or Beef Bone Broth Recipe
- 7 to 8 lbs of chicken or beef bones
- 1lb carrots largely diced
- 1 lb celery largely diced
- 3 medium yellow onions with skin on
- 8 cloves garlic crushed
- 4 bay leaves
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Tbsp Thyme
- 1 Tbsp Oregano
- 1 Tbsp Parsley
- 1 Tbsp of peppercorns
- A few cracks of Himalayan Sea Salt
- 35 plus cups of water (TIP: 5 cups of water for one pound of bones)
Turn your Nesco on to the 225 degree mark. Once you notice the water boiling, turn the temperature down to 150 degrees and let simmer between 24 and 48 hours.
Where to buy Bone Broth or Bones
I encourage you to make bone broth from scratch if possible so let’s start with bones. You are going to keep your costs down and have assurance you know exactly what’s in the broth you’re drinking. I buy my bones from two sources. I am able to get organic beef bones from my local whole foods store and I am able to get organic chicken bones from my local co-op store. TIP: I went into my local meat market and they said their meat and bones are only grass fed for 90 days prior to being slaughtered. That is not what I call organic grass fed bones. Something to have on your radar when finding your local sources to purchase from. If you are on a budget like me, I actually go to Trader Joe’s to pick-up all my organic vegetables, herbs and spices. Whole Foods and Co-ops can get very expensive. I can see a difference in quality of the vegetables at each store, but sometimes you have to pick and choose your battles. As long as everything is organic, I feel like I am winning.
Now if you’re going to buy pre-made bone broth, here are a few suggestions for you.
- Shelf stable bone broths that should be available in your local grocery store: Zoup, Kitchen Basics, Imagine and Pacific. I think there may be one or two more but these will be the ones that are most accessible. You check out my reviews of each option here.
- Powders: The one I currently enjoy the most is Ancient Nutrition. The chocolate flavor specifically is my absolute favorite. I have tried a lot and I mean a lot of protein powders over the last 6 years trying to get a handle on my tummy issues and I have never had a protein powder that I love this much. The texture, flavor and ingredients are wonderful.
- Buying it frozen from providers online like Osso Good and The Brothery. Both products are reputable in quality and provide free shipping on orders that meet a certain amount. These products may provide higher nutritional value but the costs are much more than carton of the shelf stable bone broth.